The Middle Muddle

CookieMiddles can be yummy!

They can also be challenging.,

I knew that I would have the hardest time getting through the middle of my first draft, and that’s how it’s turning out. I’m still making progress, but it’s slow and hard. I think there are two reasons for this.

One is that I’ve never had as strong and pure a sense of my own middle as of the beginning and the end. I know where my character and her world start out, and I can clearly picture how the whole thing wraps up. Getting from Point A to Point B? Not so much. I have an outline and I know where I’m going, but it doesn’t grab my gut the way the other parts do.

The other is that middles are hard in general. Most things that have a sequence are stronger at the beginning and the end, weaker in the middle. In the cognitive psychology field we talk about the serial position effect: when learning a list, items in the middle are harder to remember. Speech makers are taught to put their strongest arguments at the beginning and end, burying weaker arguments in the middle where they’re likely to be missed. A racer will often start and finish strong, but have a harder time in the middle. So I’m not alone.

There are several ways I’m dealing with this. One is that I knew this would happen and built up a cushion of extra words, being a few thousand ahead of my goal before getting into these middle doldrums. This means that a few days of lackluster word count won’t put me behind. Another is connections with my cohorts in my writing cabin at Camp NaNoWriMo, who nag and support each other as we push through. Another is simple grim determination. Some days this isn’t fun. So what? Do it anyway. I’m constantly reminding myself that, as a teacher, I expect my students to write their papers and get them in on time even when they’re not inspired and even when life gets complicated. How can I demand less of myself?

So that’s me – muddling through the middle.

What parts of your writing are hardest? How to you keep going?

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3 thoughts on “The Middle Muddle

  1. Hi there! This was a great read for me and one I can definitely relate to. I am also at the half way point in my first novel Nd I know exactly what you mean. The story is flowing but part of you wonders whether or not you are just making up the word count during this middle section. Keep going! On the plus side, the ending is almost in sight and that’s the best bit! 🙂 Mark

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