Sometimes, things just come together.
1) I was griping to someone in my writers' group about about my disappointing climax and she suggested that I go back and find the point in the story where I felt like I really had control of it. And to just read it. No editing!
2) Starting at the end and working back, I found huge sections that I barely even remembered. Looking at it as three acts, it's really the first that I knew what I wanted. I had some clue during the first part of the second. And right around the middle of the book, I fizzled.
3) National Novel Writing Month is coming around again! It had been the furthest thing from my mind, but when it was brought up, I felt like I could give myself permission to start working on something new--sort of a mental breath of fresh air.
4) The books I'd requested from the main library to the local branch were finally in. I didn't even remember what they were, so it was a present surprise to find among them, "Building Better Plots" by Robert Kernen. I've been at this long enough to know that no book is going to write my stories for me. At the same time, I've been at this long enough to know that neither outlining nor flying by the seat of my pants has worked in getting a story, no matter how great it starts, to a conclusion that's ready to ship out to editors/agents.
These things came together for me when I was diligently outlining my new story and I hit that part in the middle of the second act where I had nothing to say. Why is it always there? How is it that with these characters I'm interested in, a great idea, themes that I really want to explore...I end up going, and then more stuff happens?
My antagonists, says my new found understanding, are pretty on paper, but aren't coming alive in my mind. Just past the halfway point where the stakes are supposed to rise to ever greater heights, I've exhausted the one who would make that happen.
I know it. Now I gotta fix it.