My friend and fellow Mt. Zion Ridge Press author Bettie Boswell is back for another guest post, “Patchworking the Muddy Middle”, explaining how she overcame obstacles in the middle of her latest novel. To learn more about that novel and how to connect with Bettie, read her blurb and bio at the end of the post. Thanks for coming coming back, Bettie!
One method that recently worked well for me is to patch that muddled manuscript middle together like a quilt. This was a strategy I used when writing my newest book, Free to Love.
You need to kind of know where you’re going before you start working on your patchwork blocks. When I reached the point where I struggled to keep things moving, I sometimes skipped ahead to an idea that I thought would eventually be a scene in my story.
I would jump into that scene and fill in the conversations, stitching them together with setting, tags, the five senses, conflict or tension, an arc, and any other good writing tactics needed to complete the scene. The work went faster because I had skipped the hurdle holding me back. With less effort, because I felt free to move on, I soon had a nice block of story for my quilt. I jumped around and created several blocks. Before long, I was even able to go back and take on the scene making the hurdle that held me back in the first place.
When I exhausted my creation of blocks, I then figured out the placement of each scene and what might be a good binding strip to attach each blocked scene to another. At this point I printed out what I had written in small print, with two pages on one piece of paper (a function on most printers.) I cut scenes out and put the blocks in an order that made sense for the story. Some of the blocks had changed my story but they still met the goals and themes I set at the beginning.
After I figured out the order that each block would fall in my quilted story, it was time to put the patchwork together. I did that by binding each block into the story by using transitions, adjusting wording to make things fit, figuring out where to leave the reader hanging between chapters and scenes, and sometimes throwing a scene back into the rag bin for another quilted story.
This type of organization worked for me. It might not work for anyone else but you never know until you try. I am not as good at quilting as my grandmother but her beautiful bed coverings provided inspiration for this type of writing. If nothing else works, snuggle under or relax on top of your favorite quilt and brainstorm what might happen next in your story. Happy writing!
What a great idea! I’ve been stymied at the beginning of my next novel, so I followed your advice and jumped ahead to a scene that I wanted to write. It’s been refreshing to finally get words on paper again.
For more posts on writing the middle, click here.
As Ginny writes her musical, inspiration comes from journals about Missy and her maid, bound together by slavery and blood, journeying toward freedom and love. Early and her mistress have always been together. When Missy’s family forces Early into an arranged marriage with George, also held in slavery, their relationship will be forever changed. Will Early and George find a love that can survive the trials of a forced marriage and perilous journey?
Bettie Boswell has always loved to read and write. That interest helped her create musicals for both church and school and eventually she decided to write and illustrate stories to share with the world. Her writing interests extend from children’s to adult and from fiction to non-fiction. Free to Love is a prequel to her first novel, On Cue. Connect with Bettie on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.