I know for a fact, that this one is a problem that many writers face. I’ve heard it from many people I talked with and it’s a struggle for me too. By the end of this post, I guess the conclusion will be that this problem is the essence of writing a novel.
How many times have you heard, saw or read a story about a writer driving himself crazy, trying to write the first sentence? It’s been played and replayed in many forms of media. It’s also – from where I’m sitting – not really a thing. There are things you can do in re-write and one of them can surely be, that dreaded opening hook. You don’t need a hook to start telling a story. You need it, in order to serve a couple of purposes, but if you let that stop you from writing a story then, my friend, you are shooting yourself in the foot.
I can start any number of stories with as much as a minute’s notice. Not because I’m talented, but because I’ve started so many in the past. That’s easy. You introduce somone, you show where she lives and all that jazz. I’m not even going into style and theme and whatnot. Just the act of starting a story, for me, is the easiest of all tasks.
How about the end? Do you have a problem writing an ending to the story? Again, less of a problem for me. I can write an end, and after some feedback, re-write and some considerations, change whatever is necessary. I’m not belittling the importance of an ending. I’m saying that the ending is – for the most part – something that I know when I sit down to write the beginning. It also stands to reason that, knowing who your character is at the start, you have a good idea of who he will be at the end.
The problem I mentioned in the beginning, and hinted at in the title, is that middle. If you want to call it the second act, you can. As mentioned, I can start and end a story with relative ease or rather, less pain. But once I set the character on her way, comes a “what now?” moment. Ironically enough, for the writer as well as the character. This is the part of the story, where I need to start treating my character poorly, stacking odds against him and making him fail for than he succeeds. The first obstacle then, is not to fall in love with my character. Making it easy, letting him win, will end the progression and inherently, the story.
The next question that gets so stuck in my head, that I may consider charging rent, is – is it boring? As the author of the text, It’s difficult to give a great answer. Yes, I do get a sense (I am a reader after all) of what is boring for me or not, but I keep thinking what if I think it’s boring and not include it, and that was actually good? and vice versa? The next obstacle then, is not falling victim to self-doubt. If I had to give advice, I’d say write it. All of it. leave the culling of dead words to the re-write. Now, I only have to take my own advice, don’t I?
Why is it so difficult to get through that middle?
I look at the story and see a body. The legs are the beginning, what the story stands on. The head is at the end, and it might blow your head off. The middle is the mid-section, namely the stomach, or if we want to be completely true to the analogy, the digestive system. Without what happens there, the story cannot grow. The digestion of information, the dispensing of nutrients to the character, the filtering of truths and non-truths, the dispatch of false beliefs and the sustenance. That is what makes a story. That is what makes the story mean something. Without it, we’re looking at nice legs and a pretty face and that’s it. No growth and no transformation. That’s a fashion magazine piece and that’s ok, for that purpose.
So the problem of that middle is, in essence, the difficulty of writing a novel. How to solve it? Hey, let me know when you find the easy way, ok?
How do you handle the middle?
Is it even a problem for you?
Let me know.