This week we are taking a look at motivation and the dreaded middle section of a story. I find it ironic that this title is, relatively, the middle of this series. What’s up with the middle being a bad thing? Let’s take a look.
So far, we’ve covered getting those ideas firmed up and starting to write out shiny new wonderful story idea. This is always an exciting time – fresh new idea, exciting new plot, new characters, new conflict. The key word here is new. Once we get tot he middle, the idea is no longer new and fresh, we know the plot far better than we did at the start, the characters have been chattering in our heads so long now we sometimes tune them out like we do a buzzing fluorescent light, and we begin to wonder if there is enough conflict, or perhaps too much that we should just kill them all and be done with it. Welcome to the Sagging Middle!
So what do we do now? Well, first up, step away from the keyboard. Killing off all your characters will drastically change both your category, turning your novel into a novella (or short story), and likely your genre as well. So unless you intend to make it a horror story, a little perspective is needed. It’s likely not that bad, just that you’ve been sleeping, eating, and breathing this story for a while and need a break. It’s okay to take a day or two. Trust me, your characters won’t hate you and run off to another story. Well, I have one doing this but it is a horror story and he has evil intentions. You don’t have to worry about that.
Take a little time to catch your breath, get some perspective, then take a look at where you are. The middle can be a quagmire if you lose track of your story arc. The thing to do here is look back over what had happened so far. Is the story still on track? Does the conflict help develop the story and characters? If it’s a mystery or suspense, have you dropped enough clues so far that it still fits together? If not, perhaps one of your characters needs some fleshing out, perhaps something you think is clear to the reader but isn’t needs a little more illuminating.
Sometimes it all in how you look at it. Instead of seeing it as the boring middle part, think of it as the top of the hill. Your setting is fleshed out. Your characters are all set and doing their thing. The story is humming along. You get to the top of this hill and realize, you are halfway home. That’s great news! From here, you can look at your word count and see the ‘words left to write’ shrinking daily. Not only that, but this number is smaller than the number of words you’ve written! I don’t know about you, but that really gets me going. It’s like the end id actually in sight, though still somewhat distant, for the first time. You can see that this thing might actually come together.
This all ties directly into motivation. Writing can be a solitary endeavor, so much of our motivation comes from within. What excites us? What keeps us going for the long haul? Sometimes it’s nothing more than that I’ve covered above. A wonderful new idea that insists on being written. A character that just refuses to leave your head and won’t stop talking to you. A great plot idea. Those will usually get you started, but it’s often sheer determination that keeps you going even when things seem stalled. Keep your eye on the goal and you will get there. Even when things seem to be going awry, there’s something of value there, we just have to find it and push through. Before we know it, we are off and running once more.
As they used to say in the 70’s, Keep On Truckin’!