Writing the Sagging Middle of a Novel

sagging middle with book shelf sag

In my previous novels (three sitting in the drawer, finished but unpublished), I didn’t worry about sagging middles. Aware of that syndrome from hearing other writers talk about it, I amped up the drama in the middle. No problem.

In Norman in the Painting, my present WIP, I stopped writing the novel at the point where the middle begins, unbeknownst to me. I thought three weeks off would be a break I could afford. The Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club had a Winterfest in which arts and crafts were submitted and members could write Ekphrasis prose or poetry for each other’s submissions. I started in October, enjoyed the activity, and completed 23, which took me until December. I convinced myself I had been writing those three months and the experience was worth it so no need to feel guilty about letting my protagonist sit for so long. In January, I’d pick up my WIP where I left off.

Not so easy. I got stuck in the middle, not even the middle of the middle, but the beginning of the middle. In October I had thought I was halfway finished with the book, but when I tallied the words, the 30,000 word count showed a little over a third of the way, not half. The first plot point had occurred a ways back, now what?

I’m not a plotter, but I had plot points in mind. However, the story wasn’t ready for one yet. I had to cover some important steps to get there and I realized those baby steps would be a rehash of what happened before with different endings. Boring to the reader and to me. I imagined several scenarios to begin the chapter, yet none worked. How do I get from C to D?

To be continued in my next post.

Presenters at CWC Tri-Valley Branch Writers Conference

David CorbettIn my last post, I told about the California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch Writers Conference in April and the due date for attendees to submit an entry to the contest before the end of this month, January 31st. Four days left to submit one poem and one piece of prose at only $5.00 an entry. http://www.trivalleywriters.org/conferences/2015-conference/

David Corbett, the author of The Art of Character and four novels, will be on the morning panel titled “Essential Elements for Writing in a Specific Genre” and also will present “Plot Character and Pacing” in the afternoon. Simultaneously, David Colin Carr will present “The Importance of an Editor–Self-Publishing” and the third choice for the 2:00 session is Linda Lee’s presentation, “8 Must-have Elements for Your Author Website– Marketing.” Linda Lee AskmepcLinda is a writer, speaker, educator, and website designer who demystifies the online experience. She is the founder of Askmepc-Webdesign, “Smart Women, Stupid Computers” and WordPress Total Training that includes support membership.

Constance HalleThe last presentations of the day include one by Constance Hale called “Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose” Her book, Sin and Syntax has been called a guide for “writers who want more spunk than Strunk.” Her workshop is interactive with readings, exercises, puzzles, and games. She also will talk about how to cultivate the writer’s voice. I went to one of her workshops a few years ago and found it entertaining besides offering good information.

The other presenters at the conference are Jim Azevedo, the marketing director at Smashwords and Jason Hovey who will talk about adding a soundtrack to your book with Booktrack.  Dario Ciriello who is a professional author, editor, and publisher who will discuss all aspects of book design and formatting for print publication. Anne Hill is an author and educator, and writes for Huffington Post. Her session is “Marketing Strategies: How to Sell Yourself.”

The keynote speaker is Shelley Adina who is the author of twenty-four novels published by Harlequin, Time Warner, and Hachette Book Group and seven published by Moonshell Books, Inc, her own independent press. Her topic is how this is the best time to be a writer, with simple strategies to renew your spirit and position yourself to become successful.

See you there.

Tri-Valley Writers Conference Contest

Penny WarnerCalifornia Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch, has a writers conference scheduled for April 18, 2015. Attendees can enter the conference writing contest before January 31st. Here is the link to register:

http://www.trivalleywriters.org/conferences/2015-conference/

It is open to the public, but there’s a limit of 100 spaces. April may seem a long way away, but by registering now, you not only will be one of the 100, but you have a chance of being one of the contest winners. Awards are $150 for best prose and $150 for the best poetry.

After registration, each attendee can submit one prose piece  with a 1500 word maximum, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, or essay. A poem of 24 lines maximum may be entered also. Each entry fee is only $5.00. See the website for guidelines, and remember the due date is this coming Saturday.

Presenters at the conference include Penny Warner (photo above) who has published over 60 books for adults and children.

Her first mystery featuring a deaf reporter, Dead Body Language, won the Macavity Award for Best Mystery and was nominated for an Agatha and an Anthony Award. One of my favorites is her The Official Nancy Drew Handbook. At the conference she will be on a panel with David Corbett and Shelley Adina discussing the “Essential Elements for Writing in a Specific Genre”. Warmer also will present a morning session called, “Bringing Emotion in to Your Story through Narration and Dialog.” If you’ve never heard Penny speak, her humor is a pleasant surprise.
My next post will feature the other presenters.

California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch Meeting

Lani LongshoreI was able to take off a few hours from work this afternoon to attend the California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch Meeting. Lani Longshore led a hands-on mini workshop called “Someone, Something, Somewhere: Short Stories Made Simple.” We wrote for five  minutes with each of her prompts that involved, character, thing, place, inciting incident, story arc, push back, back story, and the aha moment.

Longshore is a writer and fiber artist. She is co-author (with Anastasio) of the science fiction novels Death By Chenille and When Chenille Is Not Enough. Her short stories appear in Voices of The Valley: First Press; Voices of The Valley: Encore; Written Across The Genres; Eve’s Requiem: Tales of Women, Mystery and Horror; and on Booktrack.com. She blogs about art, quilts, and writing at www.lanilongshore.wordpress.com.

December is book exchange month. Members brought a gently used book (or more) to trade. A gift basket with writing and reading goodies was raffled. April 18, 2015, Tri-Valley Branch will have their first writers conference. It is sponsored by a grant from the Alameda County Arts Commission to promote and nurture our vibrant community of writers.

