Sunday, August 8, 2010

Through the Muddle of a Middle

First things first-- The Paper Wait readers are incredible!

A few blog posts ago, when I was sitting there intimidated by the very idea of starting a novel, people gave me the most amazing encouragement. And it worked! I got started and I had a great time writing my novel's opening chapters.

But then life intervened and I lost some of that wonderfully inspiring momentum. Now I'm staring ahead to my muddle of a middle and I'm getting nervous again. It feels like I'm a sprinter trying to run a marathon.

With a picture book, I would be revising by now. With a novel, I'm barely started.

I'm trying to remember to take it in small chunks. To aim for fifteen minutes a day (and I'll usually end up writing more). And, most importantly, not to think about the enormity of it all.

But maintaining momentum through the many, many twists and turns that are needed to make up a novel is still a challenge. So, I'm asking for advice again. How do those of you who write novels keep your momentum going through the muddle of a middle?


  1. Oh, wow! Brianna, I missed your first post. A novel? Never attempted one, so I can't help.. but I am really IMPRESSED! Good for you!!!

  2. I like watching that word count go up.

    And then I let my characters do things even if I know it might not make it into the finished book, because you have to spend time with someone to really get to know them, even if they are a character in your own brand new novel.

  3. Try some creative exercises--ask what if. Ratchet up the tension. I would guess you could place some foreshadowing in the mix so the climax will make sense. You're almost there. Maybe do some time on the treadmill or yoga to get the creative juices flowing.

    If any of this helps let me know because I haven't gotten to the middle of my first one yet. I'm looking forward to the challenge of the middle though.

    Keep climbing. They say that the view from the top is breathtaking and well worth the effort.

  4. Oh my dear friend, keep that chin up! We ALL go through this point. You know what I do? I work on something else for a brief time, get my head out of the "muddle" phase. IT works for me. I sketch an outline for the remainder of the book, visualize the scenes, visualize the dialoguge, and then take a few days. When I'm clear, and it hits, I'm back in action! The one thing I HAVE learned is that you can't force it. Sometimes I know where the book needs to go and it just won't get there, so I have to "skip" a scene or chapter or two, get to the part I really WANT to write, and most of the time, I can usually bridge that point. But sometimes, I just need to walk away and come back another time when I'm fresh. Good luck and keep us all posted!

  5. Thanks so much for the support, guys! It really is keeping me going through some tough parts!

    Corey-- Don't be impressed now. :o) If I... wait, I should be more positive... when I manage to finish it-- then I'll have accomplished something significant. But it's definitely fun setting out on this journey! (It all started with an idea for Picture Book Idea Month that couldn't work as a picture book.)

    Lily Cate-- I love watching that word count go up! In fact, I think I'm sort of addicted to it. And that idea of letting my characters do things that might not make it into the finished book is something I have to get used to. (I'm so used to keeping my writing as spare as possible for picture books and easy readers that I have to keep reminding myself that more is better here.)

    Linda- The "what if" part is definitely going to be key! My premise is so wacky that I have definitely had some fun answering that "what if" question in my opening chapters! I agree, the muddle of a middle is a good challenge to have-- I look forward to celebrating (and commiserating) with you when you get there!

    Ammie-- Thanks so much for the encouragement! It is great to know what has worked for you. I will try some of your strategies and hope to be able to provide a positive update on how things are going in a future blog post! :o)

  6. For me, without question, the hardest part about writing a novel is not worrying about whether it sucks or not. I have to keep reminding myself that a first draft is a first draft only. Even after typing "the end" on a first draft, I have only completed the beginning.

    I think it's easier of you think about it that way -- just finish the beginning. Then fix it.

  7. I've been through two, and all I can say is, make sure you've plotted it out, at least loosely, from beginning to end. For me, having the structure down freed me up to be more creative with the characters.

    Of course, you may want to avoid this because, currently, not being able to figure out the plot has brought my writing to a grinding halt.

  8. Can sooo relate to this post.

    I definitely agree with Judy - working on something and wondering whether it's good or not really, really makes my writing go in fits and starts.

    I have to keep it small - scene by scene. And definitely chip away at it. Sometimes if I have an idea for a climactic scene that happens past the middle I play with that for awhile, then it doesn't seem so daunting.

    You'll get there!

  9. J.A.-- Great advice! I've got to speed up and finish a rough draft. It doesn't have to be great. I just have to reach "the end" and then I get to go back and revise.

    Brad-- Plotting is probably where I'm running into trouble. I'm pretty sure where it needs to end, but I don't really know how the middle should go. I'll try to plot it out a bit before I move forward. Hopefully that helps!

    Robin-- So glad I'm not the only one! (This community makes me feel so much less alone.) The scene by scene strategy is definitely helpful! It's fun to write each individual scene and hopefully in the end they'll all add up to a book!

  10. Sorry to be commenting so late, but I've been very busy with my sagging middle - No! Not that middle!
    My characters have been banging on the inside of my head since I returned from VCFA's residency. I've been swamped with the first draft of my critical thesis, but I haven't been able to shut my characters up. So I've been squeezing creative writing time in between everything else and Wow! has it been great. I can't tell you why my muse suddenly decided to move in, but she's here and I'm praying she hangs around long enough for me to get to "The End."
    Still, I know it's not really the end. It's only the beginning of phase two - revision.