NaNoWriMo word count: 13,425 words
Mental State of the Day as a GIF
We’ve reached that point in the month, folks. In film school, we called it the “murky middle”, which referred to that always hard to write, convoluted mess that is the middle of the story. Turns out, this is something experienced across storytelling genres, and by wrimos everywhere. We can see our beginnings and endings with such clarity, but the middle is what gets us, and I think I have finally started to figure out why.
In a way, the middle is the present, and the present is a concept that at least for me, has always been hard to grasp. I spend a lot of time reflecting on my past—reading over old journals, looking at photos of good times, thinking about who I used to be.
I give about equal measure to the future. Where will I be in one year? In five? In ten? What do I have to do tomorrow and next week and next month? I’m hyper focused on where I’d like to end up.
But ask me to pay attention to this right now? The this minute? There where I am in the moment? I struggle.
So it is with my writing, and maybe, with yours too.
Identifying why something is difficult is one battle. Working to rectify or change how you deal with that difficult thing is another. I wish that I had more clear answers for that, but as aforementioned, I am still figuring that out. What I do know though is that there is a middle to be found.
With my last book, the middle took me forever to crack. Three entirely different drafts. But I eventually did, and so I can use that as a reference point for how to fix where I am now.
The biggest element about the middle is the progression. The steady steps forward. The middle is very much a series of choices—ones that are a response to the problems established in the beginning, and which once made will be be resolved by the book’s ending. Whatever choices your characters make in the middle will have consequences, either good or bad. They will progress and propel the story forward so the character ends up in a different place than where they started.
The same goes for dealing with the middle of the month when indecision and a struggle for words plagues us. We get through the middle of the month and the middle of the draft by making decisions. Maybe the decision to use this scene instead of that will be something that needs to be changed later, but you won’t be able to know that until you’ve taken the leap and done it. Written it. Committed to it.
I always stand by the best piece of writing advice ever given to me at a panel I attended years ago at a convention…
You can’t fix a blank page.James Moran
So if you’re behind on your count, and feeling down about it, just know that you can decide right now to put something down. Even if you don’t love it. Even if you don’t even like it. We will get through to the end of this month, and hopefully our books too, but only when we make the choice to keep moving forward. Don’t give up and get lost in the fog.
Just like your characters, you will get through this, and so will I. We’ll get through it together.