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Conquering the Muddy Middle

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muddy middle

When the shine of a new story idea fades and the muddy middle beckons, it is easy to lose interest, especially with a shaky or problematic plot. Giving up would be easy to do, so how do we keep going?

The actions in the middle often depend on the story’s outcome. When the two cannot be connected in a linear fashion, take permission to jump ahead. Write exciting scenes from future chapters. This may connect the dots and give direction where so far there has been none. If that doesn’t help, make note of points to remember and carry on to the denouement of the novel, returning at the end.

Another way is allowing characters room to breathe. Let them roam in temporary chapters. What would they do if they were just hanging out? Who would they meet and what would they say? New characteristics could be discovered, creating more depth and relatability, along with useful possibilities for the plot.

In contrast, introducing a new character, killing one, or being mean by exacerbating the protagonist’s flaws to explore their dark side will escalate drama and conflict, especially if the world around them is shaken up too. Maybe it’s time for a different character to have a turn in the spotlight.

Writing prompts in word sprints, or brainstorming with friends, using characters, settings, and vague story directions could bring insights on motivations, subplots impinging the protagonist, and other activities. Failing that, time away from the computer, completing mundane tasks or having a day without writing might refill the author well and allow new ideas to spring to mind or plot points tied in knots to unravel.

No matter what, refuse to quit over the muddy middle of despair, and remember why the novel was started in the first place.

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