Beating the Middle of the Novel Slog

Sometimes it takes the heavy horses to get moving again

I’d like to blame the heat for my malaise, but I know that’s not really it. After approaching the halfway mark, I stalled out. I hadn’t expected it since I have a pretty good idea where everything is going, but there it was. I was having a hard time pressing forward.

Some of it could be attributed to the first draft feel of the work ahead of me. It feels like taking a few steps backward even though this is the third go around. I’m sure it has something to do with the feeling that I’ve put in so much work and want to feel closer to being done.

  • First and foremost I tried not to beat myself up over the relative lack of production.
  • Second I kicked up my reading schedule some, reading The Scar by China Mieville (see side bar for link) and the occasional short story from any number of places (Just got my first issue of Realms of Fantasy and I have several short story anthologies). I even watched a movie (Hot Fuzz – watch it if you haven’t – great comedy).
  • Third, I took time away from writing and enjoyed the 4th of July weekend in the company of family. Good old fashioned physical fun (swimming, teaching our daughter to swim, jumping in the water, etc.) does wonders to clear the gunk from my mind.
  • Fourth, I did write regularly, but just not at my normal rate (1k-2k words daily), so that helped. I tinkered with some stuff I’d already written so I could get my head around where I was really going, the timeline of events, and so on. This was invaluable for getting my head back into the story deep enough where I could sustain longer periods of productive writing.

Now, with copious amounts of A/C and coffee, I’m moving forward again. I’m shooting to have some copies of my story to send to beta readers late this summer. That’s a big deal because it will mark the first time that anyone other than me or my wife have had a look at the story. I look forward to seeing what comes back (I think).

I’m sure there are other methods to get back on track, but these are the one that work for me. What do you do to get your writing back on track from the fits and starts into which we sometimes fall — an artistic defibrillation if you will.

7 thoughts on “Beating the Middle of the Novel Slog”

  1. I take my laptop somewhere with no internet and nothing else to do. That usually forces me to get started, which is the hardest part for me. After I get the ball rolling, I can usually break out of the slump and write for hours.

    1. I’m with you on the start up. Some days it feels like I’m just getting started at the end of my writing time. I wrote today’s blog post as a way to warm up to the main event and here I am answering comments instead. Getting rid of the distractions goes a long a way. Once I’m down the rabbit hole, everything usually moves, it’s just getting there that can be the struggle.

  2. I like to pretend the middle doesn’t exist, and get on to the scenes and parts that I do know. This begets new ideas and I go back to write in those new parts. Somehow that middle gets filled in. This may be a bit of a strange technique especially if you like to write linearly, but it works for me 😀 Maybe I’m just odd.

    1. Anything we can do to keep the writing fun is always a good plan. I like to think I write linearly, but I find as I get deeper into this that I am jumping around a bit more. It’s fun when the inspiration hits for a part of the novel you’re not currently working on. That’s when the note taking begins!

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  4. Matt Coultress

    As mentioned above, try to get rid of distractions. I think of it as “pulling in”: no music; nothing to drink; no internet; unplug the telephone, etc. (I try to get into what psychologists call “flow.” Just me and the story: the characters will eventually “tell” me where they want to go.) It often works for me.
    Another technique that often works is to invent another back story for the middle (or for any part of the story). It doesn’t have to fit; doesn’t have to make sense, in the current story line; and you most likely won’t use it. I think it’s simply about getting the creative juices flowing again.
    A friend did this (with success): He printed out the last portion he’d written for the middle (making sure it’s at least 5- to 10 pages long). Then, he re-typed it, as fast as he could, not worrying about typos. This got his head into what he needed to do, and he was able to continue… fresh stuff. (I’ve tried it; but, so far, with no success.)
    Or, just write some dialogue: any dialogue, for any character you’ve already created. (“Talk” to yourself, in a way.)
    Finally, ask your wife for an idea or two. We need our ladies in more ways then we sometimes realize… yes?
    Writer’s (or “writers”) Block. Hate it. Can’t avoid it.
    Just remember: We are all, as the song says, “Stuck in the Middle With You.”

    1. Great ideas, all. I wound up jumping to some other story arcs and working on them as well as working on a little backstory to firm up some things in my mind. That has released the floodgates and I’ve managed to do some quality writing over the last several days. Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll keep them in my hip sack for the next time around.

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