Navigating the Messy Middle
How to Reenergize Your Writing, Shorten Your Timeframe and Increase Your Memoir’s Reach

After a strong start with your memoir, you got stuck. Somewhere in the messy middle, your clarity and excitement dissipated, and you got stuck in the reeds.

Now what? How do you find your way forward? How do you straighten out your manuscript? How do you draw your reader in and keep them engaged to the very end? And how do you reignite the excitement that inspired you in the first place? 

I’m Tanja Pajevic, and I’ve spent the past 20 years addressing these questions in my own writing as well as with the writers I work with. I created this course to show you a quicker and easier way to shorten your timeframe, increase your memoir’s reach and reenergize your vision for this book.  

In Navigating the Messy Middle, we get clear on the big picture pieces of your memoir, including your primary narrative arc as well as your minor themes. Once we have that 10,000 foot view, we’ll pull apart what you have in order to see what’s working and where you need to course-correct. I’ll teach you what I look for when I do a developmental edit (and then we’ll spend two weeks doing developmental reviews of our manuscripts together) in order to increase your memoir’s reach and save months of writing your way into dead-ends. This process will also save you money, since hiring a developmental editor (or working with a private coach) gets pricey.

Last but not least, I’ll teach you tools to reenergize your writing, cut through the fear and put your inner mentor in the driver’s seat instead of your inner critic. As always, our foundation will be on safety, self-care and mind/body support in order to keep you sane and healthy and facilitate a sustainable experience.

Please note: this isn’t a traditional “workshop” where we discuss pages. Instead, it’s meant to streamline the process and help you strengthen your narrative arc—key to keeping your reader engaged and getting your memoir published—and nail down that messy middle. Our live calls will be devoted to helping you brainstorm, troubleshoot and clarify your puzzle pieces with lots of support from me and our fellow writers.

For those who’d like to continue, there will be an opportunity to stay with the group for an additional 6-8 week workshop in order to share pages and receive feedback from a safe, supportive group already clear on your vision. Space will be limited.

Here's what you'll be learning:


Creating Your Road Map

In our first module, we’ll get clear on your memoir’s primary theme, transformation and time frame. We’ll also clarify your goal, audience and your big why. From there, I’ll show you how to use your road map to stay on track throughout the writing process. We’ll also do a deep dive into tangible ways to support your mind and body while working with intense personal material from your life, since our goal is to help you stay healthy and supported throughout the memoir-writing process.


Strengthening Your Narrative Arc

In Module 2, we’ll do a deep dive into narrative arc as you crystallize the parameter of your story. We’ll learn the science of story, the elements your memoir absolutely must have, and discuss narrative arc structures. We’ll also chart out your plot points in order to highlight places where your story sags or loses momentum, as well as identify where we need to course-correct. Last but not least, we’ll do a powerful exercise to connect you to your inner mentor, so that she can help guide you through this process.


Deepening Your Minor Themes

In Module 3, we’ll do a deep dive into your minor themes, charting them out in order to ensure they’re consistently woven throughout your book. We’ll also discuss various ways of organizing your material, and we’ll wrap up with a discussion on how to let excitement (not fear) drive your vision for your book.


Tightening Your Pacing

In Module 4, we’ll look at pacing issues in your memoir. We’ll discuss the techniques that keep your narrative moving forward as well as identify what makes a story feel flat. I’ll give you my rule of thumb for balancing scene vs. summary, and I’ll show you how to vary the emotional tenor of your narrative. Last, but not least, we’ll consider how to support your writing process with a gift goal instead of a should-goal.


Weaving in Backstory, Flashback and Transitions

In Module 5, we’ll dive into backstory, flashback and transitions. We’ll discuss how and where to weave in backstory, and I’ll show you some handy techniques for transitioning between chapters and scenes, as well as flashback and backstory. We’ll also continue our conversation on how to set yourself up for success during the memoir-writing process.


