Pretty sure it was Margaret Atwood who said, generally: “Writing the opening chapters is exciting. Writing the last chapters is an exhilarating rush to the end. It’s the middle part that’s hard.”
If you look closely, you’ll see that she’s divided the novel into a three-part structure–which is pretty much the way screen plays are written. In fact, pretty much like ALL mainstream movie plots are structured. So we’re looking at “Trouble” in act one. “Trouble With A Capital ‘T'” in act two. And “Trouble Resolved/Ended” in act three. So it probably behooves the novel writer to pump the plot jam in the middle part (second part) in order to sustain interest–anything to get us to the last part where the real action (the Big Fight, the Resolution) happens.
It also happens that I’m talking to myself here, talking myself through a middle part of a big fat novel of the Midwest for adults. Hey, it’s high time: Red Earth, White Earth came out thirty years ago. (You can see that I try not to be hard on trees). During that time I’ve been largely answering an internal bell to keep young people, boys especially, reading. My novels for grades 6-12 have taken me on a wonderful ride, but it’s nice to be back in the middle of seriously adult matters. And a novel the structure of which is challenging me to the max, mainly because I’ve broken a main tenet of my advice to younger, would-be novel writers.
• Cover the least amount of time possible. That is, make life easy on yourself by limiting the time span in your novel. A year? A summer? Even, better, why not a week? (Or, like James Joyce, one day in Dublin.)
So in my big fat, multigenerational novel, I’m covering the 1890’s to 2015. (Do as I say, not as I do.) It’s not like I can’t succeed at that, but to do so, I have to find creative narrative solutions to small matters such Point of View, Protagonist (who is it, really?). Those small matters. . . .
But hey, solving literary problems is what writers do. Every novel is its own puzzle, and I’m happy to see–I think–that my pieces are fitting together.
Wish I could say more about this new novel, but it’s a great jinx to talk about your work in progress. That advice I’m sticking with.