Sunday, November 15, 2009

On Trying to Quit and Failing

Last week I decided to trunk my NaNoWriMo manuscript and work on something else. Quitting was the smart thing to do. I struggled to put words on the page. I didn't love it anymore (or so I thought).

On Monday I didn't write anything. On Tuesday I tried to start something new. I spent all day Wednesday and Thursday snuggling on the couch with sick kids (actually I spent most of Monday and Tuesday doing this too). And then Friday I opened up my week-old NaNo manuscript and guess what...

It was funny. I loved the characters. The writing was terrible (of course), but I could see potential, so I sat down and wrote 1000 words.

I have given up on trying to "win" NaNoWriMo--50,000 words in a month just doesn't work for me--but I've decided to keep going with the story.

I think I quit because I got discouraged with the middle. The middle is the hardest part for me to write. The beginning is easy (at least the first draft) and the end is fun, but the middle is hard. Stuff has to happen to propel the story from point A to point Z, but that stuff isn't always clear (or if it is clear it isn't always interesting).

Do you have a hard time with middles? Do you have any tricks to keep things moving forward?


(I've been a bad blogger lately. In an effort to regain consistency, I'm planning to post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)

32 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

Yes! Middles are always the hardest part for me too. I just had my poor mc witness a murder to make sure the pace didn't slow down. It's connected to the main mystery, but I'm not sure what road that twist is now taking me on :)

Good luck with your story - it's the story that counts, not the time frame you write it in!

paulgreci said...

Natalie, first of all, I think it's great that you thought your novel was DOA and now it has new life!

And yes, sometimes I have touble with middles. Sometimes I set the novel aside for a while. I guess that is what you did even though you thought you were done with it for good.

Once I came to a fork in the road in my ms and sat for two days just thinking about it, following each fork in my mind until it beacame clear which one to explore. Middles are definitely the hardest part for me. Another thing I do for middles is when I stop writing for the day I go to bed with a picture in my mind of where I'm going to pick the story up tomorrow, i.e. a scene that I have visualized. Sometimes I even make a few notes to jumpstart my writing. (I'm not much of an outliner.)

I think Will Hobbs said that writing a novel is an act of faith. I think of that sometimes when I'm in the middle. Just trust that if I keep going I'll come out on the other side.

I hope you have a productive writing week whatever story you decide to work on!

Anita Saxena said...

Middles are quagmires!
Distancing myself from the muck for a few days always helps and also just free writing with pen and paper. There's something about pen on paper that just helps me get unstuck.

Kristi Faith said...

Oh yes...I HATE middles...middle is so hard on me too!! I feel like I'm swimming in the middle of an ocean and can't see the shore. I'm actually touching on that in tomorrow's blog post.

Lisa and Laura said...

The middles are the worst. So glad you went back to your story and were re-inspired! Isn't that the best feeling?

Mary said...

I'm stuck in the middle of mine too. I took a break from it and wrote a short story and now I think I'm ready to start again tomorrow.

Susan R. Mills said...

Middles are definitely tough. I am in the middle of rewriting one of my middles. It isn't any easier to rewrite than it was to write. I know you've read some of my posts on The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass, so if you want me to shut up about it I will, but he devotes a great part of the book to giving tips on writing unforgettable middle scenes. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

Patti said...

It's hard to keep the momentum going. You really have to be picky about what goes in there.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Middles are on my list of things to blog about in the next few weeks. I get through about 150 pages and then go, "Huh. What now?" I know where the story has to go, but I hit a point where I'm not sure how to get there. So middles are where I do the most editing, chopping entire scenes.

And I'm glad you're back to work on your NaNo story. Hurray!

Jade said...

Did you get that email about middles as part of NaNo?
So good!

I'm glad you found your muse again.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Yay, Natalie. Sometimes we need to put a ms aside for a bit. Sounds like that worked for the NaNo project. I love that you found it funny and love the characters when you went back. That says it's a keeper. It's clear you need to forget about the word count and just enjoy writing it. As far as I'm concerned that already makes you a NaNo winner. :)

Thomas Taylor said...