Supporting Your Manuscript with a Developmental Edit

In Module 6, I’ll show you how to do a developmental edit (also known as a substantative edit) of your materials. In this hands-on exercise, we’ll pull apart your pages in order to see what’s working and where you need to course-correct. I’ll teach you what I look for when I do a developmental edit, then we’ll spend two weeks doing developmental reviews of our manuscripts together in order to increase your memoir’s reach and save you months of writing your way into dead-ends. We’ll wrap up with a clear set of next steps so that you know what to do next.


Micro Editing and Next Steps

In our final module, we’ll discuss micro editing as well as what to do next. We’ll revisit our tools for mind-body support, and wrap up by celebrating the progress we’ve made in our 8 weeks together. For those who’d like to continue, there will be an opportunity to stay with the group for an additional 6-8 week workshop in order to share pages and receive feedback from a safe, supportive group already clear on your vision. Space will be limited.

Join Us for the Next Round!

If you’re interested in joining us for a future session of Navigating the Messy Middle, click the button below to get on the advance notice list (including early bird discounts!). You'll also receive articles and inspiration from Tanja.

Add me to the list!

Frequently Asked Questions

How will the teachings be delivered?

Each week you’ll get an email from our private learning platform letting you know that a new module is available. You'll have a week to review the materials before we discuss the concepts and how they apply to your memoir on our calls. In addition to our weekly calls, we'll be checking in on the private forum so that you get plenty of support from me as well as your fellow writers.

What's the live call schedule?

We'll meet on Zoom each Wednesday from March 2-April 27. Calls are from 12-1:30 pm PST/ 1-2:30 pm MST/ 2-3:30 pm CST/ 3-4:30 pm EST and will be recorded if you're unable to join us live.

I already know I have a schedule conflict. What if I miss a week or fall behind?

You can take this course at your own speed--there's no rush to get to the finish line. All of the teachings and modules will remain available to you for the lifetime of the course. And you'll be able to send in your questions in advance if you can't make a call. The live calls will be recorded and available to you to access at a time that's right for you.

Any other questions?

Email me at and I'l get back to you within 48 business hours.

About Your Instructor.

Tanja Pajevic is the author of The Secret Life of Grief: A Memoir, winner of the Nautilus Silver Book Award. She's on the faculty of Lighthouse Writers and has taught creative writing at the University of Colorado Denver, the Community College of Denver and Indiana University, where she earned her M.F.A. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Huffington Post, Writer’s Digest, and Crab Orchard Review, among other places. The recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, Hemingway Fellowship, and faculty award from the University of Colorado Denver for her project “Writing as Healing,” Tanja lives in Boulder, CO, with her husband and two teenage sons.

"I wanted to tell you how much I loved this class! It's been so helpful in so many ways… this class gave me the tools ( big rocks, etc.) to write this myself. It helped me identify the themes, the arc and other elements that all story telling have in common but this story felt overwhelming before the class, now it feels manageable."

- Celeste Donohue

"Navigating the Messy Middle is an invaluable course if you're stuck in the mud mid-way through a memoir.  I've taken and taught many creative writing courses, and this one is different--it gets down into the nitty-gritty of structural problems and emotional hiccups in your writing life.  The course is expertly arranged and I couldn't wait for each week's recorded videos and live Zoom classes.  It's supportive and rigorous at the same time, the right combo of instruction and encouragement to help you complete that memoir project sitting on your computer.  I thoroughly enjoyed my intelligent and insightful fellow students as well as Tanja's warm and wise mentoring. Now that I have completed the course, I am focused on re-structuring my memoir project."

- Becca Black

"I will recommend this course to friends who are working on memoir because of the high level of professionalism and skill it brings to the work of students.  I was educated,  inspired, supported and encouraged. I came to the course because my memoir has gone through several revisions but is still not doing what it needs to do to work. Now I have direction and focus to move forward. I think the material, organization,  and presentation...course design...were excellent because I saw the interconnectedness between all modules and benefited from the progress built in. The only problem is that the course ends, but that is remedied by the availability of the modules and the offer of future are a wonderful teacher."

- Grace Gibbons

10-Day Money Back Guarantee

If you've done the work and feel like this course isn't a good fit for you, I'll refund your tuition (minus processing fees) within the first 10 days. Simply email me with your homework assignments from the first two modules.