Stuck in the Middle

January 2, 2010 at 10:12 am (Character, Planning, Structure, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , )

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?

  1. 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).
  2. Having no depth to my minor characters
  3. 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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