Muddling Through the Middle

By Sherry Harris

Recently my fellow Wicked Cozy Author Barbara Ross posted on Facebook that writing the middle of her book was like pushing a peanut uphill with her nose. At our recent writers retreat in Maine, Julie Hennrikus asked me how my book Tagged for Death was going. She looked startled (okay horrified) when I told her I was stuck in the middle so I was skipping ahead and writing the end. Julie said, “I could never do that.”

The first part of Tagged for Death came out of me in a mystical experience kind of way. But more on that another day. And the end also flowed out nicely. So now I’m back home and stuck once again in the middle. My first excuse for not writing the middle was attending my class reunion in Iowa. And really that is more of a reason than an excuse, isn’t it? It is almost impossible to write while catching up with former (I refuse to call us old) classmates and trying out exotic (and excellent) Midwestern beers like Spotted Cow. Thank you Lynn Avelchas Smith for bringing them!

At least I didn't have to write the middle of this book!
At least I didn’t have to write the middle of this book!

Back from the reunion I trot out the avoidance techniques. The load of laundry has to be done right now. Lily, our dog, needs a long walk.  I haven’t talked to (fill in the blank) for such a long time so I’d better call. It’s a beautiful day to meet friends for lunch. I have another author’s manuscript to edit. Playing a game of solitaire will help me think.

So what to do? In the end I always go back to advice from novelist and creative writing professor John Dufresne. I will paraphrase (my mom is going to read this) one of his rules of writing: Sit your butt in the chair. And another great bit of advice from John is if you get stuck have your character look around, write down everything she can see, hear, and smell. Most of it you will edit out later but it usually gets your character moving again.

What do you do when you get stuck when writing or doing some other kind of project?

12 Thoughts

  1. Oh, those dreaded middles! I agree with the advice. Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard, and just start typing. For me it works every time. Although sometimes that midday fresh-air walk helps, too. Keep at it, Sherry – you can do it!

  2. Ah, the middle! It is a bit like chicken pox or adolescence, once it hits, it must be endured the best you can. I too jump around to whichever scene feels like it wants to be written. I also keep a notebook for each book I write and I use it to ask myself questions. Then I answer the questions in any way that strikes me as possible. Usually, through that questioning and answering the way forward becomes clear.

  3. Um….me? I procrastinate until 2 weeks before my due date! Yes, that’s what I’m doing right now. I need an intervention.

  4. I’m with you right now, in the middle, muddling away, or more often avoiding muddling away. There are always good reasons/excuses to put it off. The only way I can get through it is to write first thing in the morning before everything else clamors to get done. And yes, asking questions, or asking “what if?” can help. Sometimes. That’s the trouble–nothing seems to work EVERY time. Good luck–to both of us.

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