Thursday, 11 April 2013

GUEST BLOG: Writing: The Middle Book is always the Hardest - Debbie Viguie

I love writing series. As a writer you get the chance to delve very deeply into the psyches of your main characters and really put them through a lot of pain and trouble before they come out victorious at the end. I love building in long term story arcs and seeding in things throughout early books that seem rather innocuous but become crucial plot points in the final book. It also makes it easier to stretch problems out over longer periods of time.

In real life when people are facing intense difficulties of whatever type they are rarely solved in a day or a week. Some can last for months or even years. I think having fiction reflect this sends an underlying message that even though things seem bleak and your struggle has been going on for what seems like forever, there is an end coming to it and what that end is depends entirely on the steps you take on the road to it.

For me, and many other writers, writing the middle of a book is the hardest part. You know where you’re starting and you know where you’re ending, its how you get there that can get muddled. At other times it’s just plain frustrating! The same is also true for the middle book in a series, that book can be the hardest and most frustrating to write. You’ve already done all the work of introducing your characters and the universe and taking them through their first major hurdle in book one. You’re not yet ready to write all the big reveals, revelations, triumphs and tragedies of the third book. You have to build on the momentum of the first book without jumping too quickly into the payoff of the third.

Like I said, though, life rarely wraps itself up in neat little packages with bows on top and this is where you can really highlight that. There may have been a major triumph at the end of the first book, but now is the time for the character to learn that what they thought was the war was just the opening battle. They have to dig in and find the courage to keep moving forward, even when they’re tired and wounded and just want to believe that they’re done already.

That said, the middle book really is special because it’s not just a bridge from the beginning to the end of a series, but it’s also the place where you can really change things up. This is the time to pose the hard questions about their fate and their resolve. I usually like to have my characters experience something life-altering at the end of the second book, something that will change the way they interact with the universe around them and ultimately save or doom them.

My Witch Hunt series has been an incredible joy to write, the fulfillment of a dream I had several years ago. In the first book, The Thirteenth Sacrifice, I was excited to introduce readers to the character of Samantha Ryan, a cop with a dark past, and to the world of witchcraft.

Now, in the second book, I get the opportunity to take everything Samantha thought she knew about her life and the events of the first book and challenge those beliefs. I also isolate her from the support network she enjoyed in the first book making it even more introspective and about understanding the darkness within as well as the darkness outside. Then, like most of my middle books, I’m happy to say that I threw in a twist for her character to grapple with at the very end. I’m excited for readers to see what I mean, because all I can say now is that it is a game changer.

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