The first half of the second half of a story is always the slowest to write. I’d say it’s the hardest, but at some point, every part is the hardest. But here’s what makes the first half of the second half hard.
It’s where the story takes on a different tone than anywhere else. In the beginning, you’re setting up the story. You introduce your characters and setting in memorable ways, and place the plot pieces that will start everything moving. There’s a shivering sense of imminence. Something’s about to happen.
Then there’s the middle. This is where the story takes off. Everyone’s been introduced, the major goals and conflict have been drawn, and now they’re all off to the races. It’s the most fun part, where your main characters are tested and have their coolest adventures, and it all looks like it’s working.
Skip to the end. Endings are hard, notoriously. But at least this is where everything comes together, when all the work you’ve done pays off. Your lead character falls or triumphs. You know it’s ending, so you know what you have to do, even if you’re still looking for that perfect sticking point.
But the first half of the second half, that run right after the mid-point, that’s when things get muddled. Most of the time, the big moments have already happened. The characters are having a good time, and they haven’t yet met forces that will break them down entirely, and the bad guy is still hovering around not quite at full power.
And you have to do that. You have to stick it to your heroes and draw out your bad guy. You might spend time making your heroes look bad as they face challenges they can’t quite meet this time, and you might spend more time with your antagonist, building them up for the denouement. Sometimes, you’re making your hero look bad and your villain look good. The story begins to feel like something else entirely, because what was working before can’t keep working if you want to press everyone into the corners that will inspire their final moves. You have to start minding your step, because the story’s not a blank slate like it was at the beginning, and you’ve now made all these choices that you have to honor at the same time that you’re building it all up for the ending.
It sometimes feels like you’re driving a truck that you hastily piled your furniture into, and you have to get somewhere fast without it all falling out the back on the way.
So, of course I take to blogging about it instead of doing the actual writing. I think I have a clearer head about it now. Thanks for listening.
What am I writing, you ask?
Oh, just a fantasy novel I intend on publishing serially to Kindle. It’s called Wander Boy, unless you have a better idea (I really hope someone does; maybe I’m too close to it, but I can’t stand the title right now). I’ll get back to you with more, once I strap my furniture down and put the pedal to the metal.
(Image used with permission, © Pauli N. – Fotolia.com)