Thursday, June 13, 2013

Syrupy Beginnings, Sagging Middles, and Soggy Endings by Donna B. Snow

Donna B. Snow
What does it take to make a good story great?

Imagine this. Your story is a Ferris wheel. Have you ever ridden on a Ferris wheel? Do you like when it continually goes around and you get to enjoy the sights and the cool breeze – a nice smooth ride? How do you like when it stops and starts and stops and starts? Well, if you’re like me, you don’t want that ride to stop until it’s time for you to get off. This is how the reader wants to be treated. Give them a ride that doesn’t stop, that they will enjoy from the time they get on until it’s done. That takes special attention to how you build your story.

Now a slow start is a great thing if you’re talking about a roller coaster ride…but not a story. If you make your reader feel like they’re slogging through mud, or being jerked up that hill at a torturously slow rate they may never reach the top of the hill where the fun begins.

And don’t forget, everybody is a reviewer these days and they’re ready to tell the world how good or bad your story is. So start with a hook that pulls them in right from the start. Let them get to know your characters. If the reader is invested in your characters then you’re more than halfway there.

So, no syrupy beginnings, but as the story goes on, if it’s starting to sag in the middle then it’s time to grab hold of the reins and guide that story where it has to go, and reorganize as needed. A big part of what sagging middles need is a good hard proofread/edit. This is the time to get out that proverbial red pen (or highlight and delete…but you might want to save these portions in a separate file – just in case) and get rid of all the pointless meandering that’s going on.

So you got lost in the Fun House, well, it’s time to find your way out! This is the time when you have to keep the end zone in sight. You know where this story has to get to and it’s time for you to direct its course. Maybe you’re like me and you write by the seat of your pants and let the story lead you. Well, that’s fine as long as the story isn’t just wandering and weaving all around. So, if the story seems to be going around in circles, redirect it toward the end and keep that in sight. Remember, edit, edit, edit!

Do not write a single pointless scene! No soggy endings here! Think of your words as a path. You know where you’re leading your reader, so make every word count. And when the end is in sight, wrap it up clean and tight and voila! One great story.


Dora here. What about you? Beginning, Middle or End...Which do you find the most challenging?



A Piece of Heaven
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Trina Wembly dreamt of owning a Christian coffee house for years –a Godly place where people could enjoy a good meal, and entertainment that wasn’t offensive. A Piece of Heaven is that dream. 

Jared Larou, the construction foreman who helps design and build the coffee house, is a wounded soul with a soft heart.

Once the coffee house opens, Trina and her partner, Laura, work day and night. From coffee in the morning, to gourmet dinners in the evenings, it’s a heavy load. Plus Trina performs most nights as the entertainer at the coffee house.

Trina longs to be more than just friends with Jared, she just hopes that’s what God wants for her too.


Donna B. Snow is a native New Englander and has lived there all her life except for a year in northern California (which reminded her of home). She loves the change of seasons and the beauty each one brings. and says there is no place else that will ever feel like home. 
She's been married for 20 years and has one teenage daughter who will be going to college next year. An active member in her church, she is a member of the choir (along with her daughter), and she writes not just stories, but her own music as well (that she hopes to get published also).

14 comments:

  1. Thanks, Donna. Good analogy with the roller coaster. In my mind, I could see that arc we always think of when it comes to story plotting.

    Love the cover of your book--very pretty!

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    1. Thank you, Sandra. It was kind of funny because this article, just like my stories, was off the cuff. When I started the analogy with the ferris wheel, that's where I thought I would stay, but then the roller coaster crept in...then the fun house. Thanks for stopping in!

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  2. Yes, I love the analogy, too! And that's what we want to do with our stories: entertain, keep them on the edge of their seats and ultimately make them have so much fun they don't want to leave.

    Thanks so much for painting that word picture and great ideas!

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  3. Donna, I appreciate how your creative mind works. I wasn't feeling creative today while I cleaned toilets and bathroom floors. There have been times as I garden or do household chores, that I live my story. Now it's time to get back at it -- the middle of my WIP, that is!

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    1. God bless! May he guide your fingers as you fly through the rest! :-)

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  4. What about the spinning teacups? One of my faves! Great analogy of writing to carnival rides, Donna, and a huge congrats on A PIECE OF HEAVEN!

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    1. Thank you, Dora! But, ewww, I don't do spinny rides anymore...

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  5. Hi Donna, great post. I think the middle is hardest for just about anyone...either writer or reader. If the beginning doesn't hook ya, neither an editor or reader will read ore than the first pages. And the ending, aw, the romance author already kinda knows the "aw" stuff. I don't like it when middles are just padded with one scene after another that even an idiot can tell is just put there to full up a word count. Hurry up already. Got your book Kindled...promise to make time SOON. Love you, my friend!

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    1. The middle is definitely the easiest place to sag, and try to pad with fluff, that's why it's also the place you have to slash the most on your first read through!

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  6. Gret article on those heavy middles. Thanks Donna.

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    1. :-) Glad you enjoyed it, Christine! Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. Hi, Donna B! I think the hardest thing for me to write is the beginning. Rarely do I end up with what I started with, simply because I know so much more about the characters and story by the time I get the first draft down. So, I always go back and not only tighten up the slack and add a few more light and shadows here and there, I often get an idea that makes for a better wrap up by giving a hint of something recognizable from the beginning.

    I used to slave over these things as I went along. But I have now discovered how much easier it is (for me, anyway) to sail over the vague spots with a note to myself to insert a "whatever scene" (first meeting, disaster, hear-to heart, etc.). Then when I go back to do that, I find I have much more to draw from because I know exactly where I'm going with it by then.

    Then, again, it's a method that might only make sense to me. Just saying. I laugh in all the wrong parts of movies, too. Great post... it made me think!

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    1. Yeah, we each have our trouble spots - my spot actually varies depending on the story. It may start too slow (but I have a hard time not tweaking from the start), or meander in the middle, or fall flat at the end.

      Hey, whatever method works for you is the right one! But we're all different!

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