When I first tried writing any extended piece of work I would always jump right into the project and furiously write out a killer opening scene. I would usually write about four chapters worth of story and then SLAM. I would hit the wall so hard I would not be bouncing back from it and finishing the project any time soon.
It is a good thing I never delete stuff from my computer because I still have all of those openings and some of them are pretty good (in need of a desperate edit but the ideas were interesting enough).
The point is, I couldn’t write the middle of a story. I knew where it began and I could usually have written the ending – I actually have the ending written of a couple of them – but I had nothing for the middle of the story. It was a complete blank. Why?
- Lack of planning (I am all for ignoring my outline and just writing what I feel but if I don’t write an outline in the first place I am setting myself up to hit this wall).
- Having no depth to my minor characters
- Not really understanding basic story structure
The first one was easy enough to overcome. Taking the time to plan out the story and write an outline and even draw a timeline showing key events and just basically know what I want to write before trying to write it. As I said before, I don’t worry about not sticking to it. I choose to see it like a guide so those days when I have a complete blank I can look at it and think about what is supposed to come next. Usually that will inspire me to think of what I actually want to write next. Suddenly getting through the middle part wasn’t as hard when I had a map, of sorts. I think if I tried to compare my outlines to a map they would be drawn in crayon and have been dropped into the water multiple times, but they are functional.
The second one came as a surprise to me. Given I love characters and I build the story around the characters I create I would have thought that all of my characters were well constructed and had depth. Turns out, they didn’t. Which made sub-plots and relationships really hard to build, which in turn made creating a story of substance quite difficult. As I had to spend more time planning what I was going to write before jumping into it, I also had to put my protagonist and couple of main characters to the side and think about the rest of the cast of the story.
Finally, I had to look at structure. I could blame being gen Y for this problem but I shouldn’t. I have read so many novels and yet when I started trying to write one (as an impulsive high school student) I was the master of over simplification. Introduce a problem and rush straight off for the final confrontation. Umm… Something isn’t quite right there. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what the structure of a novel should look like, it was more that I was impatient, unplanned and just not ready to really write a novel.
I still find the middle of the story really hard to write and to keep interesting. I am constantly looking for places where the story goes off the rails or drags and trying to improve on it but at least now there isn’t a brick wall sitting in front of me and I am no longer hurtling toward it in a case of story suicide.
How do you cope with writing the middle of the story? Do you get stuck? How do you get through being stuck?
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