Stuck in the middle

Being the youngest of three, I was often relegated to the middle seat. Good thing I was also the shortest in my family so it was never too uncomfortable, plus I had the protection of my older sisters on each side of me. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t try to argue my way out of the middle nor does it mean that I liked the middle seat a whole bunch either.

At some point in your writing journey, you may experience getting stuck in the middle of your story. It feels slow. It feels like you are walking through the heavy waters of the ocean. I know several authors who rent out a hotel room or a VRBO for a long weekend, just to write the middle portion of their novel. They did this religiously. The simple act of changing their scenery, having no interruptions, relying on room service/meal delivery, etc. is what they need in order to focus and trudge their way through the middle. Not everyone has such luxury and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you can’t get through the middle of your novel.

Here are some quick tips to help you find your way through the middle:

  • Give your character a new location. While you may not be writing somewhere new, drop your character into a new location and see how they respond.
  • Increase the tension for your main character.
  • Shift the focus from your protagonist and agitate your antagonist a bit more.
  • Look at your minor characters. Sometimes, it’s those secondary characters and their relation to the protagonist that isn’t fully flushed out. Find their purpose and raise the expectations you have of them.

As for you, the writer:

  • Change your location. You don’t have to travel far or spend any money. Try writing somewhere new, but don’t get distracted by window shopping or eavesdropping.
  • Writer from home? Ask for help in minimizing your distractions. If you are like me and write at a desktop computer without a laptop, ask a friend, family member, or neighbor to be your gate keeper. Maybe they can watch the kids, not call or text for a few hours, bring you something to eat without visiting/staying to chat.
  • If you are a “pantster” and write freely, this may be a good time to lean on an outline. Outlining – you either love it or hate it. If you hate it, you may find it helpful if you are truly stuck.
  • Get a beta reader! This is so important for all parts of your novel. A trusted beta reader must be someone who can be truthful and brutally honest with you about your story. They are not line editors, but simply someone who is invested in the characters and story and watch it take shape. A good beta reader will tell you what works or doesn’t work. So find that someone. If it scares you to share your manuscript for fear that it may be stolen, again, find someone you trust. If you can’t get past this fear, simply draft a non-disclosure agreement.

Being in the middle isn’t always so bad. It’s like the biblical saying of “walking through the valley” ~ walk, trudge, crawl, your way through the middle. I promise it will be worth it in “the end.” The middle is only temporary, eventually you, your characters, and your readers will make it to the end.

As always, I want to hear from you. How do you get through the dreaded middle part of your novel?

Posted by

Writer. Teacher. Water, tea, & dark chocolate sustain me. I have an addiction to journals and pens. I love hiking and spending as much time as possible with family and friends. "If you are not failing, you're not trying."

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