Contact me at because I'm always up for a natter about anything. Well, mostly.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Saggy Middle Syndrome

Every writer knows the problem.

You're happily whizzing along, your plot's sorted, and you're pleased with your characterisation, when suddenly the floor turns to jelly and you're no longer sure of anything. You want to pack it in, or concentrate on another fledgling project for a few days - anything to get away from that half-written page. Unfortunately, every writer also knows that giving into those urges is the sure-fire way to never finish a single project.

The interesting thing about the novel I'm writing now (the first one ever to have a completed first draft) is that it was written for NanoWriMo 2009. For anyone unfamiliar with the concept it's an annual event that takes place in November of each year, the full title being National Novel Writing Month. It does precisely what it says on the tin: encourages you to write 50,000 words in a month. Not quite a novel but I pushed on ahead with mine and finished the 70,000 word first draft soon after November was up.

Then came the difficult part.

My plot had fault lines bigger than San Andreas. My characters were more unhinged than realistic. My settings lacked life and my word choices were suspect at best. But it was a fully-finished draft and I was very pleased with myself. Several months later I got stuck into the second draft with gusto. All went well until I topped 20,000 words.

Suddenly, every word was a labour to write. I was doubting everything, even going so far as to rewrite for my plan for the ending... then my plan for the bit leading up to the ending. With a new plan in place I pressed on and, again, I faltered. What if I was to write the second draft and my structure was still wobbling all over the place? Wouldn't it be better to sit down and plan out every little thing minutely until I was certain of every variant?

Erm... no.

I'd never finish it. This second draft to me feels almost like a first draft. The first time around I couldn't stop to breathe and panic so I think I'm making up for it this time. I literally woke up panicking on several occasions about 'my middle, my middle!'. I've built the foundations for it and I've planned the bell-ringing finale but what if... Well, what if?! Those two words caused me many problems.

What if I couldn't live up to the requirements of a middle? What are they? Well, according to various sources the intention is to build on your premise, create complications, enhance plot/character, and work towards your conclusion. The simple things in life! If I spent too long thinking about all that at this stage I'd just curl up in a ball and contemplate my alternative career in a place where words aren't used at all.

I'm pushing on. My daily targets have become smaller as I acknowledge I'm struggling and that extra pressure wasn't helping at all. My most useful resource in the last few weeks, however, has been encouragement. Having friends and family around that maybe don't understand why the itch to write is so intense but understand you have an enthusiasm (or desperation) for it is invaluable. And I do think that when I get round to sharing my second draft with them they'll be painfully honest about my saggy middle. Good friends!

No comments: