All the writing books concentrate on beginnings and endings. Very few of them consider the middle, or even the middle of the beginning.
This is sort of akin to concentrating on your flight experience by making sure you have a good takeoff and a good landing and not caring in the least if your pilot decides to do loop-de-loops in the middle.
There are reasons for this, of course. I read somewhere that most of the fatal accidents in flights occur during takeoff and landing, and the same thing sort of applies to a book.
If you fail to capture the reader’s interest within the first few pages, you are clearly not going to make a sale. And if you end the book so disastrously that the reader feels cheated and wants to throw things at your head, you’re probably never going to make another sale to this person (and might have to wear protective head gear while traveling in their region).
But just because the moment of takeoff and landing, and the moments of starting and ending a book matter, it doesn’t mean that what goes in the middle is irrelevant.
I mean, consider the idea that you buy a flight to Poughkeepsie in the fine state of NY. Perhaps you have a hankering to visit the historic Vanderbilt Mansion.
Suppose that your plane takes off beautifully, and lands beautifully, but instead of taking you to the Queen City of the Hudson, the pilot decides it’s less trouble and much better for all concerned if he flies a few circles around the airport and then lands you back where you started.
No one would be that silly, you say?
Ah—you clearly haven’t read some of the books I’ve read.
It is actually a fairly common mistake, particularly of rookie authors still uncertain of their plot, to put all the might of their limited craft into starting and ending the book. Meanwhile, they have what I’ve grown to call “something goes here” middles.
The problem is that, in writing as in flights, if you’re going around in circles, no matter how entertaining you make the trip, calling out all the landmarks, if your book is going nowhere, people notice. After a while your reader starts asking: “Is this all there is? Is she running from the bad guys again? Haven’t we seen this before? But… nothing is solved.”