Teachers and experienced writers will tell you to “start in the middle” when telling your story, because the middle is generally more interesting and exciting. This well-known tactic suggests that all of the introduction and exposition materials that generally go at the beginning of a story (and can be a bit dull) can be filled in along the way. I’ve done this several times myself.
But I bet no one’s ever told you to “stop in the middle.”
When writing, we like to keep going and not take a break until we get to “a good stopping point.” In other words, when it comes time to stop writing, we prefer to get to the end of a chapter, scene, or section. It feels more like an accomplishment that way because you can easily measure your output.
Here’s a trick that I’ve found more productive: stop writing in the middle of a chapter, scene, or section. Don’t wait to the end. Stop smack dab in the middle.
Why? Because the middle is easier to jump back into.
Writers know when they’ve reached their sweet spot. That place where your creative juices are flowing like a river, your dialogue crackles, you’re thinking the way your character does (instead of the way you do), and everything pops off the page. Some writers can go straight into that mode the minute they start writing, but it takes most of us some time and effort to get there.
The problem with stopping at a clearly defined point of separation is that when you pick the narrative back up, you might be writing a different setting, a different situation, from a different character’s P.O.V., and so on. It forces you to start working your way back into that sweet spot entirely from scratch.
So I use this trick as a shortcut: Stop at a point in the narrative where you know exactly what’s going to happen next. It may seem counter-intuitive to walk away when you can already hear the next few lines of prose in your head. Just try it.
I’m always amazed at how quickly this little trick brings me right back to my creative sweet spot — as if I never left it.