The “muddle in the middle” problem has come up before on Magical Words. Some writers will tell you they love writing the first several pages of a novel, when the characters are fresh, the plot is new, and the words flow like quicksilver. Other writers will say that they love writing the last several pages, when all the plot pieces are stitched together, all the loose threads are stitched, when every word has a satisfying finality.
Almost no one likes the middle. (Yeah, I’m sure there are folks out there who do. And they’ll likely chime in, in response to this post…)
Middles go on and on (and, sometimes, on and on and on – you get the idea.) There’s progress to be made, but it’s hard to measure against the bulk of chapters ahead, the ones behind. We know where we want to go, but it can take a long time pushing through. Every single novel I have ever written has kicked my butt when I’ve slogged through the middle.
However, this is *not* my experience with DARKBEAST REBELLION. I am now officially more than halfway through the manuscript. And so far, each chapter continues to be fresh. It feels exciting to write about Keara’s journey. The characters are acting consistently with their nature, but they’re also being interesting.
Sure, I might get hit by a 2×4 of “muddled middle” soon.
But it’s sure a joy not to be there now.
What have I done differently, to avoid the muddle this time? I’m not entirely sure, but here are a few things:
- Writing fast. Yes, you’ve read a lot about this technique here on MW, but it’s working for me. I started writing fast when I started writing category romance. I would draft those 60,000 novels in two weeks, not letting myself dwell on details that needed editing. I flew through the middle before I had a chance to be bogged down.
- Knowing the plot. When I wrote my Glasswrights novels, my “outline” was a handful of paragraphs that said “stuff happens to Rani.” When I wrote my Jane Madison novels, though, preparing an acceptable outline was a payment point under the contract. I took time to create one, to flesh out more details. Now, ten novels into outlining, I am *finally* secure in this method of story guidance.
- Applying screenwriter tricks. Last fall, I took a workshop in screenwriting, as applied to romance novels. Sure, there were gimmicks. Of course, there were precise details that don’t apply to my manner of writing. But there were also a number of points raised, about story structure and turning of fortune that made me realize I had never *really* focused on plot before. I’m doing that now, and I’m finding that there’s a reason for each and every thing that happens in the middle.
I’m sure there are other elements at play, but the bottom line is this: I’m nearly through the middle, and the words are still flowing smoothly.
So? What about it? If you’re a writer, do you hate the middles? If you’re a reader, how do middles feel? (As a reader, *I* rarely feel bogged down, the way I do when I’m writing.)