One thing I have definitely noticed about my writing, in terms of both novels and short stories, is how much less energy I have when trying to get through the middle. I always have a lot of excitement going into the beginning, and that tends to carry me along and allow me to spend a lot more time writing while enjoying it. And when the end is in sight, I’m able to push myself and make myself really go for the ending. I know that the pleasure I will have at finishing a job will make the extra time is spent on it worthwhile.
Middles are a lot harder for me. It doesn’t matter whether I’m at work, writing, working out, or reading a book. The mere fact that I feel like I have to do something makes me not want to do it. However, I think some of the techniques that I have learned from the personal trainer I work out with have translated well to writing. Especially mental toughness, pushing past the pain because the reward I will feel at a job well done is worth it. I’m only accountable to myself. I am the only person who will know if I did the best job I could possibly do. That is both empowering and frightening.
I only wish that I could bottle some of the energy that I have right now, as I’m pushing my way through to the ending of my first revision, and be able to pull it out when I get to the middle of my next revision. I know it’s wishful thinking, but anything else to help with that slog would be great.
In bad news, I was without power since yesterday afternoon due to bad thunderstorms. Also in bad news, the writing process update that I had planned on posting on Friday didn’t happen. In good news, I have extended battery power in the keyboard for my writing tablet. Since I had nothing to do yesterday and today but sit in the dark and babysit the generator, I managed to get TWO chapters done in two days.
It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been thinking about these chapters and chapter 17 for a long time now, since I’m about to hit a major turn in act 2 and I’m very excited about it. Act 2 still has a long way to go, but since my original goal was 1 chapter a week, I’m very pleased with my progress.
There comes a time in everything that I’m writing where I hit the middle and I have to make myself keep slogging forward. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a short story or something longer. It usually hits about 1/3 of the way in.
I’ve tried to analyze what it is. I’ve heard writers, usually on panels or podcasts, explain that it’s because the newness has worn off and the ending is very far away. I don’t think that’s my problem. The middle isn’t a boredom problem for me. The middle is where the meat of the story happens, and even though I write from an outline, the characters still do things that surprise me. And it’s not a shiny new thing problem. Shiny new things crop up, and I either modify the idea and throw it in my outline, or I write it down and save it for later.
My wall usually arrives in the form of self doubt. I catch myself thinking, what if this actually isn’t as cool as I think it is? What if I’m wasting my time when I could be writing something better? What if the ending sucks? What if I hate it? So I think my problem is a self-consciousness problem.
I’m not going to lie, there are a couple things that I’ve written that are completely cringeworthy. I hold on to them in the hopes that, some day, I’ll be reading through my collection of works in progress, lightning will strike, and I’ll have the answer that solves all of the story’s problems. For some of my things, especially my earliest things, I think they are probably just too bad to be saved. But I can’t bring myself to throw them out.
Even considering the cringeworthy stories, that’s only some of my writing. So when the story has stopped dragging me along, and it’s my turn to drag it along, I have to remind myself that the rest of my writing is actually pretty cool and enjoyable to read and why do I even care anyway because I’m writing this for myself. It usually works. Besides, if I stopped 1/3 of the way through every time I felt that way, I wouldn’t finish anything.