The Middle Is Where The Story Dies

The 700-page rough draft of my first novel took a year to write. I spent the last two months writing the first 130 pages of a 400-page rough draft for my second novel that I planned to get done next month before I start editing for the next draft of the first novel in October. I’m only one-third done, stuck at the beginning of the middle, and uncertain what to do yet. I’ve been wallowing in a writing funk for the last few weeks that isn’t related to my recent birthday funk. Recalling my experience with the first novel and reexamining the half dozen short stories that I started but abandon after a few pages, the middle is where a story can and often does die.

Writing something new is always exciting. Unless the story is very short (say five pages or less), the excitement wears off in a hurry and writing becomes work. That’s the problem I have: work. While the beginning and sometimes the ending tends to write themselves with little effort on my part, writing the middle is all work trying to bridge the beginning and the ending. Work that I don’t enjoy tends to make me want to do something else that’s more fun and exciting.

The middle of my first novel felt like stringing a rope bridge across a deep chasm without any help. I forced myself to start writing one bloody page after another until what I written became the bridge needed to cross the chasm. The structure was seven parts with seven chapters each that kept me from falling into the abyss.

The middle of my second novel felt more like climbing the high wall of an obstacle course and getting stuck on top with no one to push me over if only to see me land on my face. That’s probably because I’m experimenting more with this novel—shorter chapters, flexible POVs, and naming all the characters—to avoid repeating myself. Writing fast and dirty to get the main story down, but also taking care to avoid the sprawling mess of the first draft and respecting the deadline that I set.

What to do about this horrible middle?

There are several options but none will have the second novel done any sooner before the deadline. I can keep writing until the deadline, ending the story halfway through. I can stop at the one-third mark to clean up what I have written so far and outline the middle. Or stop at the one-third mark and finished the abandon short stories for the next month. All three options appeal to me in one way or another.

Maybe I need to buy a Magic Eight Ball to decide this one.

NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.