The Dreaded Middle
You have to imagine a room full of people screaming and running in random directions, hitting walls, all while trying to claw their brains out to appreciate the phrase “dreaded middle.”
It refers to the middle of the story, after the beginning and before the final confrontation and resolution. It’s the bulk of the story and for many writers (this one included) the least fun to write.
Openings are fun. They’re exciting. Meeting new characters, exploring new settings. While endings are cathartic. They generate a feeling of accomplishment.
Middles are the slow slog between the two. And depending on the length of the project it can be a very long slog.
I’m currently working on a thriller novella, mostly as practice to try out and exercise my thriller writing muscles. But I hit recently hit that dreaded middle point, where the excitement from the opening has worn off and the ending seems to be hiding across a desert of plotting.
I had posted before that I hoped to be done with the first draft by the end of May or early June. Umm. No. Why? The dreaded middle and the middle story blues.
An often accompaniment to the dreaded middle is the unshakable feeling that this new wonderful creation that you were in love with last week, somehow got left out in the sun to rot and now stinks to high hell. Which is where the picture of my dog comes in. When you feel like your story stinks, you tend to want to just lay around rather than work on it.
Marcus Romer had a great twitter post about this:
The Creative Process 1. This is awesome 2. This is tricky 3. This is shit 4. I am shit 5. This might be ok 6. This is awesome
— Marcus Romer (@MarcusRomer) October 23, 2013
For writers (or me at least), number 1 is the opening. Number 2 is the first half of the middle. Number 3 is the second half of the middle. Number 4 is always a constant companion (rejection anyone?). Number 5 is coming out of the middle and number 6 is the ending.
I’ve been through this enough times to know 5 & 6 are coming, and that there’s really one cure for number 3 and the dreaded middle: BIC. Butt In Chair time. You just have to sit down and slog through it having faith that 5 & 6 are around the corner.
I know this. But what I just realized is that the time it takes to move from 3 to 5 & 6 is dependent on the length of the project. Duh. Well, I write mostly short fiction. I’m not used to long dreaded middles. The novella I wrote last summer was a slog, I like the finished product, but I’ll always remember the struggle writing that one. Then there’s this novella. Still excited about it (I think it’s going to be really good), but I’m in the dreaded middle doldrums.
So, long-winded way of saying I’ve revised my estimates on the zero draft of the novella to the end of June. And my new self laughs manically at the fool that wrote “… my first novel … to be done in three months.” Still going to write a novel, but no longer delusional about three months.
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