I was on way with my second book, developing my characters, setting up the story, introducing conflicts for them to overcome. Then the problems began. I started to read articles from popular authors’ sites, claiming to know the best way to set up a story and its characters.

I agree the midpoint should be placed at the middle of the book and be the pivotal spot for the plot, where characters are spun about on their axis by unexpected events or people. However, these authors lecture about specific spots where each plot point is to be introduced.  They outline the exact number of pressure points and where they should be placed. 

I began to dissect my book, bit by bit. I follow an outline of my own. Each chapter is created to be a full scene with a beginning, middle and end. My midpoint is the big reversal. I didn’t plan on pressure points but I have them; not at the exact percentage points as recommended by the articles but close. After the reversal, I have pressure spots planned leading to the ultimate climax. 

I did all of this instinctively, from reading books my whole life. There is a rhythm to writing like there is to music. It doesn’t have to be strictly set at one speed. It can flow at your own pace. Characters don’t have to direct opposites or heroes to your main character, they could play off your protagonist to elicit humor or bring out the story.

There are rules but not hard and fast ones like in math and science. I followed the rules in my past jobs in Finance. I love formulas where you can input your data and come up with the one correct answer. Writing is more creative. There is more than one way to tell a story and each person has a different story to tell.

The beginning of my book has been rewritten four times before I realized that my story has been following the rules of writing but at its own rhythm. My own pace. I’ve stopped reading these preachy articles about the best way to structure a book. Scenes, character arcs, plot points and acts still float around in my head, but once I began writing all of these details took care of themselves. The plot can reach the midpoint and reversal on its way to the climax without any calculations of percentages.

If you’ve read enough books, an author knows how the story should flow. You instinctively know how to introduce characters and how they should play off the main character. I’m off to the finish! I’ve cleared the midpoint and on my way to the climax! Don’t ever doubt yourself. Let your story evolve from inside of you.


The First Three Chapters Podcast – Weekly Excerpts From Great Books That You Probably Haven’t…

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     I had the best surprise today. A fellow author had asked me if I would allow him to read my book on his podcast. I said, “sure.” Many people have offered promotions but most don’t turn into anything. This time it turned out better than any of my expectations.

     I never listened to a podcast before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I tuned in. A man with a melodic voice and an English accent was speaking. He introduced himself. When I heard “The Dead Game by Susanne Leist,” I felt tears spring to my eyes. I was so proud and also embarrassed.

     There I was, sitting alone in my house, embarrassed about someone reading my book. It’s been hard enough to find friends and family members willing to read it, but having someone read it out loud was mind-boggling for me. I closed my eyes and listened.

     I  became the reader, listening to the story for the first time. By the changing tone of his voice, I was able to tell that he understood the feelings behind the words. He got it! No one was home. I couldn’t yell out that someone was reading my book. I was bubbling over inside.

     Not only was I able to see the story through someone’s eyes, I was able to detect the strengths and weaknesses in my writing. It’s one thing to read the story out loud to yourself, but it’s a whole other experience to have someone read it to you. I’m sure this experience will help to make me into a better writer. Thank you, Beren Hollins: Author, Podcaster.