Monday, August 29, 2011

The Dreaded Middle

When I’m writing a manuscript, the process is almost always the same, no matter what I’m working on.

My beginnings look like this:  

But my middles?

That inner voice turns into a seven-year-old, like I'm back in elementary school on the playground and my nemesis, Chris Jankowitz, is laughing hysterically because I can't cross the monkey bars without falling on my face. 

That inner voice is strongest in the middle. The Dreaded Middle. Oh yes, I know that place well. I usually hit mine at about 20,000 words. It’s usually the point where I’ve written enough to know that I can make it to the end, but it’s hard to deal with the doubt.

My characters are flat. My plot is all over the place. There isn’t enough tension. And what the hell are they doing on page 73 anyway? What does that have to do with anything?

The thing about the middle is, you’ve been with the project long enough that you’re no longer objective. You know there’s brilliance in those pages, but you can’t see the weaknesses clearly enough. And maybe it’s that muddied vision that makes it so hard to slog through to the end. Am I really going to write another 30,000 words on something I’m unsure about?

YES. This is a normal part of the process! I have to push myself. Keep going. No matter how much I want to quit, or how much I want to work on that other shiny new idea that has all sorts of potential. Because if I quit every time I reached 20,000 words, then I’d never reach The End. 

(Side note: I know this isn't my normal day over here on the BNW blog, but I'm filling in for the fabulous Debra Driza as she finishes her revision. So you get me twice in two weeks!)

Jennifer Rush is the author of ALTERED coming Fall 2012 from Little, Brown. Check out her blog for news and updates.


  1. Perfect timing, Jennifer. I'm just past 20k myself and frequently find myself wondering if I'm wasting time/words/plot points. I know I don't have the perspective for that now, but I always need the reminder.

  2. Should I still be feeling this way at 70,000 words? Something is amiss. Thanks for the post--I'll keep at it with your words in mind!

  3. Oooh, I know that doubt feeling well. But so worth pushing through it. Because writing THE END? Awesome.

  4. Oh lord, yeah, being at 20,000 words is just like, yay, I actually have words down! ... But not enough words to even BEGIN calling it a book and now I must slog through The Dreaded Middle (and yes, that is the perfect title for it!) complete with epic voice I imagine announcing it in the background ;D