Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stuck in the Middle of a Story

A few weeks ago a writer friend mentioned to me that she was slogging through the middle of her novel. The worst place to be, she said. I wondered what that felt like, being stuck in the middle of a writing project. Things have a way of coming around or maybe we're just more atuned to it once the idea is put on our radar. I know exactly how she feels now.

I've been working on this novella for almost a year. It started as a short story but I quickly saw it was NOT going to be short. Time to rethink and think bigger, so I abandoned it for six months to work on other projects that I knew I could finish. (I have this overwhelming desire to finish something once in awhile.) I reached a point in the spring where I had several projects in various states. I decided to push through to the end of the novella. For various reasons, I'm moving away from short stories and focusing on longer works.

As often happens, writing stimulates the little gray cells and I developed a new and much, much better ending, all worked out in my head: a faux climax leading to a faux denoument and than a crushing real climax. But, I have to do the groundwork to set all this up and guide the reader along to understanding what's really going on in this house. If I don't lay the foundation, the climaxes won't work. That means more scenes, more writing, more words. And I don't want the middle to become boring. Arrrgh!

So, I'm stuck in the middle. All I want to do is get to the end but as I move forward a step, the end seems to get further away by a half-step as I add more material. Does that make sense? I know I'm making progress, but it sure doesn't seem that way from where I'm sitting. Those climaxes look like a mirage on a hot desert highway. As an incentive, I've forbidden myself to watch The Hobbit DVD I bought a couple months ago until I finish this novella. I hope I see The Hobbit part one before part two comes out. Stay tuned. Pray for me.

Have you ever been stuck in the middle of a writing project?


  1. Hi Jeff...

    I'm new to MIU, so you don't know me, but your post hit a nerve. On my present WIP I was stuck in the middle of Chapter 9 for about 5 months. Part of the problem was stress over family issues, but most was that I simply could not get from where I was to where I wanted to be. I knew what the ending was, but I couldn't get there. During that 5 months, I didn't write a word. I don't reccommend that for any writer, but it seemed to the long run...for me. However, I seriously hope I never get stuck that long again.

    Another frustrating issue concerning that same work, which is a paranormal/historical/mystery for YA, is that once I began writing again, I was pretty sure of what was going to happen. I'm now on chapter 16, and suddenly discovered that my killer is NOT who I had thought it to be since the very beginning. Now what? It seems he was right in front of my face all the time, dropping clues here and there, but I just couldn't see him as the killer. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get him...logically...from here to the climax, and have everything come out cleanly cut. Save some prayers for me.

    1. Sounds like you've felt the pain. Good to see that your project is back on track.

  2. That's the way, Jeff. I reward myself with chocolate if I think I've done enough writing. And I totally sympathise with your state of having several projects in various stages - I'm there too.
    Hope you get through that middle. Know exactly what you mean.

    1. Yes, chocolate (the expensive dark kind) is also a great reward. I have a couple bars in the freezer. I break off a square now and then to celebrate a productive day.

  3. I find that I get "stuck" when I think there's a certain way my story is supposed to go: one path instead of divergent possibilities. When I remind myself that I can do whatever the heck I want, that my characters are free to do whatever the heck they want, that's when I break through. Hope you're able to finish this draft of your novella ASAP. But you might want to pick a different movie; HOBBIT is no LOTR.

  4. Certainly sounds familiar. I find setting it aside and working on something else for a while can help. In theory my subconscious is still whirring away...

    There's also something to be said for blasting through to the end with all the flaws in place. Then going back and rewriting as needed. I find that takes the pressure off and lets me reach the end without getting bogged down.