I'm writing my next quarter's wotf entry, and I thought I had a decent premise and was happy half-way through. I have an ending in mind, but I have a really bad case of man-this-is-a-really-terrible-and-boring-middle-isis.
Any one else ever fall into this problem? I'm speed writing short paragraphs right now to get through it, but I am just not sure where I went wrong...
Does a boring middle indicate anything typically? Plot problems? Telling signs of a terrible writer? Or just plain incompetence in general?
A boring middle is something most of us deal with at some point. When that comes up, I usually ask, 'What else?' What else can happen? How can I twist it? How can I twist the knife deeper into my character's gut? Try mixing your idea with another element that might be at a ninety degree angle to your current story and see what happens when they intersect/crash into each other.
Just my thoughts.
And no, it doesn't indicate you're a horrible writer, but a supremely normal one.
[This message has been edited by genevive42 (edited April 06, 2011).]
As I mentioned down in the groups section, I'm fighting with this myself. I've won to an extent--I'm almost done with my draft. But still I don't know if it is as good as the concept seemed to be when it came to me. I really fought my way through, and then I took hot showers and walks in the fresh air to kind of refresh, and an idea came to me that was a little twist in what was going on.
What has worked for me at other times this has happened is just finishing the draft, no matter how bad it seemed, and then taking a day away from it. Then I printed it out, read through it, and literally attacked it with scissors and scotch tape (you could do this on the computer too, but it works better for me in physical form). I would rearrange things and cut things and tape them in different places. I would put more action near the beginning, etc.
Now, mind you, my story right now...I'm not holding out much hope. I'm trying my best, but the darn thing just won't DO anything! Hopefully it shapes up!
I think part of my problem might be that my concept is too large - like cramming a novella into a longer short story.
It falls apart in a transition. A certain event takes place, leaving the mc changed. It's after this change that I just don't know where to go with it. The frustrating part is I know the ending, but I can't get there.
I'll finish something and work with those in the wotf group to get a broad-brush impression.
quote:I have an ending in mind, but I have a really bad case of man-this-is-a-really-terrible-and-boring-middle-isis.
I've been struggling with this problem in a novel. My new approach is to just write something down no matter how much I hate it and press on to the end. If it's trash I can cut it or redraft it once I'm done with the story. Otherwise I'm stuck in the hellish middle forever.
An alternative if you're not writing to a final word count is to just go and write the ending you have in mind and come back to the parts you find boring to write later.
If, instead of being boring to write you mean the middle will be boring for people to read, then maybe you don't need a middle, or you need just enough middle to bridge from the beginning you like to the ending you like.
Why do you feel your middle is boring? Do you think there is too much internalization? Do you think there's not enough action?
A boring middle might simply mean that you are not picking the scenes that best dramatize your protagonist's story goal.
Ask yourself if the middle scenes are advancing the plot or simply bogging the story down with too much narrative. Another way of making middles less boring is dialog since it sometimes can make the plot seem to move a lot quicker than blocks of prose.
Maybe it's just me, but some of my favorite authors have written stories with boring middle's.
Pride and Prejudice, for example, in my opinion drags in the middle with the many chapters about Pemberly, and spending time with the aunt and uncle, and Lady Catherine, and on and on.... And then all of a sudden it gets interesting again, and then awesome.
Now if Jane had quit while she was bogged down in the boring scenes, the Pride and Prejudice would be just some great lost story.
I think if your beginning is good, and your ending is good, then most people won't notice a boring middle until they reread the story. Not every sentence needs to be brilliant in order for a story to be brilliant.
Just keep swimming, and I bet you'll find something interesting on the way to awesome.
quote:Pride and Prejudice, for example, in my opinion drags in the middle with the many chapters about Pemberly, and spending time with the aunt and uncle, and Lady Catherine, and on and on
I beg to differ!
That's one of the most important parts of Pride & Prejudice. It is when Elizabeth visits Pemberley with her Aunt and Uncle that she realizes how prejudiced she had been against Mr. Darcy and realizes she is in love with him. She sees how well he runs his estate, how loved he is by his servants and his tenants. She discovers he isn't the proud and arrogant man she thought him to be which is a crucial reversal in her feelings for Mr. Darcy which in turn makes the "happily-ever-after" ending believable.
So, I know this is largely an OSC-oriented crowd, but I've found myself inspired recently by Jim Butcher's blog seen here. One of the posts he made early on after his advice about character, story craft, conflict, and skeletons is The Great Swampy Middle for which he has some spectacular advice.
