Genesis of a Novel – Part VIII – The Boggy Middle
The dreaded “Boggy Middle” of the novel has arrived.
That is the part of writing the first draft where you are past the initial giddy excitement and dread of the opening – where you introduce characters and -set up plots and subplots – but aren’t yet to the exciting climax or denouement.
The middle is necessary. You can’t have just the intro and the ending – every piece must have a middle. It is the glue that holds the story together. But it truly does feel, especially when writing the first draft, like you are slogging through a sticky mire of unrelenting bog.
How do you keep the middle from being boggy? Well, there are several aspects of that bogginess. And there is no one answer to any of the issues.
First, it’s boggy in creating it. You get excited when you first start a draft, and then when you see the end in sight, that light at the end of the tunnel. But in between it’s a long slog. I try to keep a minimum word count each day – 1000, 2000, whatever I’m comfortable with. If I get more than that, fantastic! If not, keep plugging along. Sometimes a scene will explode in my mind and I can’t type enough to get it out. Other times it’s like pulling teeth. But step by step the scenes happen and the draft gets written. It’s all about momentum at this point.
Second, it may be boggy in action/plot. This is an issue that needs to be addressed before the final draft, but is very common in a first draft. The action slags. The hero is be-bopping along, and nothing exciting happens. Too many subplots confuscate things. The reader feels bored. If it’s too boggy, they throw the book against the wall and quit trying. That is more difficult to fix. As an author, it’s important to carefully craft your plot so that there are ups and downs throughout the book. It can’t be ALL ACTION ALL THE TIME, (after all, this isn’t an Ironman movie). On the other hand, too little action can make for lots of yawns.
Space out your heavy scenes with setup scenes. Have a minor climax, or several of them, throughout the book, leading up to the Big Finish. Again, this is sometimes difficult to do in the first draft. You may not even notice it until you read through it – or someone else does. This is a reason why critiques are important. They can see things you’ve gone author-blind to.
The soggy boggy mired middle isn’t a death sentence, and it isn’t horrible… but it does need to be dealth with, addressed, and conquered. All hail the conquering hero!
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