Are You a Writer?

Start in the Middle

“Beginnings are hard.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

“I have to explain so much I’m afraid no one will be reading when I get to the real story.”

I’ve heard these words from other writers. I’ve said these words. I’ve had stories that were ready to leap onto the page—if I could have just gotten started.

So I began in the middle. My characters knew who they were, what they wanted to do, and jumped right into the action. I decided the beginning could be written later.

That’s the neat and clean version.

What actually happened was, I was riding the bus to the subway when dialogue went off in my head. I had a pen and the back of an envelope and began writing as fast as I could to capture it. These people were completely involved in their drama and it didn’t matter that I had no clue what went before.

And a funny thing happened. In the end, only a few paragraphs were needed to set up the story. If I had waited until I had a perfect beginning, it would have all been lost. Starting in the middle was the way to begin.

So, what about you? Are you letting the beginning stop you?

  • Amy Bernstein • June 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Beyond loving this!! Cannot wait for more!!

    • J. M. Levinton • June 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Thank you!!

  • Jeff • June 16, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    There is literary precedent for starting in the middle.

    • J. M. Levinton • June 16, 2014 at 7:05 pm


  • Purrlcat • June 16, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Yes! Glad to see this. It has been a year since I conceived this story/novel. I have little scraps of paper with dialogue, scenes, names, facts, dates, etc., but just can’t get started with CHAPTER ONE. I want to start with the introduction of my ‘bad boy’, because, in my opinion, that’s where it gets really interesting. So maybe I will just do that. Thanx.

    • J. M. Levinton • June 16, 2014 at 9:43 pm

      I was over the halfway mark with my first draft before I went back and wrote the beginning. And I didn’t have to go very far from the timeline I started. Good luck!

  • Marie MacBryde • June 17, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Anyway you can do it. Just do it.

    • J. M. Levinton • June 17, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Exactly. There’s no one perfect way to get it done.

  • Christine Verrone • June 17, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    I find this method works great with writing sermons. Especially when one needs at least three different sermons a week.

    • J. M. Levinton • June 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      That is so cool.

  • Joany Magee • June 20, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Can’t wait ’til you’re done! I’ll just have to be satisfied with your blog for now.

    • J. M. Levinton • June 20, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Thanks! I’m getting there. 🙂

  • Liz • June 25, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Interesting description of how you started your novel simply by starting with the middle. I would have never thought to do that. I have often wondered how someone could develop the skill to write a novel, all the time thinking that s/he would begin with the beginning. I could not picture how they could “make up” such long stories…How wonderfully wrong I was!
    Thank you for providing us with some insight regarding this process.

    • J. M. Levinton • June 25, 2014 at 8:15 am

      For me, it’s a variation of not waiting until everything is perfect to start. I start, and then figure out where it goes. 🙂

  • cbreingold • June 30, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Hey, J.M. I don’t know about anyone else, but you are one terrific writer. More, Please! CBR

    • J. M. Levinton • June 30, 2014 at 11:23 am

      Thank you!

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