Overcoming That Murky Middle – Guest Post by Stephanie Faris

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Happy Monday, All! Today author and blogger Stephanie Faris is taking over here at Quanie Talks Writing and talking about something that we writers sometimes dread: that murky middle! Stephanie is sharing some awesome tips in case you find yourself in the murky middle without a paddle (or boat!). She’s also sharing the cover for the latest book in her Piper Morgan series, Piper Morgan To The Rescue. Isn’t that cover just too darn cute??? Feel free to add the book to your Goodreads shelf and connect with Stephanie online (links below).



“The Murky Middle.” Strange name for it, isn’t it? I remember first hearing the term back in the 90s, as part of a Romance Writers of America workshop. I was so excited to finally hear someone else say what I’d been thinking since the day I wrote my first novel: the middle is the hardest part.

Some of you may disagree. For you, the hardest part is the beginning, when you’re staring at a blank page with a blinking cursor that seems to be taunting you. Some find the ending the most difficult, when it’s time to tie up every loose end and bring everything to a satisfying conclusion. For me, though, I don’t truly begin to think about abandoning my novel until at least Chapter Six. If I can push through that and get to the big dark moment three-fourths of the way through, I’m usually home free.

If you’ve found yourself getting stuck midway through your novel, it could be because you fly by the seat of your pants like me. I’ve spoken to plotters who never quite experience the murky middle. Even if they do, they have a handy-dandy carefully-plotted outline to consult. For non-plotters like me, the midway point is tough because we have to make serious decisions while we’re writing.

Even though I’m not a planner, I’ve found it helps to stop and write a synopsis midway through. I give myself permission to change the direction of the story if necessary, but at least I get my overall plot on paper. This can often help me past that point of the book where I’m ready to abandon the entire project and start on something new. If a synopsis seems too formal, grab a piece of paper and draw the character arc. Where is your main character at the beginning of the book? What does she need to go through to be where she is at the end of the book?

Writing a book is a huge accomplishment. Sometimes we take that for granted. But if you’re like me, midway through you realize exactly how difficult it is. Hopefully these tips will help the next time you get stuck!


Piper Morgan to the Rescue JPEG


Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.

Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy—especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!

Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the upcoming Piper Morgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.









33 thoughts on “Overcoming That Murky Middle – Guest Post by Stephanie Faris

  1. All good advice. ^_^ I’m a plotter, and I do tend to run into murky middle issues when I’m plotting, as I need to know how everything happens and works out before I can actually start writing the story. But I’ve found one thing that really helps: know where the story starts, and know how it ends. If I can think of everything in the middle as what needs to happen to get to that ending, then it tends to go a lot more smoothly, and it leaves room for surprises that still lead to that end.
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  2. Great advice from Stephanie on working through the Murky Middle. 🙂 I plot out a good chunk before I start writing, but it changes all the time and the details for the later parts of the book are a bit loose. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for the tips. Even though I like to write by instinct, there is inevitably that point where I lose momentum – the murky middle! I think you’re right at a certain point, thinking about character art and plot — nailing something down – does help. Because then you can at least try it and maybe say – okay, that didn’t work, but at least you know *what* didn’t work. As opposed to just flailing around in the murk like I usually do.

  4. Great tips for getting through that dreaded middle. I think part of the challenge is make sure there is something really cool that you as the writer are interested in writing as you move into that middle section.

  5. The middle is the hardest part. Knowing how to begin or end a story might be troubling but the real problem, especially for me, is the middle. Because once I reach there I’m all ‘now what?’ And I’m a plantser. Even when I know how I want to write the middle I get stymied over the what, when, where, why and how I get to it besides just increasing the conflict for conflict sake. That’s why I love James Scott Bell’s “Write Your Novel From the Middle.” It helped cleared the cobwebs.
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  6. Excellent advice, Stephanie! Once, after bemoaning the task of writing a synopsis, an esteemed critique partner explained how if every chapter is outlined, you’ll have already laid the groundwork for the synopsis; not to mention a nicely plotted path to your ending. Sure sounds great in theory…ha! I did discover (quite by accident) that it’s never too late to take up plotting, and it can actually enhance the revision process 🙂
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  7. Murky middle. How perfectly put. I’m a bit of a planned pantster. You know, it’s like when you’re dressing, you plan to wear the pinks sweater, but then you put it on and it makes you look like a fat stick of cotton candy, so you opt for the black one because it’s classic. Writing is sort of like that. Much of what I plan, changes when I pause and evaluate what’s happening in that murky middle. Beginning and end are my only for sures…they’re like the purse and shoes- they’re always my no-brainers.

  8. I definitely relate to the “murky middle” concept. The beginnings have always been easy for me and if I have a beginning I usually go to the end and write that. I don’t know if I get bored or what, but when it comes to the rest I’ve tended to get distracted or tired or something. I’ve got several books started, but not finished in the middles.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
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  9. The middle is the trickiest for me. It’s so easy to come up with the beginning and the end. Then I have to figure out how to link the two. I’m trying to figure that out with my current WIP. I’m a big plotter though, so that’s what I’m doing. 🙂
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  10. See? A little plotting does help!
    I’m an avid outliner, so the murky middle doesn’t him me much. I do remember reading one piece of advice that has stuck with me over the years – write a great beginning and a great ending and put them as close together as possible. (In was in just, of course!)
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