Personally, I love the whole blog. For me, the bit about scenes and sequels, though I always knew it intuitively, was really REALLY good to be aware of consciously. And honestly, I've been following his advice for the last 2 weeks and it's working marvelously for me. It's true . . . each step is simple, but by no means easy.
I very much advise reading that particular blog entry, if not the entire article. I found it AT LEAST as helpful as OSC's writing advice, and this is speaking as a former Bootcamper.
Hope it helps.
----------- Falken224 - posing as Corin
[This message has been edited by Corin224 (edited April 06, 2011).]
I have the opposite problem--at least in my humble opinion . I find I visualize the beginning and the ending initially, but they require the most work to get right.
However, the unknown middle I find to be some of my best writing, as my charcters seem to develop themselves and interact in surprisingly interesting ways have more natural dialog, and fill out the plot and subplots.
quote:That's one of the most important parts of Pride & Prejudice. It is when Elizabeth visits Pemberley with her Aunt and Uncle that she realizes how prejudiced she had been against Mr. Darcy and realizes she is in love with him. She sees how well he runs his estate, how loved he is by his servants and his tenants. She discovers he isn't the proud and arrogant man she thought him to be which is a crucial reversal in her feelings for Mr. Darcy which in turn makes the "happily-ever-after" ending believable.
Yes, I agree it's important, and she brilliantly takes you on a character journey toward Darcy's redemption, but does it have to take so dern long?
Sorry to derail, but as you can see some people will find interesting things in the middle, even when physically nothing exciting happens. What's boring to you, might end up your reader's favorite part.
Maybe there is something blocking you from writing the middle. You could always focus more on the characterization, on the believability, or whatever it is that is causing the hiccup. Maybe then it will flow better.
It seems like every time I get bogged down, I try to skip that part, but in my brainstorming for the next section the necessary bridge reveals itself.
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quote:It falls apart in a transition. A certain event takes place, leaving the mc changed. It's after this change that I just don't know where to go with it. The frustrating part is I know the ending, but I can't get there.
I have some questions - Is the change required for the mc to reach your satisfying ending? If so, then what other changes are required (the need to get to a different location, different characters need to change, especially the antagonist or sidekick, other changes in attitude associated to the climax)? If any of these, then write about failed attempts to make these changes.
If not, then is the change that is completed the real ending? If so, then you can go to the earlier sections and create failed attempts to make the change. If not, then perhaps it is too strong a change to continue in a satisfying way, as it would seem to be competing too strongly with the changes that occur at the ending? This is particularly true if the implied promise is a character story, which a secondary idea or action story has yet to be completed. In that case, either edit out the change completely, make it a failed attempt to change or make it a partial change, which only is completed at the end. This way, you can keep building towards the key change.
Corin, I read the Butcher entry on the swampy middle. Most thoughts apply more to a novel, but I think two ideas may pertain to a shorter piece: the Big Middle (creating a end-of-the-middle climax and build up to it) or secondly, just keep writing till I get to the other side of the swamp.
My biggest fear right now is that the story is too large to be effective and I don't want to really turn it into one of those 16,997 word stories that I trimmed just to qualify for WOTF. I thought (hoped) I was half done at 3500 words (and may still be). We'll just have to see...
I'm in a similar place and am trying to be objective during revision. Rewrite, change, cut? start over?
I followed Sol Stein's advice to identify the main actions in the story and the best scenes. If I could cut anything, I did. I changed the order, combined chapters. Every scene and chapter must move the story forward. Why does the reader want to read on?
I went back and developed characters, adding narrative and description and tightening dialogue, giving it attitude. My writing is really spare and my scenes tell. Revisiting OSC, I realized I need lots more narrative and description.
Hmmm, seems like you have had some good advice already but I will add mine to the mix.
I think posulliv's sounded like something I would say.
But I add that sometimes I find that if I get stuck or feel like the story isn't going anyway even though I keep writing, I took a detour along the way. I mean that I changed something from what I envisioned the story when I came up with the idea, Some writers just go with the flow and let the story guide them but I found that usually if I change something I get stuck until I figure out what got changed.
In your case it may be a good idea to see how you want to end it and see how you can get to that point from where you are. Even if that means deleting some of it and rewriting it. I would say read and reread, as you probably have done, the comments and advice and see what you think will work for you.