Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Musings from the Murky Middle

Every author has their "problem area" when they're drafting. Maybe it's the beginning, struggling to figure out where exactly the story starts. Maybe its the end, trying to bring all those threads together in a satisfying conclusion.

Or if you're like me, it's the treacherous murky middle. That point where I've been working long enough that I'm getting a bit weary of drafting and want to revise--but still have a LONG way to go to get to the end. The point where all the things I've planted in the beginning need to start paying off and I realize, uh oh, I didn't plant them right. The point where I become convinced that I'm not doing enough with the story--and yet equally afraid that I'm doing too much and won't be able to fit it all in. The point where my word count simultaneously makes me think, really, that's ALL I have??? and oh no, I'm running long, I need to go back and cut!!!! 

It's the point in the draft where if I were slightly less determined I might just throw in the towel and think, well... I tried.

It's the point I'm battling right now.

Fortunately I AM determined--and *kinda* contractually obligated to write this thing--so I'm slogging through. But it's HARD. Hard like I have to force myself to open my draft every morning, hard. Hard like I'm choosing things like doing my taxes and reorganizing my loft and cleaning out my refrigerator over writing, hard.

And I wanted to share that with you guys, not because I'm whining (okay, maybe I'm whining a little...) but because I think sometimes we forget that writing really is work. Sure, it's also fun and rewarding in ways that someone who doesn't know what it's like to watch a story unravel will never fully understand. But some scenes are also harder than others and some sections take longer to come together and sometimes you have to just slog through--and that's okay. That's normal. And honestly, it's what makes reaching "The End" or finishing a revision that much more rewarding.

So I'm pushing through the murky middle muck, partially because I have to (again, the whole "contractually obligated" thing takes this to a whole new level of real) but mostly because I know it's just part of the process. The home stretch--my favorite part of writing, where I'm so close to the end I almost can't type the words as fast as they come to me--is somewhere out there on the horizon. I'll get there sooner or later. One word at a time.

What about you guys--what's your biggest drafting challenge?


  1. Mine would be the middle, too. I tend to rush to get to certain plot points.

  2. Yes those middles (and descriptions and character growth for me) are hard. Mine was too long and too slow. It took a number of revisions and letting go of being stubborn to cut enough out of the middle to pick up the pace. Good luck with yours. I know you can do it!

  3. I need a running start to really begin writing, so the beginnings are always my struggle. Lately, so much so that it's preventing me from moving forward at all. *sighs* Trying to find my way to the middle....

  4. The beginning! LOL!! That first sentence!! :-)

    Once over that it's the second chapter! LOL!

    Awwww good luck working your way through the middle bit!! You can do this!!

    p.s. so gorgeous to see your book cover on your side bar!! October 2012?!? Not fair! LOL!

    Take care

  5. Oh man. The middle, the middle the middle. AND-once the first draft is done getting my butt into the second draft. It scares me, lol!

    Good luck!

  6. Right now, I am going to say the last quarter of the book, because that is what I just finished and it nearly fried every brain cell.

    But really, it depends on the book. I usually have a slog somewhere in there.


  7. For me, it's the beginning. Trying to find that hook line. I just can't seem to continue until I have that first opening sentence that captures me.

  8. I'm a middle doubter too. =/ Same thoughts when I get there usually. But the story will sort itself out! It always does. AND if you get too caught up in doubts and what ifs then it's a chore to write it and that should NEVER be the case! You have an incredible blessing to be contractually obligated to do your PASSION and LOVE as a career. Gotta appreciate the pleasure too. And anyway, it doesn't have to be perfect right away. You can ALWAYS tweek and change and edit later. I hope you feel better about it soon!

  9. It's a lot harder to write for a deadline! I found that out with my epublished trilogy. Book 1 was by far the easiest to write.

    Any how, my biggest trouble spot is the beginning. I often have to rewrite it six times.

    However, with my current WIP, I'm floundering with the falling action and the ending. This has never happened to me before. It's so frustrating!

  10. The set up in the beginning is hardest for me, how much to tell and when. I have to watch out for info-dump-itis big time. I use Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! process for planning my stories, so the middle (Fun and Games) is "fun" for me. ;-)

  11. It depends on the book. The one which just got me my agent was a joy to write, from beginning to end and I sped through the draft (of course, I did end up rewriting the beginning umpteen times.) The draft of the novel I've just finished was a pain, mainly because around the midpoint, the story took a dramatic, unplanned shift. (I'm a pantser-plotter, what can I say?) The current WIP is humming along nicely--but I'm nowhere near the middle. I'll let you know how things pan out when I get there!

    I loved the line "I'm choosing things like doing my taxes and reorganizing my loft and cleaning out my refrigerator over writing." I'm sure you'll be able to write through this, Shannon. Remember, we're all out there, cheering you on.

  12. Right now it's the end for me. I have redone it a few times. It just hasn't had the kick you in your head feel to it yet. But I'm getting there.

    Good luck wading through the middle.

  13. My middle sags like the jeans on emo teen.

    The hardest part for me right now is deciding when I should reveal certain portions...should I withhold to create more tension? Or will this just end up being frustrating? Hmmmm.

  14. I hate the empty page. Beginnings seem so daunting to me, thastarting a new project always = MAJOR procrastination.

  15. Good luck! I know you'll push through and get it done. :)

    For me, it depends on the novel. First chapters can be tough. Then, the middle can drag, if you don't watch. I find I often lose steam toward the last third of the book. It's not that I don't know what happens, but it just seems like I slow down and get tired. To try to prevent that from happening with my last book, I jumped around in scenes, so it actually worked better and I didn't slow at all.


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