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Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,472 ratings  ·  375 reviews
A powerful secret, and a fresh approach to writing bestselling fiction!

What's the best way to write a "next level" novel? Some writers start at the beginning and let the story unfold without a plan. They are called "pantsers," because they write by the "seat of the pants."

Other writers plan and outline and know the ending before they start. These are the "plotters."

Kindle Edition, 93 pages
Published February 23rd 2014 by Compendium Press
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  2,472 ratings  ·  375 reviews

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Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

K.M. Weiland
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
James Scott Bell has long been one of the most insightful and practical teachers of the writing craft. So it's no surprise this little book is packed full of uncommon wisdom. The approach Bell presents here is that of identifying the "mirror moment" (or what Stanley Williams called the "moment of truth") at the Midpoint in your story.

Doing so allows you to find the heart of your character's arc - and thus your story - before you even start writing. This is a concept that's discussed far too seld
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow! For the first time, as a result of reading this short but precise writing craft book I am able to imagine my entire novel in my mind's eye, the full picture, the main arc from beginning to end and everything in-between, and how it all ties together. And that's before I've even written one word. I can see how this insightful instruction could also potentially cure writer's block, as well. Novels will be all the more richer, multi-layered without being complicated, if written with these helpf ...more
J.V. Seem
Jun 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: writing
Working on your writing is hard. All I'm doing these days is plotting, plotting, plotting, without ever getting very far.
So I read this for some tips.

Sadly, it's not very useful. It's not that the advice in this book isn't good, it's just that even though the book is relatively short, it's way too long. The reason is that the writing system included can be summed up in a single paragraph.

The book is instead made up of needless examples of other people's writing, way too many of them, so as to re
Katie Daniels
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Hands down the best book on writing craft I have ever read. I understand things about structure that never made sense to me before. I understand things I never WANTED to understand. Bell has a method here that will end the war between planners and pansters--something we all need. Every other book on writing skirts around the most important element of a novel; trying to tell you how to write it without telling you want it is. Bell captures that; the mirror moment that occurs in the exact center o ...more
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: needs-review
I read this a while ago because I'd bought it off Amazon, but I never wrote a review for it. >.< I've actually played around with this concept of writing a story before, so it wasn't new to me, but I really liked Bell's approach to it and the way he frames it in a systematic way for writers of different walks and minds. Full review to come. ...more
Wendy,  Lady Evelyn Quince
Half the book is an ad for another book, it's still an OK read...

I'm a disorganized mess at times, many times, and when I create a story, I start somewhere in the middle. James Scot Bell's short e-book "Write Your Novel from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between" explains how this is a perfectly utile method for writing a book, even if you're the plan-every-detail-ahead, organized type. Fiction can be distilled into a 3 part structure (I always thought it was
Sep 06, 2014 rated it liked it
At the center of this book, literally and figuratively, is a compelling idea: a rethinking of the midpoint of a book or film.

In many writing guides, the midpoint is where "something happens." The midpoint, in these guides, never quite reaches the vaunted level of Plot Point 1 or Plot Point 2. Still, something happens at the midpoint. Bell says he's analyzed books and films and has realized that the midpoint is this: a "mirror moment" (not even a whole scene but a moment in a scene) in which the
Sam Burns
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
The weird aversion to sex scenes with "body parts" is somehow juvenile and puritanical at the same time. No, Mr. Bell, two lines of a mediocre metaphor doesn't work better than actual descriptions. Way to marginalize entire genres by suggesting there's something wrong with real sex scenes written by grownups who aren't afraid of body part words.

This is a short book, and it could have been a lot shorter while still imparting the same information. There's literally one idea in the whole thing, and
Emma Sea
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
this was shorter than I expected, but in a good way. I'm so used to a bunch of filler that the fact Bell cuts straight to the chase was both unexpected and delightful. Good stuff in here, I like it, I can use it, it will make my stories better. 4.5 stars ...more
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: about-writing
Where I got the book: purchased on Kindle.

This short (85 pages) craft book turned out to be worth buying despite its brevity, because (apart from some cutesy stuff at the beginning about Pam Pantser, Paul Plotter and so on—why do people DO that?—James Scott Bell does a pretty good job of getting across his instruction points without the ego-boosting and meandering that so many writing gurus employ. He focuses on the realization that the mid-point of a story contains a moment where the main char
Lia Black
Sep 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I rarely rate any book that I feel will earn less than 3 stars from me, but books about writing are apparently going to be one of my exceptions. I guess I just expect a lot more from authors who are implying a level of expertise, one which puts them in the realm of "teacher".
For me, this book was largely anecdotal. It seems logical-- that "mirror moment" that purportedly comes in the exact middle of every film/novel, where the protagonist makes a decision--even if it is to do nothing--and it ma
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Clickety click click. Ping.

That’s the music that played as I consumed this book, while scribbling notes on 4 by 6 index cards.

It was thrilling to map Bell’s first and second pillars to my own book. Clickety click.

And illuminating to realize I had failed to seed my early pages with information that would make my mirror moment resonate. Ping.

The ping was about far more than just a task I needed to complete to improve craft. It was a ping of insight into who I was when.

Bell’s help in knowing m
Sep 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, writing
Write Your Novel From the Middle earns 3-stars for the premise: the idea of building your novel around a key center point is a great one, especially if you're stuck when trying to work from the beginning. It's a simple concept, one that seems like it will work, and it certainly made me view my own stories in a different way. I like this plan of attack and will be trying it myself; if nothing else, this will help keep the middle of a novel from sagging.


