Of all the books on writing I’ve encountered, Write Your Novel from the Middle, by James Scott Bell is one of the best. Let’s discuss it, and check out some of the writing ideas it gave me.
There are some books that should be short but are stretched out to fill some sort of page count. This book might just be the opposite. It might be too short. I almost of forget what parts make up the key to this approach, the Golden Triangle, and how to create said parts. But that’s okay, since it’s so short I can quickly reread it.
I highly recommend that if you do buy the audio book version, as I did, that you make sure you create bookmarks. Or you could just buy the physical books so you can reference those parts as much as you want, and even put in sticky notes. Due to its length, or maybe simply to the author’s approach, this book is not as deep as it could be—but then again it doesn’t have to be deep…? It gives us a framework, and then it’s our turn to use them to go in writing. Rather than fault it for that, maybe I should just take the baton and run to implement it.
The method that this book presents is as follows. You nail down three core parts. Then, knowing these will give you enough information and story momentum to drive you to the end. The three are:
- A good back story.
- A “mirror moment,” or reflection point, for the protagonist at the midpoint. Midpoint: The stakes have to be so high at the midpoint that there is threat of “death.” Either psychological death, career death, or even threat of literal death.
- Obvious proof (maybe a key scene) illustrating that the protagonist has changed at the end.
It’s clear to me that this book is somewhat more fitting for people who plan. The author pretty much says it’s necessary (although he does say that spontaneous writers can use the technique as well, and I agree). That’s just fine, he’s entitled to his opinion.
I might take inspiration from this 3-part writing model and create my own “golden triangle” that is a bit different, and works better with a more spontaneous writing approach. Plan a character goal, and put something in the environment and/or cast of characters which tries to stop them. Something like that. The purpose would be that, rather than fatedly planning events that must happen, I plan the initial, pre-story circumstances that will lead to conflict and plot. The benefit is that this approach can preserve the “freedom” of my protagonist…and for any discovery writer, it will also preserve their “freedom” to write spontaneously.
So, this is a useful, even surprisingly comprehensive (given its short length) book. It’s good, but is it “great?” Write Your Novel from the Middle is so well structured, well written, and well explained that I’m able to easily extract the core principle, and even use it in my own way.
And you don’t even have to do that much alteration, because his original idea is perfect for most cases. (I’m just particularly picky in my approach.) Definitely grab this book for help with an alternative approach to writing, one that can work for any writing style.
This is one of only a handful of books on writing that I can recommend to every writer for pretty much any reason. If you do pick it up, you won’t regret your money or your time.
And no, I’m not an affiliate, and I don’t have any purchase links for you haha. I’m just impressed!
P.S. Many apologies for the weeks off, I will likely make an update covering it soon.