Monday, January 7, 2013

The Saggy Draggy Middle

Ever feel like you are dragging the saggy underbelly of your novel around? Yeah that's totally me right now. I'm so far from the start and so far from the end, that I can't see the light at either end of the tunnel. The 'shiny new idea' syndrome has worn off and the end just isn't close enough in sight. So I'm stuck in the middle looking for motivation.

It's not that the story has gotten less exciting, in fact it's more exciting than the start. So what is the problem?

The middle of the story is where "stuff" starts to happen. You've already introduced the main players and you know their problems but now you have to make it happen. The trouble is, the middle is the important part, maybe the most important part because it's where the story arc takes that upward turn towards the climax. Emotions, tensions, and problems all should be building in the middle until things finally explode. If you don't get it right, the story starts to bloat and retain water. Then you are stuck with saving a sinking ship.

Which is exactly how I feel right now, like I'm riding a sinking ship into the swirly abyss of the toilet bowl. Not that my draft is bad, and not that I can't fix it later, but I want to make sure I lay a good foundation for the manuscript. Otherwise I'm sucked in the proverbial plot corner with no way out!

So how do you move past the feelings and keep going? You grab your flotation device (aka your outline) and you grab your bucket (aka your brain) and you bail out the ship (aka your manuscript). You keep going and you don't stop, because if you do, you will sink. And if you're really crafty you have your handy dandy paddle, aka your critique partner who is shoving you along by asking for more pages, which is by far the best motivation ever. If you keep paddling, eventually you will pull out of the tumultuous waters and see that beautiful sunset. The light is there, you just have to find it.

Somewhere in your subconscious is the rest of the draft and it's just waiting to come out. The middle is where you find out who your characters really are and what they are made of. It's where you discover your true message and it's where you often learn something about yourself. So take a deep breath, plant your butt in the chair, and let the words flow through your fingertips. You never know where the journey will take you. Before you know it, you'll see the light at the end of the tunnel. It looks a lot like THE END.

Does anyone else struggle with writing the middle? If so, how do you power on?


  1. I can totally relate. The solution for me is outlining. My focus is on conflict. I bullet out the major nodes tying my characters and plot together. From there I do something I call 'writing ahead'. Take the first bullet and in rough paragraph form start writing what happens as the ideas come to you, like writing a rough synopsis of the scene ahead of the manuscript. A glimpse into the future, if you will. Then scroll back and rewrite it in edited detail. Sometimes my ideas change or new ideas come to me. A quick scroll ahead allows me to capture those ideas before they're lost, and I'm back to writing the manuscript. I delete the synopsis as I go so by the end of the scene it's replaced by 1st draft quality prose. Writing ahead of my manuscript has helped ferret out plot complications and greatly reduced the occurrence of lost ideas. Give it a try and good luck with the midriff of your manuscript!

    1. Thanks! Would you believe I still struggle with this even with an outline? But I think you are right, I think I need to be a bit more detailed in my outline. I know what's supposed to happen but when I want to write sometimes I struggle with getting it onto the page.

      I'm a bit of a plotster. I give myself points to hit but when I sit down to write, I fill in the holes between those points and sometimes move things around. My brain is constantly trying to put the puzzle pieces together and I can't always make it past the current point until my subconscious catches up and course corrects.