The muddled middle

Novel From the Middle

Paula’s Post #115 —

October 6th – we are officially one month into our ‘write-a-novel-in-5-months’ challenge.

To recap, all 5 of our 5writers are now fully committed to write either a novel in 5 months (or in the case of one of our writers, Karalee, 5 short stories in 5 months, which I personally believe is even more insanely difficult). We also now have three ‘followers’ who have taken up the challenge to write that novel in 5 months along with us.

How great is that?

For me, this challenge means dusting off a long abandoned manuscript and finishing it. Writing all the way to the place where you get to type ‘The End’.

In some ways, some might say that this makes my 2015 challenge easier than our original challenge in 2012 (in the original challenge, we had a rule that your ‘novel-in-5-months’ had to be written entirely from scratch). This time, we’ve abandoned that rule, but I’m not sure the challenge is any less arduous.

For one thing, there was a reason I abandoned my dusty manuscript. Alas, I was marooned, yes, mired and marooned in the ‘muddled middle’. That hellish place so many of us find ourselves when we set out to tell a story without a clear outline or road map from Point A to Point B to Point C.

So, how to remedy the conundrum of the ‘muddled middle’ now that we are deep into our  5 months challenge?

Well, if you’ve followed this blog from time to time, you’ll know we’re exceptionally talented list makers.

Sometimes, I think we just love to make lists about writing, in order to avoid the actual task of writing. But since my 5writer colleague Silk has cornered the market on ‘Procrastination‘ as a weekly blog topic, I’m going to have to dig a little deeper into how to avoid the ‘muddled middle’, and that means yes, making a list.

Google ‘Muddled Middle’ and you’ll find an elegant excess of advice from published and wanna-be-published authors. Rather than completely reinventing the wheel, I recommend you may want to take a look at:

  1. James Scott Bell: Write Your Novel From the Middle
  2. Chuck Wendig:  25 Ways to Fight Your Novels Mushy Middle
  3. The Now Novel Blog: How to Write a Novel: Story Beginnings, Middles and Ends

When you finish reading all of the above, maybe you can give me some advice? So far, I’m leaning towards Mr. Bell’s suggestion that you consider writing your novel from the middle. This, in essence, is what I’ll be doing now that I am picking up my old manuscript and effectively taking a new ‘kick at the cat’ by starting right in the middle.

While I haven’t yet read Mr. Bell’s book, I think I might order it and take a good long look at what he has to say. I’m intrigued by the premise that you start by addressing the part of the story that causes so many writers so very much trouble.

I’m extremely impressed, generally, with Mr. Bell’s no-nonsense, common sense approach to writing. If you aren’t familiar with his work, take a look at his Amazon page. While I haven’t read all his works, I can highly recommend the critically acclaimed ‘Plot and Structure‘ which is a great starting point for any beginning writer seeking to master the craft.

So, that’s where I’m going to start.

This Week’s Progress Report:

Ferry Rides: 4

Dentist Appointments: 1

Tennis Practice Sessions: 1

Garages Cleaned Out: 1

Days Kayaking: 1

Pages Resurrected from my Dusty Novel on the Shelf: 125

Total Word Count: 24,677

Hours Spent Re-Reading and Copy Editing to achieve this astounding word count: 20-ish

(Note, I fear this is one of my big problems, I dither over periods, commas and exclamation marks, when I should be thinking.. I should be plotting… I should be rushing to do battle with the muddled middle).

So, I still have more reading to do, but what do I think I need to focusing on in the ‘muddled middle’ of my manuscript?

Personal Stakes.

But that’s a topic that deserves a blog post all its own.

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