Writer Interview with Linda Todd

LT Headshot Linda Todd has a short story called “A Marriage Blessed” and an essay titled “Tuesdays with Julaina” in my anthology, Written Across the Genres. She helped me with the editing and prep of the anthology for the press.

The book includes two collaborative stories, “Dock Story One” and  Dock Story Two.” Both stories had the same beginning paragraph and then members of my two writing classes wrote a one hundred fifty word paragraph each to continue their class story. “Dock Story One,” written by the class with 10 members was easy since there were fewer people. The other story with 22 paragraphs was a mystery that needed clues along the way. We had to restart it a couple times and two other writers helped Linda and me with the ending. I appreciated Linda’s dedication to this story and to Written Across the Genres.”Tuesdays with Julaina” is about how we met at a writers’ conference.

Here is her bio:

Linda Todd writes short stories, personal essays, and has two novels in progress. She lives with her husband in Northern California and enjoys camping in their RV and traveling between California and North Carolina to visit her children and grandchildren.

And here is my interview with her:

Julaina: How did you get the idea for “A Marriage Blessed?”

Linda: It started with a request for art, photos, crafts, etc. for California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch’s Ekphrasis 2013 Winterfest. I searched through my photos and found one I had taken in Hawaii of an art studio decorated with bright colored banners and signs. Then I thought of the different things I had seen in shops on the island, like Koa wood bowls. I learned that the bowls were used in wedding ceremonies. So I wrote the story about a couple renewing their vows and the woman’s  desire for a Koa bowl, hoping to find one at the art studio.

Julaina: What is a writing day like for you?

Linda: I work out at the gym, eat breakfast, and have coffee before wandering into my office to pound away at the keyboard. Lately I’ve had to write on my phone when I ride Bart to work.

Julaina: What do you enjoy about writing?

Linda: Once I start working on a project, the story elements come together. I’m always surprised by what comes out. Sometimes it takes a lot of time.

Julaina: What is the difficult part of writing for you?

Linda: When I get stuck and need to find a way out of an alley or determine what could come next. It’s a challenge to work through the problem and find a solution.

Julaina: What are you working on now?

Linda: My short stories and I’d like to finish at least one novel this year.

Julaina: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Linda: Read, study, and write, write, write.

Julaina:  Thanks, Linda. I look forward to working with you again.

The Rhetorical Device Ekphrasis

Dog with rhetorical deviceEkphrasis is a rhetorical device in which one medium of art tries to relate to another medium by defining and describing its essence and form, and in doing so, relates more directly to the audience, through its illuminative liveliness. Any of the visual arts can be used to highlight the vividness of what is happening, or what is described in a poem or descriptive prose. The visual arts then may enhance the original art and so take on a life of its own through its brilliant description.

For example a painting of a sculpture: the painting is “telling the story of” the sculpture and so becomes a storyteller as well as a story itself. It is the spirit of the story or poem that is retold with another medium in an authentic way and the original is impacted through synergy. (Information from Wikipedia.org./wiki/Ekphrasis.)

The Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club has a Winterfest every two years where members send in photography, painting, sculpture, quilting, or whatever the member creates. A few assigned members choose one piece of art from each member to put on the Tri-Valley website and the other members write a poem, essay, or short story for any piece of art they choose. The written works are put up on the site with the piece of art for display to all the club members.

I entered photographs I had taken of the inside of several tulips from a friend’s garden. Notice tulips from their insides and see how different each one looks. I’m curious which of my photos will be chosen and what a member will write about it. The visual,the tulip, will be impacted by the writing.painting on body

California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch Members' Books in Library

CWC members books whole windowCalifornia Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch members’ books are displayed this month at the Pleasanton Library. My anthology, Written Across the Genres, is on the top shelf to the left.

I’m working on having a copy for check out in as many libraries as possible but it is a long process. So far, Written Across the Genres is available for check out and is in the permanent archives at the Boston, MA, library.

I’m waiting to hear back from the Foster City Library and the Oakland District Libraries for inclusion. As a member of Women’s National Book Association, I want Written Across the Genres to be available to people who can’t afford to buy it.  I’m happy that those of you who have stories, essays, novel excerpts, and poems in the anthology will be widely read.Tri Valley books close up

Interview with Jordan Bernal

d-jordan-bernalJordan Bernal is president of The California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Writers Chapter. She has won awards for her recently published novel, The Keepers of Eire, and has several stories and poems in various publications.

In my anthology, Written Across the Genres, Jordan has an essay titled “Reflections”, a poem called “Dreams”,  and a novel excerpt from The Keepers of Eire. An interview with her is below.

Julaina:  Who is your favorite author and genre?

Jordan: I love Anne McCaffrey. Her Dragonriders of Pern series encouraged me to use my imagination. I was able to delve into the world of dragons and become a dragonrider—how fantastic is that?

Julaina:  Why do you write?

Jordan: When I read I want to immerse myself in another world, another life, not the ordinary. My writing is a way to share my love of dragons and imagination with others.

Julaina:  Where do you like to write?

Jordan: I write in various places: the Danville library or Peet’s Coffee are the most prevalent. I like to put in my ear buds and crank up the music in my iPod shuffle, so once I’m in the zone, the location doesn’t really register with me. I just need a place where I’m not interrupted.

Julaina: What are you working on now?

Jordan: Book 2 of my Keepers series, The Keepers of Caledonia.

Julaina: Looking forward to Books 2 and 3. Thanks, Jordan.

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Critique Partners Chat

Tri-Valley Writers Club members, Jordan Bernal, author of THE KEEPERS OF EIRE and Lani Longshore, author of DEATH BY CHENILLE, chat after the April meeting. The critique partners worked with each other’s characters that involved dragons, criminals, and the new genre, Quilting Sci-Fi. Image