Let’s talk about middles. The middles of stories or novels, which I think is the most difficult part of any plot.
For me, I think part of the difficulty lies in having too many options. There are too many directions to take things! Too many choices about when this happens or what causes that or whether to add new characters or stick to just who I started with. Another problem I face when moving the plot past the beginning and into the middle is, I get attached to the setup. If I start a book or a story, chances are I’ve started out writing about a place, a person, a condition or emotion, and/or a situation I find interesting and want to explore. Moving into the middle means shifting away from that, and often, I don’t want to at first – especially if it changes the tone.
I’ve learned that that attachment can be a benefit, as well as an obstacle, because it’s often a good instinct waving its arms at me and saying, “Hey!! Don’t make this shift too abrupt for the reader! Your pacing is going to SUCK if you don’t give ’em something to help them transition here along with the characters!” Now, when I get the pangs of “I don’t wanna move on to the next part!” from my whiny little internal voice, I think, Hmmm. What can I do to make this change feel smoother and more natural? Why does it feel too abrupt? What’s missing? and instead of a bang-head-on-keyboard session, I get to have a brainstorming session instead. Much healthier for the forehead.
The “too many choices” problem, I don’t have a solution for yet – just keep writing and see what happens, or think out the possibilities logically and narrow them down until they’re at least manageable, if not carved in stone. If your decisions for the plot don’t work, it’ll become apparent soon enough…and rewrites are going to be necessary no matter what you do. I console myself by reading the notes of Dostoevsky (one of my writing heroes), who had some of the worst initial ideas for the endings of his books that I’ve ever encountered, and yet the end results of his labors are beautifully written, heart wrenching and heartwarming, and brilliant (although his final endings are still shaky sometimes, I admit (sorry, Dostoevsky)). So my consolation to myself is knowing that if a writer that fantastic had plenty of bad ideas, it can’t be so bad to have bad ideas.
I guess the moral of this post is, write the middle even if you’re intimidated about it, figure out why you’re intimidated about it if you need to, and rewrite it if it doesn’t work out. That’s all you can really do, unless you want to give up. And you’re not a quitter, right? RIGHT??? Good. I thought not.