Review: "Write Your Novel From the Middle" by James Scott Bell
James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel From the Middle promises a new approach to writing a novel. Clearly clued in to modern writing culture, it’s pitched as relevant for both plotters and pantsers, those making up the story as they go along. The idea is that, by starting at the middle of the story and working out from there, you can create a strong story no matter how much or how little you like to plan out in advance.
This promise of a new approach is essentially a marketing gimmick. In reality, Bell’s method involves starting with the beginning and end of the story, then creating a key point in the middle and working out from there. In the fundamentals, it’s very similar to many other plotting styles, such as Dan Wells’s seven-point story structure, which Wells himself had said came from a roleplay book.
In short, if you’re after a stunningly original insight, this book won’t deliver.
That said, what Bell’s book does is to provide a solid, useful structure for plotting a story. Such a template can be very handy, if only as a checklist to compare your finished plot with and make sure that you’ve hit the important beats. If you don’t already have a structure you work from, then this could be the one for you.
- Provides questions to address when ensuring that the first act of a story is strong, including what the death stakes are – not necessarily literal death, but perhaps emotional or professional destruction.
- Emphasises the importance of a strong character.
- Explores the need not just to have a character change but to prove that change within the story.
- Includes a template for writing a story pitch that will be useful to anyone creating a cover blurb or elevator speech for their project.
- Provides insights into creating a gripping character and story.
- Provides a plot structure to follow if you don’t have one already.
- Doesn’t deliver the novel revelation its blurb claims.
- Doesn’t delve into the fundamentals of what makes stories work.
- Delivers a single storytelling template, rather than a variety of options to work with.
Not the novelty it claims to be, but there’s enough of substance here to provide value to the growing writer.
About Andrew Knighton
Andrew Knighton is a Yorkshire based ghostwriter, responsible for writing many books in other people's names. He's had over fifty stories published in his own name in places such as Daily Science Fiction and Wily Writers. His steampunk adventure series, The Epiphany Club, is out now in all e-book formats, and the first volume, Guns and Guano, is available for free from Amazon or Smashwords. You can find free stories and links to more of his books at andrewknighton.com and follow him on Twitter where he’s @gibbondemon.