Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Meet Me In The Middle

by Clare O'Donohue

What stage in your writing process causes the most angst? Drafting, revising, plotting...?

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way. 

Coming up with stories? Simple. I have more stories than I will ever live to write.

Characters? Mostly easy. Some of them pop out of me fully formed, others take a while to develop but they find their way and feel, at least to me, like real people.

Dialogue? Usually my favorite part. I like talking, as anyone who knows me can attest, and often my mouth says things my brain wishes it hadn't. But when I'm writing I can edit out the stuff that I don't want to say.

First 50 pages? Now we're getting a bit higher up on the difficulty stage. In some books this part is easy, but in others I've stared for days at a page with only the words "Chapter One" written on them.

Middle of the book? This is the angsty part. The "am I going to finish" part. The "why am I doing this" part. The "I think I need brownies" part. This gives me trouble, pretty much every time. The first half of a book is easier for me because I'm opening up the story, leaving clues, letting the characters have free rein. But then, as I hit that middle part, I have to start moving in a specific direction. Playtime is over and I have to make their actions and their words lead to something that will satisfy me, and satisfy the reader.

The End? Sometimes a bit of a difficulty, but mostly (and maybe just because I see the finish line) it feels fun.

The rewrite? Yes please. As Robin pointed out yesterday, editing is easier than writing, so even a bad first draft has a fighting chance if it makes it to this stage. 

Being completely done? This is when I (quite literally) dance to celebrate my accomplishment.


Dana King said...

There's usually a spot about 35 - 40% of the way through the first draft where I hit the wall. I'm not blocked, since I plot in advance. It's more a matter of, "is this worth writing? Do I want to write this? Look! A squirrel!"

Getting past this is among the many benefits I derive from outlining in advance, as I know there's a story there; all I have to do is to write it. Otherwise I don;t know how often I'd push through.

RJ Harlick said...

Well put, Clare. It seems we all have problems with the murky is-it-going-anywhere middle. And yes it feels so wonderfully dancing good to finally have the completed story in hand.

J. F. Constantine said...

Clare, I think maybe we're twins separated at birth. :) I read your post and kept saying "me" at each of of your points, including the "brownie" thing. :)

Almost done with my first re-write on this ms. The others get easier after this one. :)

Robin Spano said...

Oh I love it. The brownies and the dancing and how your post makes me (and likely all writers) feel less alone.

Clare O'Donohue said...

I guess this is a common problem. And good to know! It can feel awfully lonely in the middle of a book when the "why am I bothering" hits.

Congrats to my twin J.F. on getting to rewrite. I do enjoy rewriting but I keep some brownies nearby just in case.

Lori Rader-Day said...

We are clearly separated at birth. This is me, exactly. To the brownies.

Barry Knister said...

My toughest time comes when I think I'm done, and know better. How can I see the invisible--what's there and shouldn't be, what not there and should be? I know of only two solutions. Either I hire a savvy editor to take a look, or I put the manuscript away for a long as possible, to gain distance. Usually, both are needed.

Susan C Shea said...

Yup. As you say, the middle is when it gets hard.