Writing Excuses 10.27: Why Can’t I Just Jump to the Ending?

Lots of people struggle with the middles of their books. One way to look at the middle is that it’s the point where you’re no longer working on that new project that has you excited, but haven’t yet gotten to the cool ending that has you excited.

We talk about why the middle is important, and how you can make it enjoyable not just for the reader, but for you.


Look at a scene you’re planning to write, and try writing it in one of the other available settings in your story in order to mix things up a bit.

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison, narrated by Kyle McCarly

10 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 10.27: Why Can’t I Just Jump to the Ending?”

  1. Hi, Writing Excuses folks. I’ve been having an issue with the Writing Excuses podcast crashing my iOS devices, so I decided to google it, and I saw a few folks having a similar issue in the thread for episode 10.19. Dan suggested trying any episode after 10.20 to see if the issue keeps happening, and I’m afraid it still is–as of 10.25, at least.

  2. I was thinking during the entire podcast, “I hope they cover try/fail cycles and how much of the middle they occupy,” and I was not let down. In my own attempts at figuring out how to do middles, as soon as I realized that the middle is actually the try/fail cycle, rather than the try/fail cycle being somewhere in the middle, middles became easy. When Dan confirmed that, it blew my mind.

    I start my try/fail cycles exactly from the midpoint to the climax. All those plot points in between are just tension increases that tell you how much, and what kind of, success and failure can be applied in the cycle before being able to add more tension, while the climax is the no-holds-barred moment in the cycle; the climax is just the final success or failure in the cycle.

  3. If we compare the middle of a novel with the second act of a movie, we can identify two more important qualities:

    As Alexandra Sokoloff on her excellent blog Screenwriting Tricks For Authors points out, the second act often answers the Central Question, and typically in the negative. Will Hannibal Lecter help Clarice Starling to find Buffalo Bill? Can the cop get rid of the shark by hiring experts, so he doesn’t have to confront it on his own? Can you cop out from the fight and return to The Matrix without becoming an asshole who tortures and murders his friends? Will Harry Hart lead the recruits’ attack on Valentine’s lair? Will Scarlett Overkill reward the Minions properly when they bring her the crown?

    Also, the second act is the place where the creators have maximum freedom to deviate from genre conventions. and if there is a genre mash-up, or more generally a mixture of styles and formats, the second act is the place where the deep stuff can be played out before the loud stuff takes over again. E.g. in an action movie the third act must follow the action movie format, so the slower, philosophical stuff needs to be handled (mostly) in the second act. (ICYMBI, I give a few examples in Terminate With Extreme Prejudice.)

  4. Maybe the way to avoid artifice is failing in unexpected yet satisfying ways? Maybe the fact that the characters fail isn’t the point, but the consequences of that failure or the manner in which our characters fell. Failures are a great opportunity for character growth, conflict in relationships, and a whole lot of disaster that is just fun to be privy to. It’s that whole magician skill Brandon always talks about. Here look at all this, don’t mind the man behind the curtain. Yes, it’s the middle of the book, so they can’t defeat the evil guy right at this moment, but don’t pay attention to that. Look at this instead…

  5. The middle of my current project is something I’m struggling with, so it’s awesome the fates have brought me this episode!

    In the current project is a short story for an animation, the character has to travel a long distance in order to obtain something that was lost before she was born. The struggles happen at the beginning when she decides she has to do this, and at the end when she’s searching for an object. I abbreviate through showing different biomes and strange things that happen to her. The girth of story is in the beginning and end, where she does go through some trial and error.

    My trouble is I write a lot of journey stories, in which the character(s) goes from point a to point b in search of something. Much of it is world / character building, but not much in terms of story development.

    Is there anything you could suggest to have her suffer trial and errors through out the journey that make sense for the story?

  6. As you travel through the desert of the middle, take time to smell the dessert, look around and enjoy the garden, and try, try, try… and fail! Yes, this is the land of the yes-but and the no-and, where every step makes things worse. Even a mystery may be shrouded in red herrings and dead ends, making the clues hard to find and see. So… take heart, we have four pioneers willing to guide you through the desert of the middle and into the fun! Read all about it over here or in the archives:


  7. I just want to thank Brandon, Dan, and Howard for the podcast. I’ve listened to the first ten episodes this week, and already the story I’m working on has changed dramatically (for the better) because of the suggestions given there.

    The ideas, which had seemed to dry up the past few weeks, started flowing freely again, and instead of asking myself “how am I going to make this plot line work,” I’m asking, “which of these six or seven different cool ideas am I going to use?”

    I plan on listening to all ten “seasons” of the podcast over the next couple months or so. My family is going to absolutely hate you three as that is probably all they’re going to hear when we drive anywhere. :)

    Thank you again!

  8. Hi Just wanted to thank you guys. I listened to this one this morning and I think I now can put the story back on track. I think the key was mentioning that even success can be failures.



  9. @Eugene? My iPod Touch, the podcast app locks up almost every time I try to use it to listen to the Writing Excuses episodes. On the other hand, my iPad, the podcast app happily plays them! When the podcast app refuses to play them, I usually fall back to the “play in a new window” from the web page, which seems to work consistently in Safari. Good luck!

  10. Oh my god, I love you guys, and this episode is a great example of why. I’m a freelance editor and I’m always telling my clients about this … about the need to get the middle right … I love how you’ve articulated it so well here. I’ll be pointing my clients here so they don’t have to just take my word for it. Thanks so much for all you contribute to the world of creative writing. I enjoy listening so much!

Comments are closed.