Since I wrote about beginnings and endings, I should say a few words about the middle of a story, or “what else could go wrong?” A good beginning and a good ending are all well and good, but you also need something with substance in between. Whether it is a short story or a novel, the middle is the meat of the story. It’s where the action takes place. It’s where the beginning is connected to the ending. You can’t say here are some characters and this is how it all turns out. That would be a very short story as well as a very boring one.
First you have to hook your reader and then you take them for a ride. When you write a story, you need to keep two questions in mind, “What else could go wrong?” and “What would make this worse?”. That’s the basis of conflict and is the meat of the story. If you think of your story as a sandwich, the middle is where the good stuff is. That’s what keeps you eating. Without the middle, all you have is two slices of bread.
Something happens to start the story going. Something else needs to happen to make the story move forward to the conclusion. Remember, it also has to make sense in the context of the story. That said, you need to write each scene and then ask yourself those two questions. Then you need to decide where to set the climax and resolution, the ending of your story. That’s where a beat sheet comes in handy. A beat sheet, even if you are a pantser can help you determine where you are in your story. Blake Snyder developed beat sheets, but Jami Gold has a good explanation of a beat sheet which can be found here. She has other worksheets and tools for writers to use and is a good resource to look to if you need help. A beat sheet is not essential, if you don’t want to use it, you don’t have to, but it is a good tool to get your pacing right.
It will help you to keep your pacing even and lets you make things worse for your characters until you can make it better for them. Or worse, if you don’t plan a happy ending. In either case, you have to consider those two questions, “what else can go wrong?” and “what can make it worse?”. Your characters are in a bad place, what else can go wrong to move them into a worse place? Is there a worse place? This is what will drive your story to its ending.