Yes, that point around the middle/two thirds of the way through can make or break a story. I think it helps to consider the middle as a minor climax in its own right, just to have something exciting to aim for at this point.

CKHB said...

Middles are brutal for me, and I have no tricks, I just have to write around it and fill it in later, or, like you did, walk away and see if something comes to me when I pick it back up. I'm so happy you rediscovered the potential!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Middles irk me. I have a hard time when I put a ton of pressure on myself too. I've found my writing moves forward best when I'm in love with the characters, not when I want to finish so many words in a certain time frame.

Something that has helped my middles. Throwing in curveballs and new unexpected conflict/tension. Writing things from different POV to bring out new points...

~ Wendy

Blank said...

middles are tough. I love beginnings. I can deal with endings. but those middles! ugh!

Matthew Delman said...

I concur with the hatred of middles. It's hard to keep developing events that propel the story (or stories) forward toward the climax and the denouement without making it drag.

Linda Kage said...

It's amazing how your perspective changes for a story once you step away from it for a bit!!

Bethany Mattingly said...

Middles can be hard for me too and they usually take the longest for me (I think because I don't like them, so I'm not as motivated). It drives me crazy. :)

kathrynjankowski said...

I took a class with a writing consultant and she said even best-selling novelists get bogged down as they're writing the middle, so you're in good company.

Glad to hear you're resuming the work. Abandoning the insanity of NaNo was a wise choice, I think. As for moving things forward, I try to increase the tension. Keeps me interested and motivated.

Hope the little darlings are feeling better.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Good for you for jumping back in! I am blissfully happy I haven't. :)

Jill Kemerer said...

Middles can stink. I'm glad you went back in and didn't give up on it!

Tira said...

Congratulations on getting back on track with the NaNo story. It always feels good to go back to old writing and discover the potential in it. I have the same problem as you... beginnings and endings are so fun, but middles are... messy. I'm afraid I haven't yet found the solution to this woe, but when I do, I will let you know. :)

Erica said...

OMG yes! I hate middles. Looks like we're not alone ;) I'm slogging through one myself right now! I'm so glad you went back and loved the characters- who cares if you don't get the 50,000 words, you have something you want to work with, that's the most important thing!

Don't worry- you're not a bad blogger too. It's hard during NaNo. I'll admit it.

staceyjwarner said...

Middles are difficult for EVERYONE, this is where screenplay writing comes in handyb because there are tools to get through the middle!

much love

Marybeth Poppins said...

I'm having a rougher time with my end. But I totally understand the middle issues. It can be difficult.

Dawn Simon said...

Those darn saggy middles...

How exciting that you just needed a break. I'm glad for you. I don't think any writing is a waste; at the very least, we learn from it.

I'm glad you'll be at the SCBWI Winter Conference too! :) Maybe we'll bump into each other.

Tom Bailey said...

I have been told the best way to deal with middles is white boarding ideas. I do not write as a profession. I connected to you through another blog.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I agree with the middle being hard, although during my rough drafting phase I found the ending even harder. The beginning was fun, partly because it is when all your hopes and dreams for the middle and the end are the biggest. I'm glad you like your story again.

Laura Martone said...

I'm not sure yet if I'm good at beginnings, middles, or ends, but I'm fairly certain that NaNoWriMo isn't for me. I just don't have time in November to crank out 50k words, especially when I'm still trying to revise the novel I really wanted to write. You know?

TerryLynnJohnson said...

How interesting that you thought you'd put it away but it called you back. I love that! The middle is the hardest part!

Heather Sunseri said...

With the manuscript I'm rewriting/editing now I struggled 25k words in. I put it aside b/c I was bored with where the story had gone. Then, b/c I loved the characters so much, I rewrote the first 25k before continuing. Now, I love it and am having a blast (okay, blast is probably strong) with the rewrites. Very exciting. Good luck continuing your story.

beth said...

Oh, I *hate* middles. That's always what I cut/edit/rearrange the most.