Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Plotting the Second Half

Halfway through:
But what's on the dark side?
I've burnt up the first half of my WIP at a rate I'd never imagined possible during NaNoWriMo. But just as I'm about to reach what I've plotted as the low point (the worst that could happen) I feel myself getting nervous about what's to come.

In the plotting workshop I took in September, we talked about how the halfway point of a novel can be the place where your main character hits bottom. Hits it so hard you can hear the thud a hundred miles. Just after that point, your MC realizes she has to change. Something she's doing isn't working. She figures that out. Once she does, she's on an upswing, piling up small victories and realizing new strengths, until the novel's climax (the battle of the book.)

Fine so far, but how do you keep tension in your novel when your character is racking up the smaller victories, and those leading to larger ones, and it looks like all is well?

It's easy to tighten the screws and keep a reader on seat's edge while you're plummeting toward the abyss. I'm not sure it's so simple when the sky is clearing. I'm afraid to be boring in my second half. Like my MC, I'm going to have to change up what I'm doing, and I'm not sure how that's going to work.

In Dan Harmon's plot embryo model, your MC gets what she wants and pays a heavy price for it in the story's second half. What strategies do you have for keeping tension high after you pass your story's midpoint? Do you find you have to juggle the way you think about plot? I have a hunch the answer to this question, at least for me, might lie in the subplot. Tell me your thoughts.


  1. The first time around I didn't actually plot I just kept going hoping it would all work out. This time I'm trying to think in advanced and I working a lot slower and I get stuck just thinking sometimes.

  2. Hi Gail, The really dark moment actually works better at the end of Act II. Then it's the building toward the climax in Act III. I think it would very hard to sustain tension if you hit the low moment at the midpoint.

    Usually at the midpoint, yes, something big happens, either good or bad, and it should be something that changes the course of the story. And it can be a low point, but there should still be another big one! :)

    Hope that helps!

  3. Yeah. Fortunately we don't have to fix all the problems at this point. We just have to get the basics down. I've already left myself notes that I knew need help.

  4. I've got a whole big chunk in the middle of the story I'm currently editing where nothing seems to be going wrong. It's boring! I think I might need a sub-plot too :-)

  5. I don't have the answer to this problem, so I'm looking forward the advice other's have! :)

  6. hah, I am like Susanna, eagerly reading the other comments to learn :)

  7. I'm struggling with this myself, but I think for me, one possible answer is misdirection. In the first half, I've laid the foundation in some of my relationships with misunderstandings and misperceptions. Now, in the second half, the confusing bits are being seen in a new light and (hopefully) will re-interest the reader by changing things up. For instance, in the first half, the reader is led to believe that a certain person doesn't like the mc, but that turns out not to be the case. It was all in the mc's misperceptions.

    I have no idea if this will work, lol. It's my first foray into writing misdirection across an entire novel. I'll let you know how it goes.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  8. I think during the first draft, it's crucial to JUST KEEP WRITING. During revisions and edits you can increase the tension and adjust the elements to make it the best it can be.

  9. Hello Gail - A surprise random act of (return) kindness. I have nominated your blog, Paradoxy, for the Liebster Award. Check out what I had to say on my blog. www.megmedina.com