Two Out of Three IS Bad


Beginning. Middle. End.

You need all three to have a story. You need all three to be really strong to have a good story.

I can usually nail two out of three. And that’s just not good enough. I’ve had killer endings, but without a middle, they really aren’t that killer because the reader doesn’t know why they should be shocked or thrilled that X happened. Without an ending, even strong beginnings and middles fall flat. No beginning? Will anyone care enough about your characters to move past page one?

It would help if my fizzling third were consistent. If my middles always dragged, I could spend more time plotting. If I just couldn’t get the beginnings or ends to work, I’m sure there’s some exercise to help me tone those muscles. Unfortunately, my weak spots travel up and down the plot line.

In high school, I wrote a “book” that had a, to my mind, sweeping confrontation at the end. I wrote and revised and re-revised until it sung. The problem  was that there was no middle to the story. We opened, we ended. We didn’t care about the confrontation, sweeping or not because there had been no tribulations nor any character development. I had only a vague idea of how to get from A to B. I felt a little like that mathematician in S. Harris’ cartoon where the character starts an equation on the chalkboard, writes “a miracle occurs” and comes up with the answer.

Right now, I’m facing a non-existent ending. The beginning is great…the reader hits the ground running with the character. The middle is solid…characters have developed, tribulations have been faced. The ending? Elusive at best. My characters are looking at me, tapping their feet, ready to get a move on. My brain is dead in the water.

Other than just sitting down and writing it (a la NaNo), I’m not sure what I can do. Any advice?


2 thoughts on “Two Out of Three IS Bad

  1. Because I do not know you’re writing style, I do not know what is going to work for you. That being said, here is a list of suggestions which have all helped me at one point or another:

    1. Reverse Outline

    If the ending is where your plot runs out, start with the last chapter first. I had this problem recently with my novel, and wrote myself a sample chapter of Amy (my character’s) dream ending.

    I also wrote out the dream ending from the perspective of other major characters, and the worst nightmare endings. I chose one, and began working my way backwards. “Well if this happened, what was the step before that?”

    It helped.

    2. Question everything.

    Many times when I’m stuck at a certain point, it is because I went wrong a step or two before. My characters are waiting for something. What? (In NaNo, I typically chuck a grenade at them to see what happens.)

    Ask yourself what each character is likely to do, based on their personalities, and the options open to them. List all their possible options, list all the possible reasons for it.

    3. Just Write

    Give yourself permission to write the worlds crappiest ending ever. An ending is still an ending, and if you have a beginning, middle and end, you have a manuscript. That is further than most people get.

    4. Fresh Eyes

    Last but not least, I have a writing partner that I shovel my work at when I’m desperate, and she often has some useful pointers to get me going. You can also give yourself fresh eyes by setting the project down for a couple of months.

    • A.M.,


      Luckily, I do have a pair of fresh eyes that are looking over my story right now. When she finishes, I’m going to try to play it cool and not bombard her with question.

      I like the idea of writing backwards. I haven’t tried that before. I wonder what ending Amy ended up with!

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