Monday, November 16, 2009

The Middle of Nowhere

There are actually a couple of purposes to this post. I know, I'm not supposed to do that, but let's pretend it's two seperate posts ok? First, if you are using a reader, please click through and take the poll to the right of my blog. I'll only have the poll up today. So, be sure to let me know if this blog should not be quite so you want to know what to expect on a weekly basis? Am I blogging too much? blah blah blah. :0)

Secondly, and most important! With Nano, and all the mad typing and pouring out of ideas without censorhip, it's easy to suddenly wonder if you are going nowhere, or too many where's! I felt pretty confident about my story. I was loving it. My characters were taking over, the plot felt exciting, suspenseful and believable. Totally awesome.

I hit 23,400 words and stopped. Something didn't feel right. Wait, I can't see the beginning. I don't remember what color Charla's hair was. Did I even mention her hair? Oh my God, is this ever going to end? How the hell am I going to pull all of this together. I know the end...but I can't see it anywhere!

Before panic makes you freeze up and stop typing, or think of scrapping your project and starting all over again....think of a few things.
1) You've come this far-which is the 'easy' part. Do you really want to start all over again?
2) Do you have a habit, in writing, where you don't get past the middle, or you are never completely satisfied with a finished project? Maybe there is something for you to journal about, to embrace your fear of imperfection is to become perfect in your own right.
3) You are not the above picture suggests.

The middle is a frustrating place. All of those wonderful, unexpected twists and turns that we added six thousand words ago, now it's time to wonder how to pull those in and incorporate. I don't know why our brains switch sides when we get to the middle-but all of a sudden, they do. We can't go further without really analyzing and questioning, mapping and planning. Hmmm, what to do?

Rules are made to be broken. Break 'em. If only to bribe your middle monster to shut up for a while. This is what I did (which also works for the inner editor silencing):

Make a color code for your editing/revising....remember as you take this one hour 'break' from the middle and stand on the shore of the beginning for a while, there is still no deleting allowed-unless you replace the exact number of words you delete. That's kind of hard to keep track of. So, I added a bloody color to my editing highlights.

RED: I really hate this word, sentence, paragraph. It can most likely be deleted. But don't lose the word count! Highlight it in red so you know that later. Then, underneath it, if you have the ideas to replace already, type a different paragraph. Or-just leave it at highlighted.

TURQUOISE: (cuz blue is too dark) Research the believability of this and possibly add details here. If I know the details I want to add already-I do so. However, if it's something I need to look up online, I DO NOT GET ONLINE..NO NO NO, suddenly facebook and blogger call my name and it's bad....very bad.

YELLOW: Adverbs, awkward sentences, anything I want to maybe keep, but write in a better sort of way. Oh, and gerunds. I'm so awful with those...

I also have notecards on my desk at all times. Along with colored pens and sometimes crayons. I like color and I'm a visual person. They do make colored notecards too, which adds lots of color to your world. Each postcard has a purpose. Each character has their own which includes any pertinent information they bring to the plot along with general descriptions of their appearance.

The other notecard has a description and sometimes even pictures of my setting. Sometimes this is several notecards, pasted to one piece of construction paper (color!)

Still other notecards have short descriptions of scenes, jotted notes of how I want things to happen and things that have happened in the story that I need to remember for .... THE MIDDLE.

Then, the last bit of advice I have for you. Struggle right through it. Write words.."This is the part that I'm not sure what to do about. What would be another scene I could start from? Oh, I know...." Climb that wall and land on the other side all muddy and stuff. I'll even show you what I mean.

Grant puffed out his chest. “Well, Stacey isn’t so perfect. She tries so hard to meet her father’s expectations that it destroys her.”

“Is that why she overdosed on epinephrine?”

Grant spread out his fingers and stared at the class ring on his left hand. “Yup. It’s the only way she can keep up with their demands.”

Moira came to a split in the freeway. “Do I stay here or take the other one?”

“Stay here, but take the first exit after the split.”

They remained silent until after Moira exited the freeway. She followed his instructions directions through a maze of back roads until they came to an expanse of desert in between two different budding subdivisions.

Grant jumped out of the car and motioned for her to wait. Moira watched him jog to a spot in the middle of the clearing. She scanned the neighborhoods, mentally checking escape routes, people walking on sidewalks and any cars on the road. Since the energy conservation act, most households couldn’t afford the new standards on their existing vehicles, nor could they afford a brand new solar hybrid.

Moira shaded her eyes from the rising sun and turned back to watch Grant. He was nowhere to be seen. She cursed and took off at a run for the clearing. Sweat gathered between her shoulder blades and on her chest. Anger welled in her chest as she pounded the sand with her feet.

How could I be so stupid? If there was ever a time in her life she wished she could go back in time, this would be it. He’s obviously a player and a junkie and he never planned on helping her in the first place. She turned in circles, looking for a trap door in the ground, tire tracks from a motorcycle or the footsteps of Grant in the sand.

The throaty rumble of a bike sounded behind her. Moira smiled and turned around. “You didn’t leave me.”

This is not my best writing. Obviously-it's my nano project. It's not so terrible I'm ready to trash it, but it certainly isn't something I would normally post or share with others until after I'd gone through and made some changes. I struggled through this scene-as you can tell it is a little short. But, then the words started flowing again and I got to 25,215 words last night. I'm excited again. I didn't revise the whole shabang. I scanned and found spots to go over, or while looking for things like, where was that character in the last scene? At home or the gym? I would highlight a little here and there.

It gives your editor side of the brain (right?) the chance to show how smart she is and the colors open up the left? (creative) side of your brain to keep writing. So, until tomorrow, keep on truckin!


  1. Middles are tough. Thanks for sharing how you work through it. Congrats on hitting the 1/2 point in word count. Way to go!

  2. Keeping the momentum going can be rough. I hit 15,000 words on my WIP and got stuck so I went back to current project to edit. Like the highlighting idea. I've just recently become a fan.

  3. What great advice. I'm going to take it once I get myself all sorted out! I'm not doing NaNoWriMo agent wanted me to finish the second book in my series, and it's only going to be 42,000 words, which means it doesn't qualify. But Meg Cabot did a great inspirational piece last year about the temptation to quit and start on something new halfway through:

  4. My middles lag big time, especially in the first draft stage. I'm revising how and really trying to give that middle some life!


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