My writer friend, Kathy, has trouble starting books. She’s a perfectionist. Things have to be RIGHT. She writes and rewrites her first chapters. And by golly, when she’s done, they’re GOOD. Me? I probably jump in before I should. I can’t wait to “see” and “hear” my characters, can’t wait to plop them into trouble to see what they do. After I write a few chapters, THEN I go back and fill in the blank spaces, finish my character wheels and fill out plot points. And as I go along, I write that stupid, first chapter over and over again. First chapters are hard, but they don’t intimidate me. They’re exciting, daring me to see what my characters do, what decisions they make. No one gets off easy in writing, though. Middles are my bugaboos.
I’m in the middle of my second romance now. Appropriate, actually, since the beginning of a book, to me, feels like a romance. At first, everything’s new and exciting. It’s the stage of attraction where you only see the good, the positive. Your ideas spill so fast, your fingers can’t keep up. The middle of a book, though, is more like the 7-year itch. The newness has worn off. You notice the flaws. No, you LIVE with the flaws. You thought for sure that your second subplot would spur ideas for a few more scenes. Are there enough sparks flying between your main characters? Are they sympathetic/charismatic enough? You grumble about them, but they’re worth it, right? In marriage, you’ve probably had a kid or two, and you’re too tired to get frisky by the time you can catch a few zzz’s. Reality has set in–big time. Same with books. You’re wearing down, and you’d rather take a nap or start writing something new, even though you have plenty of ideas and lots of goals and plot points. They just don’t sparkle quite as much–you’ve lost some of your energy, some of your enthusiasm. How many more pages do you have to write? What was that minor character’s name you introduced in chapter three? Where has he been for the last fifty pages? You can see the links from beginning to middle, and from middle to end. But it’s like that long leg of a trip that seems to take forever. You’re headed in the right direction, you know. And someday, you’ll reach your destination, so you plug away.
And then, the miracle happens. Momentum gathers for the last fourth of the storyline, subplots start winding up. Tension escalates to the big, black moment, and everything falls into place. In life, the kid graduates from high school. He gets a job. He meets a girl. Once again, you can’t write fast enough. The end is in sight.
I know the pattern. I’ve been there/done that. I know my book isn’t going to fizzle and die on page 161. It just feels like it. I’m in the middle of the middle. Once I cross this hump, the world will look better. This happens to me every time I write a book. I expect it. But I’ll be happy when I’m past it.
Hope your writing’s better than mine right now:)
P.S. I put a new short-short on my webpage at the end of each month, so Damian’s Story just went up. Hope you enjoy it: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
P.P.S. My friend, Mary Lou Rigdon, posted an awesomely wonderful post on my blog last week, but a lot of people were busy over Memorial Day and missed it. In case you were one of them, here’s the link. I loved it: https://writingmusings.com/2015/05/24/writing-historical-and-malefemale-povs/
Kathy’s blog (since I mentioned her..and kind of like her): https://findingfaeries.wordpress.com/
5 thoughts on “Writing: Are Middles Like The 7-year Itch?”
Oh yes, those middles can sure be painful/tedious/yawn-inspiring. The calm before the storm. But you’re right, they’re also the harbinger of all the fun and chaos up ahead. Hoping you get thru the middle soon and the words keep on coming!
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Thanks for the repromote and now get back to that romance. I’m dying to read it!
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middles are no fun. I’ve often thought that my best use of editing time is focusing on that dry wasteland in the middle of my books. Forget the opening hook. Forget the great wrap-up. The middle is what makes or break a book. It’s what keeps me reading!
Sorry to be so late in visiting. Glad to be back!
Glad you’re back! And I agree. Beginnings and endings chug along. It’s middles that sag and need help.