The First Half of Your Book Needs to Match the Second Half
This may sound like
obvious advice, but it isn’t. Every writer needs to think about
this. You need to leave promises for the reader in the first half of
the book that you fulfill in the second half. Everything that happens
in the second half should be foreshadowed in the first half. There
should be no real surprises. Twists, sure. But if you’re
writing a contemporary setting and suddenly the book turns to
zombies, but not until the second half, you’re doing it wrong.
Readers who want contemporary settings aren’t going to be happy
about zombies and you aren’t going to get them to thank you,
even if you think you will.
I suspect one of the
reasons that authors do this is that they get bored writing their own
book. Yeah, I see you. I figured out that’s what’s going
on. You were writing one book and then you realized that it was
boring and you threw some exciting things in, like space aliens or
explosions or an evil villain, or a kidnapping.
Another one of the
reasons this happens is that you’ve got no idea what happens
next, so you tack on the last half of the most recent movie you saw
and hope that it works. It doesn’t. If you’re having a
problem plotting the book you started out writing, it may be because
you don’t really have a plot for that book because the
characters are passive. You need to deal with figuring out what the
characters want to do, not just throw them into a situation that
makes seem more interesting.
happens is that you didn’t realize what the book was really
about until you got about halfway through (or later). That’s
when you start to realize what the ending is going to be, and you try
to keep the first half because you did such good work, building
character and setting, etc. Sorry, it can’t stay like this.
You’re going to have to cut out the whole first half of your
book and build up to the actual ending as you have it written. Or
alternatively, you could divide the book in half, write the first
half of the second half of the book, and sell that, and then write
the second half of the first half of the book, and sell that. These
are two different books. You can’t paste them together. I say
this as someone who has repeatedly done this because I tend to be a
If you don’t
want to write two books and you’re really determined to put
these two books together, let me suggest that you need to do some
heavy revision which will likely involve cutting a lot and then
adding in some new chapters that show how the second half of the book
makes sense as an ending to the first half of the book. This is a lot
of work and I can’t recommend it. I’ve done it, and it’s
interested in figuring out how to avoid this problem, you might
consider that if you start feeling anxious about how the book is
going to end, or bored, you need to go back to the beginning of the
book. The beginning of the book should always lead to the end of the
book. Either it’s already there and you’re missing it
(sometimes this happens if you have a really great subconscious mind
that’s at work all the time, but I won’t guarantee it),
or it’s not there and the problem with your book is less that
you don’t know how it’s going to end and more that you
don’t have the right pieces to begin a book yet.
You need a character
who needs something, obstacles in the world, and people to interact
with (and have conflicts with). If you’ve got a story where the
character gets everything they want, it’s no wonder you’re
tempted to throw something else in. If you’ve got a book where
the characters don’t know what they want and wander around
trying to figure it out, you need to figure out your characters
better. I don’t believe there are people who want nothing.
There are people who don’t know what they want, sure. But you,
as the writer, have to know what your characters want even if they
don’t know what they want. Sometimes this means that you as the
writer have to figure out what you want because you’re writing
characters like yourself. I’d say that for a great number of
writers, figuring out what you want is the hardest part of writing.
Once you’ve got that down, the story will come easily.
Read more by Mette Ivie Harrison