Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Middle

Getting stuck in the middle of a traffic jam is a nightmare. And waking up in the middle of the night to vomiting children (Ugh...3 times last week...THREE!)? Not so fun.

When I first begin a novel and have a fresh idea in mind, writing is exciting. Chapter 1 easily leads into chapters 3, 4, and 5. Sure there may be a few kinks I have to work out along the way, but the ideas flow and the story unfolds, especially when I begin to get a good sense of who my characters are. Setting up the conflicts and figuring out how they will be resolved later on is something I enjoy.

Then I reach the middle.

The conflicts are building and my MC is struggling with her relationships; her confidence is shaken, her beliefs are tested, and I need the transitional scenes that bring her to the boiling point.

This is where I’m at with my novel right now and I feel as if I just hit a brick wall. I’ve been stuck on how I want to write a particular scene and it’s right smack in the middle of my WIP. I know that the next chapter is going to be tough too and I really want to be on the other side of the wall, coasting downhill toward the end of the book. I’m really excited about working on those chapters because I have a good sense of how I’m going to resolve my MC’s conflicts.

So this is how I’ve dealt with the middle in the past. I put it aside for a while and return to it with fresh eyes. In other words...procrastinate. Avoiding the inevitable isn’t the best idea for me because when I return to it, the problem is still facing me. And that’s where I am now. The middle is just staring me in the face and I’m staring back. Who will blink first? *blink* (dang...lost again)

I’ve decided I need to slog my way through these chapters this week. My goal is to get through the next two difficult chapters, reevaluate where I am, and make a new outline for the second half of the book. Can I be honest? I’m not looking forward to it.

But middles can be good, too. In fact, some are quite fantastic. Don’t you just love being immersed in the middle of good book? Where do you find the best part of an Oreo? And the middle of a jelly doughnut? The yummy middle! So, my goal this week is to add the sweetness to the middle of my WIP.

How do you get through the midpoint of a first draft? Do you put your head down and write on through? Do you put it aside and come back to it after a period of time? Or do you write around it and come back to it later?


  1. The middle is one of the hardest parts I think because if it doesn't work the end makes no sense, nor the beginning. If it sags or is bloated readers get bored. Yep, middles are definitely problematic. My solution is to write around it and come back to it later, and also to drastically cut.

  2. I split a manuscript into four quarters. 20,000 words in each. I also imagine the journey as climbing up a hill, and then coming back down again.

    1: Introduce premise, characters and crux of the story.

    2: Flesh out premise, characters and create the conflict.

    40,000 words already! I'm at the top of the hill. Hard part over. Now to traverse my way back down.

    3: Conflict is now at its height in this quarter.

    4: Denouement. Just love that word! Conflict resolved. Characters have been on a journey and have changed because of it. THE END

    Never, ever put the mss aside when you get to the middle. You are at the top of the hill, enjoy the view, then get the hell down again!

  3. Middles...not my favorite either. I trudge through them, but I LOVE your thoughts about the middle of oreos and other good stuff. Change of attitude...
    @Donna, taking it in smaller chunks a great idea. Then celebrate (briefly) for reaching the top.

  4. Hi, Suzie! Your post could not have come at a better time. I am firmly entrenched in the creamy middle of my second novel (also known as the "novel-that-is-sipping-my-brain-out-slowly-with-a-straw) and have decided to take a little break from it for a while. I hope to get back to it as soon as I fortify myself with an oreo. Or two. And a glass of milk. ;-) Great blog!

  5. Middles are sometimes the best places to start throwing curve balls. Even if you delete it all later, throwing something completely at your characters to make things much worse for them is a lot of fun!

  6. Donna's approach is brilliant. *writes it down*

  7. Karen, I agree. If your middle isn't strong it's easy to lose the reader. Good solutions!

    Donna H - Thanks for giving us a peek at your process. I love the word denoument too and hope to reach mine soon! What I need to do now that I'm at the top of the hill, is enjoy the view instead of freaking out over my fear of heights.

  8. MacDonna - Change of attitude is crucial for me. And as long as I can relate it back to a snacks, I'm good to go.

    Samantha - It's amazing how a couple of cookies can fortify our will to write, isn't it? Good luck with the creamy middle of you novel!

  9. I like that idea, Jemi. I've got quite a few curve balls lined up for my MC. She's not going to like me very much this week.

    Donna W. - I couldn't agree more! Brilliant!

  10. Middles are SO hard - I hear you! I tend to work through it, and I tell myself I can always fix it later!