When I was a kid, I walked home from school across a large field. One spring, with the snow nearly melted and tufts of green shooting up here and there, I reached a point where a large mud puddle presented itself. I studied it for a short while and decided that it would be fun to walk through said puddle. Always ready for adventure, I was. And honestly, what kid could resist? Onward I went, keeping an eye on the top of my boots to make sure the mud did not reach the top. Halfway through the puddle, though, my boots got stuck. I mean, really stuck. I couldn’t move. So, like any intelligent child, I simply stepped out of those boots, left them there, and continued on home.
If only writing a story were that simple.
I always begin with real paper and a real pen. I read somewhere that writing by hand uses a different part of your creative brain than writing with a computer keyboard. Don’t ask me about the science behind that because I am SO not a science person, but I can vouch for the fact that it’s true. If I can get the beginning of a story handwritten into that brand new notebook, then I can move on to my computer and continue.
Until I get to the middle. The muddy middle where your boots get stuck.
Why, oh why do stories have to have a middle?
I dread middles. I don’t like writing middles. And quite often I don’t like reading middles. It’s like there is a lull in the story that writers feel compelled to fill with useless drivel that does nothing except add pages. This is what you read before you turn off the light at the end of the day because the middle will cause you to experience a most peaceful slumber. (Word of advice here: do not start a new book at this point, especially one you’ve been antsy to read. Stick with a middle if you want to sleep. I know this.)
How does one manage the muddy middle? And don’t tell me to outline, because I’ve tried that many times and I’m no good at it. Introduce a twist? That idea has some merit. I’ll think about it. Kill off a main character? Hmmm. Go deeper with the story’s major conflict? Perhaps. Describe the neighbor’s garden in infinite detail? Yawn.
I don’t know what the answer is and I am open to suggestions, advice, instruction, a kick in the pants, whatever it takes, but I suspect there is no one answer to the muddy middle dilemma.
Oh, my boots? My mother was livid – and I mean livid – when I got home that day. She made me go back to that mud puddle and fish those boots out.
Maybe that’s why I have a thing with muddy middles.