Journey to the Centre of the Story

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Why is the middle of a story the hardest part to get right?

I’m currently revising the manuscript for my second young adult mystery. The start is really powerful and I’m happy with it. The last part needs some polish, but the ending is one I believe will stay with readers after they’ve finished the book. The overall concept is compelling enough, too. So, what, exactly, is wrong with the first draft?

Well, it doesn’t have a good rhythm, the flow is off, it doesn’t get to where it needs to go quickly enough, then takes a few wrong turns and gets a bit lost. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’ve concluded that it may be too realistic.

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A sense of realism is a great thing. But that’s not quite the same as being truly realistic. In the real world, events don’t spread themselves out evenly so our lives can unfold at a comfortable pace. We have days when we don’t make any progress towards our goals, and days when we achieve more than we’d aimed for (more of the former than the latter, in my case). And that’s how it is for my main character right now. But we don’t want to read about that.

We want to read about dynamic characters with thrilling lives, overcoming obstacles to solve mysteries, and certainly not doing anything we might have just done ourselves.

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What having a sense of realism means to me is that my book must consist of events that seem plausible, rather than anything bearing a passing resemblance to everyday life. This makes sense because books are an escape for many of us. And I want to create worlds that readers can escape into, and trails they will want to follow, even if that means weeks of replanning and rewriting. I’m going to keep making revisions until my story is dancing with rhythm and flow, and progresses consistently from start to end. Because that’s the sort of story I want to read, and my readers deserve nothing less.

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