Happy Middles

I joined this romance novel(la) writing class at the start of the year. I didn’t want to, because I’ve always been insecure about my writing and joining an actual class scares me, but I joined anyway because:

  1. The class was free
  2. It is the year of the brave
  3. The class was free is facilitated by one of my favorite local authors.

So I figured: If not now, when?

Fast forward to a couple of months later, I am in the middle of my writing my novel, rushing to meet the class deadline and I realized two things:

  1. The novel is a mess
  2. I don’t like middles

It’s understandable that my novel is a mess right now because it’s a rough draft, and all my novels that went through this phase is such a spectacular mess that most of them get buried underneath all my files in my hard drive. But one thing I realized as I worked on my outline and wrote the story is that writing the middle is always the hardest part.

.

“But the middle is how you get to the end!” A writer friend told me when I lamented on this fact over Twitter. I know. Don’t get me wrong — I love reading very good middles, but it can get a bit frustrating when I’m the one writing it. It’s easy to start, and I always know how I want my story to end. I can see those two parts clearly. I know some bits of the middle, of course, but I realized that the ones I have now aren’t really enough to get me to the end. Or, they’re just vague ideas of what I want to happen, but they’re not always connected. They’re little scenes that I know would bring them to that end, but they don’t necessarily form a smooth transition from one part to another, making the readers see how these characters get from Point A to Point Z (or their fictional happily ever after). They’re awkward at best, which isn’t really a problem because I can always refine it. But they’re so hard to write sometimes because it’s not as exciting as that ending I have in my head.

Case in point: I’ve been stuck in the same part of my novel for the last few days because I can’t figure out that second major moment that will happen between the two characters. Speaking of characters, I can’t seem to put them in their place. I feel like the characters that need more exposure don’t get enough screen time, and my main character keeps rambling all over the place. Gah. I just want to skip to the ending so because it’s easier to write, but then I’d have to go back to the middle again and face that mess.1

This actually says a lot about how I go about life sometimes.2 How I sometimes have this need to know things now now now now now, to see where things will go and how it will end (or not end). In line with my tendency to over think things, I get this unnecessary need to know how things will end, sometimes before it even starts. I don’t like not knowing — I mean, who doesn’t? What if it’s a bad ending? If I know it now, then maybe I can avoid getting there.

Alas, life isn’t like that. I think the reason why I’ve been so stressed last month is because I don’t like where I am in my story’s own middle. It’s that moment that’s kind of painful to write in every story, the one where I always cringe for my character because it’s not a situation I would want to be in myself. But I’m there, anyway, and it felt so hard to get out. The unpredictable middle, the part where you’re too far out to go back to the start again, and you’re not sure what will happen or how things will end, or even know when it will all end for that matter. If it will even end the way you want it. Or if it will ever end at all.

But, fact: I still won’t get to the end until I go through the middle. And I figure, I can either resist all the wonders of that middle and rush, rush, rush to the end and realize that I have missed out on a lot because I hurried, or…I can just let go. Sit back, relax and enjoy the happy middle,3 because that’s where most of the fun things happen. Patiently wait for it to unfold, trusting and hoping that the ending might not be as bad as I often thought it would be. (Often, it’s never that bad. I just tend to catastrophize things.)

There’s this line that I keep repeating to myself in the past weeks from an article I read: ambiguity is not the enemy. There’s a lot more I want to write about that particular line, but for now I’m going to keep it a little bit simple: middles are often ambiguous, but it doesn’t mean it’s some place you need to get out of, fast. Middles are often messy, but more often than not, it provides the perfect build-up for that ending.

And remember: if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end. I have no idea who said this, but I’d like to believe that whoever said this is right. :)

I’m not quite sure if I’m still talking about my novel there. But this is probably my cue to go back to writing. Wish me luck!

  1. Note:can actually go write the ending already, and I probably will soon, just so I would be able to bridge what I have to that. I’m just getting all antsy with this part I need to write. []
  2. Oh, of course I’m going to relate this to that! []
  3. Post title credit from John Green’s A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle from Let it Snow. []

9 thoughts on “Happy Middles

Leave a Reply