Why Writing the Middle is the Worst

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Anyone who has made it through an entire novel knows the difficulty of being in the middle. Some of us are still in the middle of their first. I love writing “the end” on a story. I love writing the beginning. The middle is just awfu,l and I never feel more like writing is a job than when I’m in the middle of a long story. Why is that?

Your honeymoon period is over.

Think about a novel like being in a long relationship with anything or anyone. The beginning is exciting, passionate, and indefatigable. The middle part isn’t bad. It just takes more work from you and the other party.

Your novel has ended its honeymoon period and now requires you to put forth a little extra work to keep your relationship going strong. When we first begin molding the people born out of our minds, building them from the ground up in ink, we’re getting to know a new person. We get to experience the world through their eyes and it’s exciting.

But, the more you get away from the beginning and lodge yourself in the muck and mire of the middle, the less malleable and new these people are to you. By this point, they’ve probably made the decisions that decided what the plot of the book will be and they’re not as exciting. You’ve grown accustomed to their faces.

Persevere and push forward. Remember what made you like these characters in the first place and keep yourself firmly planted in their shoes to find out how they will handle what you throw at them next.

It’s a long way from point A to point Z.

If you’re the kind of writer who doesn’t use an outline, the middle can be especially difficult for you. Sometimes I use outlines and the middle is still difficult. One of my problems is when I come up with a story idea, all I think of is the outside of the sandwich and forget the meat of the middle. Here’s how I think:

“Wooooah, what if there was this dude and he did (insert cheap setup) and that’s why he (insert contrived consequence)?”

That’s right—I’m like Shaggy from Hannah Barbara’s Scooby-Doo. And because of this, I never think about what happens to get me from point A to point Z. I just kind of accidentally trip my way there.

So, take a moment to think about what happens to your character to get them where you want them. If you don’t have an ending in mind, then have at that middle part. But make sure you’re stoking the fire for your characters.

I’m tired of writing.

Writing is hard. Much of the time it’s not fun. That’s because it’s work and I hate working. By the time we get to the middle of our books, we’ve realized we tricked ourselves into a job and heaven knows we’re miserable now.

But think about how it feels when you clock out at the end of a long shift at work. Think about how good it feels when you’re handed a paycheck. Now, imagine if you’ve been working hours, days, weeks and months on the same novel, trekking your way through the bright and shiny beginning, the dark and dour middle all the way to “the end.” That’s job well done, and not much feels better than that.

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About Author

John Paul Schmidt is a former news journalist. Now he's a freelancer by day and bartender by night while he works on his novel.

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