Middle of the Book Blues

“How’s your writing going?”

“It’s….okay, I guess. I’m in the middle of the book.”

“Ohhhhhhhhh.”

That’s a typical writer conversation, isn’t it? Book middles are generally the Sticky Slough of Bleh.

You mean I have to write? But I don’t want to! I don’t know what to write next. I don’t feel like it’s going anywhere. What was the purpose of this silly scene, anyway? Why are my characters so flat/annoying/stupid? Who made up this ridiculous plot? This dialogue is so cheesy. How on earth does this help the end? Can I go do something else? Like, I dunno, weed the garden? Pleeeeeeease?

So why do we get the middle of the book blues? The best answer I’ve been able to come up with is that we lose sight of the start and finish lines. We’re far enough away from the beginning that we can’t really remember how we got there in the first place.* Yet we’re also far enough away from the end that we can’t really understand how this ties into our oh-so-carefully planned ending. It’s almost like playing a song and having to hold a single note for measures while the accompaniment goes on without you. You lose the motion, unless you’re careful. I think this is also why some books are criticized for sagging in the middle. The author loses sight of the rest of the novel, and thus the momentum of the tale.

How can we avoid the Sticky Slough? I’m really not sure. One thing that’s helped me some is asking myself what I can do in every scene to work towards or foreshadow the end, rather than just fill space. But it doesn’t stop  me from staring at the computer screen for at least half an hour before getting anything written on my document. Maybe it’s just something that has to be slogged through.

Let me know if you find some sort of magical powder that turns the Sticky Slough into dry ground. You’ll likely find me still here, slogging my way along.

 

*especially if you’re like me and forget what you’ve written almost as soon as you write it.

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