I’m sure you’ve heard of it, or at least can guess what it is. The muddle in the middle is when a writer gets to the middle portion of the book and basically hits a brick wall. Your beginning is brilliant (hey, you’ve got to hope so, right?), you have the ending basically planned out in your mind or, in my case, written in a small notebook I carry with me everywhere in my purse just in case inspiration strikes me. But the middle is where it gets tricky. At this point, in an ideal world, the beginning has hooked your readers and they have to know what happens next to the hero/heroine. And since the middle is arguably the largest chunk of your book, it better be pretty damn good so they’ll push through to get to the ending. But if your middle is sluggish or boring, your reader may give up you. No pressure at all, right? 😉

And this is precisely where I am now in my current WIP. I’m not an outline girl for the most part, though as I’ve said before, I did somewhat outline the ending. But that’s mainly because my WIP has a lot of elements in it that will need clarifications and explanations at the end… answers that until a week or so ago, I didn’t have myself yet. But luckily, in a night of deep concentration, they came pouring out of me. There seriously isn’t a better feeling than when the conclusion of a story plays out in my mind like the ending scene of an edge-of-your-seat, don’t-have-any-possible-clue-how-it’s-going-to-end-movie. For me at least, that’s how my WIP had been. The general idea really grabbed and excited me, but I had no possible clue how to explain any of it for the first few weeks I worked on it. I kind of pulled a “Field of Dreams” moment, thinking if I just keep writing, it’ll come. And you know what? It did. So Kevin Costner, this blog entry is dedicated to you. And you’re welcome!

But back to the topic at hand: the muddle. I don’t think I’m going to actually outline it out, but for this WIP, I do plan to brainstorm a bit more than I usually do. For the majority of the time, I typically think up and write out stories that are contemporary, completely void of any magical, fantastical, or other sorts of unrealistic elements. But this WIP is not even set in the real world per se, and has elements that I’d argue lean more towards sci-fi than anything else. So if you’re wondering what my game plan is based on (or if I even have one at all), here are some tips I’m going to try to use to help keep the muddle at bay:

  1. Establish smaller goals that will ultimately help reach the main goal set by your heroine.
  2. Have characters start their attempt to reach the main goal.
  3. First smaller goal fails.
  4. Characters are sad and start to wonder if their goals are even attainable.
  5. Instead of giving up, stakes are raised; characters are dealt a new danger.
  6. Characters carry on their mission, creating new small goals or editing old ones.
  7. Attempt to reach the main goal is restored.
  8. Lo and behold, smaller goals again fail.
  9. Characters are sad once again.
  10. But oh no! Stakes are raised again!
  11. Characters react, and steps 6-11 can be repeated as many times as needed depending on the length of your story.
  12. Ahh, the down time sets in. Your characters are thisclose to waving the white flag, convinced they have no reason to go on.
  13. Once again, new small goals are set, but this time out of total panic.
  14. The Black Moment occurs, i.e. the absolute worst thing that could go wrong, does.
  15. The characters react to the BM. The outcome of everything is never questioned more than here, at the closing part of the middle.

^courtesy of the amazing writer’s guide, First Draft in 30 Days, by Karen S. Wiesner, p. 62-65.

Anyone else a little more stressed and worried about the middle, wishing you could just skip to the end? No? Just me?

Well, here goes nothing. Oh and feel free to try Karen Wiesner’s advice out on your own story. And buy her book, too. In my humble opinion, it’s pretty badass.