A Note From The Author
Updated: Apr 12, 2022
There's this thing called the 'muddy middle' it happens as you would expect at around the halfway point of writing the first draft of you book. I've talked before on here about being a planner or a pantser (and you can read that block by clicking on the link: https://www.angelacnurse.com/post/plotter-or-pantser-does-it-matter ) but when it comes to the muddy middle it doesn't matter what type of writer you are it can, and often does get you.
It happens because you're now properly in it - the honeymoon phase of a new idea and a new book are behind you. You're approaching the important second half - most writers thing about their books in some sort of three act structure (however loosely we use it). In the beginning we've introduced the characters, you've had your inciting incident, that was exciting and fresh. Now we've most likely put those characters in a sticky position that we have to start writing them out of. We also have to start thinking about how the book is going to end and making sure we tie all those threads together.
It's at this point that it's very easy to get stuck, it's also very tempting to start believing that this book is no good and you should put it to one side and go off in search of the shiny new idea that has most certainly been plaguing you, standing over your shoulder trying to persuade you to abandon your current project for it. Because it promises and you believe it that it will behave better than your current work in progress (WIP).
The thing is that shiny new idea and your brain are in fact lying to you and if you set off down this path then you desktop (the computer kind) is going to be littered with the corpses of half finished novels, because this way madness lies.
What do I do when I get to this point? Sometimes I step away and take a break - write a blog post, work on my newsletter for the next month. I go on social media and talk to my author friends, elicit their sympathy and hear stories of how they've been there too and what they did to wriggle free.
Then I give myself a bit of a talking to and I take to the nearest notebook with a pen - here I created a time line of what's happened so far, this very simple, linear approach helps me to be sure I've not missed any key points and reminds me of how has done what. Then I'll sketch a mind map with the ending in the middle and all of the possibilities in the bubbles around it.
I talk through (with myself) the options and ask if this happens then how does that affect my MC (main character) or the plot. I ask 'what if' and 'then'
I write myself some notes - some of these I 'put a pin in' - to coin a phrase from my corporate days. These things are questions I'll need to answer when I'm a bit further a long in the process, but I take a note so as I can help to lay the foundations for the answer.
With every WIP I have a small stack on index cards that I write notes to myself on then I slot them into the very beautiful fabric notice board my friend Debbie made for me. They remind me of new characters surnames and ages - little things to help me through the muddy middle - they're the writing equivalent of wellies or someone putting down a piece of plywood in a field.
I've said it before and I'll say in again writing a book is about so much more than the time spent in front of the screen tapping away on the keyboard. But all those little notes to myself are like little love letters that help complete each book and make me a better writer and I wouldn't have it any other way.