The Miserable Middle and How To Get Past it

I’ve noticed something interesting. For many writers, myself included, the middle is the hardest part of the story to write. The beginning is great. You come in, guns blazing, all full of great expectations for your characters and plot. You realize that, like Neo, you can finally see the code behind it all. Writing stories is actually pretty easy after all!

Two weeks later, and well. . . The honeymoon phase has passed, to say the least. If you’re like me, you open up your story and immediately get an urge to go back to the beginning and change things around. So what is the problem? Why is this chunk of the story so hard to push through and why do so many writers struggle with it? Because they aren’t taking the right approach. I’ll break it down for you and make it simple.

Navigating the Murky Middle

The middle of a story, in my humble opinion, is what separates the amateurs from the pros. Anybody can start a story. Honestly, anybody can finish a story as well. How hard is it to slap on some resolution, maybe a twist, maybe a character reaching their goal? Not so bad. The hard part is finding what to do in the middle—how to not just delay the ending but to enhance it with every scene.

I know this is going to seem anti-climactic, but the trick is to just keep writing. Wow, really? Yes! But let me explain why this is how you have to approach it. When you start your story, it’s like starting a new drug (not that I can relate to that experience) or a new relationship. At first, you can’t get enough. But as time goes on, you calm down a little. There are days when you’re fine not hanging out with your new girlfriend (or your drug of choice). That’s because your body is building up a tolerance. Unfortunately, writing isn’t really rewarding in the moment like a drug or a girlfriend. It’s rewarding like playing the lottery. We’re looking for a payoff at the end, whether it is an audience, money, recognition, or satisfaction. So for a while, just imagining all of the former is enough to push through the slow moments in the creative process. The good news is that your chances of finding any of the former from writing are astronomically higher than from the lottery.

But a point comes for all of us when that fades. You may look at your novel in progress and wonder why you’re bothering because no one is ever going to read it. Not with that attitude they won’t! That’s why this stage of the writing process separates the professionals from the amateurs. You have to be able to look at your story, maybe even hate your story and yourself for ever starting it, and keep writing. The trick is to not slow down. Don’t let yourself go back and edit. Don’t let yourself think and dwell on whether what you’re writing is great. Just get one word after another and push through because you’ll find the top of that hill. Once you do, the momentum of approaching the end will carry you the rest of the way.

So if you’re finding yourself in the miserable middle like myself, do what I’m doing: Put one word after another. Don’t look ahead or look back. Just look down (unless you have some strange monitor or laptop setup where you need to look in another direction, but you get the point).

Happy writing!


2 thoughts to “The Miserable Middle and How To Get Past it”

  1. Interesting. Personally, what motivates me to keep pushing till the end is the thought that it would be such a waste if my story is not given a concrete form from A to Z. I can’t afford to give up everything when I know there is this awesome climax that begs to be written. The exciting ideas that prompted me to start a story are what compels me to finish it. I like telling myself “Yes this part is hard and I feel uninspired but the reward is that after overcoming it I get to write that great scene I’ve had in mind for so long!”.

    1. That’s a really interesting perspective on getting through the middle. I’ve actually never tried that, because I usually only have a foggy idea of what sort of climax I want. Maybe I should try getting a scene down that excites me and see if that can carry me through. Great point!

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