I have this silly idea that books
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I'd recommend this author's other book, Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story, to get a comprehensive overview of structuring a work of fiction. While this book provides an interesting perspective and lists some handy tips at the end, it felt more like an addendum to the aforementioned Super Structure, rather than a standalone book. ...more
Amber Royer
Sep 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a clear explanation of why structure is important in fiction, and how the different key plot points fit together. I like the way Bell applied the information for writers who use different processes, which makes it an approachable book for beginning writers.
Darrell Grizzle
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Practical and inspiring. The perfect book to read as I begin writing my first novel.
Roni Loren
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I pretty much love anything James Scott Bell has to say about writing. For some reason, his advice resonates with me more than other writing craft teachers. Perhaps it's because he breaks things down into very understandable components and gives practical questions to use to tease out the information you need in your story. This was a small book that focused on one main concept (though there were tips at the end that were more broad), but that concept was something fresh for me to think about. I ...more
Anna Erishkigal
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Middles are the bane of a writer's existence. At first the new blush and excitement of a story carries you along, but eventually you hit this point where you look at your plot outline and realize that everything you wrote is utter crap. Sure, maybe you've got some big reveal at the end (maybe even wrote it), but you read the middle and it's boring boring boring and, no matter how much you stare at it, it's always hard to figure out exactly what went wrong.

Writing from the Middle helps you examin
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For me, this offering from James Scott Bell ranks up there with 2k to 10k on my list of short writing books that give you the most bang for your buck. It's very short, but the idea here is fresh. I think it will indeed work for both outliners and discovery writers, which is unusual for a plotting strategy. Highly recommended! ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've found this book to be invaluable in working through my current manuscript. Bell outlines the significance of identifying the magical midpoint moment or "Mirror Moment" when structuring one's story. In providing practical examples from both famous novels and movies Bell effectively demonstrates the power this gives the author in both setting up the story and taking it through to its end.

In addition, this short book provides a quick overview of story structure, the impact of genre and some ex
Gillian Kevern
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A quick read, containing some very good advice in easy to understand and easy to apply format. My style is to write without planning and plot as I go along, and I found his ideas very easy to apply to my writing. He contains suggestions on how to apply his advice to writers who outline everything, writers who don't outline at all and writers who are somewhere between those extremes, so I think I can safely recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve their writing! ...more
D.J. Adamson
Think about it. Every story has to begin, and every story has to end. And in the middle it has to hold the reader’s attention.

Bell gives writers a different way to think structurally: offering that a story has two pillars holding it up, and a magical moment in the middle, Bell instructs how to see a story from some of its key points.

Another excellent book to keep on the shelf.

Adam Collings
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
This book describes a simple but powerful concept. Everyone wanting to learn the art and craft of story structure should read this one. The book concludes with some general writing advice. While this section may seem a bit off-topic it is useful nonetheless.
Robin Lee Hatcher
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
James Scott Bell writes my favorite books on the craft of writing. I'm eager to put the Golden Triangle to work in my WIP. ...more
Shannon Reagan
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This quick read help me clarify the arch of my existing book and expand my understanding for future books.
Suz Jay
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing
“You see, the character is going to have to face a death of some kind in the story. There are three kinds of death and one or more will confront the character, in bold relief, right smack dab in the middle of your novel.”

In his book, SUPER STRUCTURE, James Scott Bell describes the fourteen signposts of a well structured novel. In this book he concentrates on three: the mirror moment and the two doorways of no return. He explains the criticality of these signposts and how they can strengthen the
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
They say there's no secret to writing, at least not a proper one, and yet, in the books I read, I keep finding small secrets that add to the big mystery of writing. This one helped a lot, and boy was it useful. I normally have a tendency to start writing my stories from the middle, never knew why was that, but more times than not, it usually works. And now, not only do I have a reason of why it works well, I also discovered how to keep working from there and make my writing process easier, fulle ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really love James Scott Bell's books about writing. I feel like he's my personal writing coach helping me achieve my goal of becoming a published author. I am already reworking the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo back in November and giving my character a mirror moment. I also had a small portion of the first chapter critiqued on his blog The Kill Zone. It was so helpful!

If you a serious writer, I recommend any of his books on the craft of writing. You will see some information repeat throughout t
Renaissance Kate
From a craft perspective this book had some helpful tips, but what stood out to me and what many other reviewers point out is that Bell claims a "good" sex scene is written without explicit language or imagery. I think he was trying to prove how good writing can convey an idea or emotion without blatantly stating it, however his using a sex scene as an example made him come off as very anti-smut. As a romance reader this bothered me, especially because I've read some amazing and detailed sex sce ...more
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Jim is a former trial lawyer who now writes and speaks full time. He is the bestselling author of Try Dying, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction, and was a fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine. He has written two books in the Writers' Digest serie ...more

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51 likes · 4 comments
“At this point in the story, the character looks at himself. He takes stock of where he is in the conflict and––depending on the type of story––has either of two basic thoughts. In a character-driven story, he looks at himself and wonders what kind of person he is. What is he becoming? If he continues the fight of Act II, how will he be different? What will he have to do to overcome his inner challenges? How will he have to change in order to battle successfully? The second type of look is more for plot-driven fiction. It's where the character looks at himself and considers the odds against him. At this point the forces seem so vast that there is virtually no way to go on and not face certain death. That death can be physical, professional, or psychological.” 6 likes
“A great novel is the record of how a character fights with death.” 5 likes
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