Writing the middle of your novel is tough. I haven’t heard any writers call it their favorite part, and for good reason. It lacks the excitement and possibilities of the beginning, but it doesn’t offer the satisfaction of the end, either. It’s a place where many of us begin to lose our way. Even published books can struggle to keep readers engaged in the middle. It’s just not a glamorous place to be most of the time.
For all that, feeling a slump in the middle of your book is yet another normal rough patch in your writing journey. We all get there, and we all need to get out.
Admit it: the middle isn’t fun.
Some people leave the best for last, and some devour it before anything else can get in their way. I’ve never heard of anyone saving the best for the middle.
I tend to write out of order, at least at first, to get all the ideas out of my head as they come to me. This means the most compelling parts of my book either get written first, or I’m avoiding them because I haven’t figured them out yet. Once I hit 20,000 words, I’m well into the weeds with all the scenes I’ve avoided thus far.
Once we reach the middle of a project, we realize just how much work we have yet to do. We have enough writing behind us to do a little math on how long it’d take us to hit 80,000 words, or whatever your target is, at our current pace. And we know, especially if we’ve written a book before, that we’re not even close to the end.
The middle isn’t the fun part, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your story is doomed. Even if you end up writing a saggy middle, you can fix it in revisions. For now, you need to accept the middle for what it is and move on.
It’s okay to take a productive breather.
I’m all for pushing through dips in motivation. I write every day. However, that doesn’t mean you need to write 2,000 words of new content into your book every morning until it’s done.
I recently had to take a step back after hitting 10,000 words on a new novel. While I still met my daily word count goals, I did it writing blurbs, notes, and outlines. I’m a pantser, but I’m not as rabid as most about the plotter vs. pantser distinction. Once I’ve gotten to know my characters and story a bit through my writing, I sometimes appreciate a quick break to sketch out the key events and character transformations. I may even plug them into a prefabbed framework like the three-act structure or the Hero’s Journey. Occasionally, I write my plot points on index cards and lay them out in front of me. Anything to give me a clear path forward.
Of course, a short planning break can become a procrastination device. You do need to get back to work on the actual book eventually. But as long as your break is productive, helpful, and short, it can make the middle seem a lot less muddled.
Calm down and keep writing.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re writing a novel. Lack of motivation doesn’t mean you don’t have a good story, aren’t doing good work, or you’ve doomed yourself to a saggy middle in the finished book. Most often, it simply means you’ve worked your way clear of the initial sparkle and excitement, and you just have to keep going.
Creative work isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s often quite difficult. Even if you get your butt in your writing chair every day, you might still feel like you’re lost in the woods. Not to worry. Keep going with that daily writing habit and you’ll wander out on the other side eventually.