Thursday, June 28, 2012

Slogging Through The Murky Middle

By Jackie King

There are three times a writer wants to kill herself/himself when writing a book. At the beginning when you can’t quite get started, in the middle when you feel as if you’ll never get through the bog, and at the end when you decide you didn’t say what you meant to say.

This is a quote (paraphrase, actually) from a long ago writing teacher. I wish I remembered who first spoke these words, but I can tell you who quoted them to me and a group of other beginning writers: Walter Campbell, a teacher and writer in residence at the University of Oklahoma. This was many moons ago…when I was young.

These words have stayed with me for eons, and they always encourage me when I’m discouraged with the progress of my work-in-progress. For me, the middle seems to be the hardest part of a book to solider through. I liken it to walking through almost-set concrete…up to my neck. This is the time when my evil inner-critic says things like: whatever made you think you could write? Your characters are plastic people. No one will ever want to read this book…it’s boring!

Oh, the cruelty of one’s own inner-critic. (In plain Okie, she’s such a bitch!)

For this reason, many talented beginning writers fall into the trap of abandoning their work at about chapter 5 and starting a new book. They haven’t yet learned that new, creative ideas come very quickly when your inner-artist has first been awakened. They haven’t learned to only jot down these new ideas and let them marinate while pushing onward through the murky middle.

Things I remind myself of during this hard time:

Every writer goes through this, it’s the birthing process. Just because you can’t see the baby yet, doesn’t mean he/she will be ugly and worthless. Quite the contrary. Have courage and keep struggling through these tedious days. Look past that awkward, ugly belly and trudge on…one word…one scene…one chapter at a time.


Jean Henry (Mead) said...

I'm struggling through the middle of my WIP and looking forward to the race for the finish line, Jackie. There are few better feelings than when you type THE END to a book.

Jaden Terrell said...

Great advice, Jackie, and so true. I'm also struggling through the murky middle and trusting that somehow my new word baby will be beautiful once it's born.