Carol: Icky Middles

Last week was an interesting one as far as what I learned about myself as a writer of this dystopian piece. I did what Alane Ferguson said and mapped out my novel. Here’s what I learned: In this book I’ve gotten all the way to chapter ten. And then I have several bits and pieces–scene-ish type things.  (At this point, I’m going to continue to write scene-ish type things, because I’m not quite sure how they should go in the book. You know the order. But I want to keep working. So when a scary-ish idea comes to me, I write that. Then when a romance-y-ish scene comes to me, I write that. And I’m thinking a lot. And worrying more.)

But Alane’s exercise showed me something I hadn’t known about my book.

With every novel I write things go kind of like this: I get an idea or a character or an emotion that inspires an idea or a character or an emotion and I start writing. I go along rather happily, enjoying getting to know this person and seeing what situation she’ll be in and just how hard it’s going to be for her.

After a while (and this ALWAYS happens) the excitement starts to wear away. It’s weird how the excitement of a new book and the icky middles kind of start right about the same time for me.

It’s a few chapters into the icky middles of a novel that I begin to think that I have no idea what I’m doing. Yes, I’ve written and published a book or two, but so what?! In the midst of the book, I am lost. I start to hate my writing life. Why? I’ve gotten to the HARD part.  Sure, I’m still intrigued with what I’m doing (sort of), but the writing isn’t going along as easily because I’m getting more to the plotty-ish/middle-ish/hard-ish part of the book.

This happens with every national novel I have ever written, published or unpublished. I always get to this place.

Well, writing things out chapter-by-chapter per Alane’s suggestions I was able to see that yep, that’s where I am in the dystopian novel: Right smack dab at the beginning of the icky middles. For some reason I didn’t recognize the ‘place’ I was in the book. It makes sense though, you know, when I see the book structurally–written out–visual. And seeing this caused me to breathe a sigh of relief. Now that I know I’m in the icky middles, I don’t have to blame my lack of enthusiasm on genre. I can blame it on ME! Why? Because this is who I am as a writer. I’ve been here before. I recognize this place.

So, while I still struggle at least I know why. And I know that I can get through this. I have before.

Now for the 2nd part of this blog. I have an announcement!

We’re almost ready to start registration for the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference. The website is nearly finished (woot woot). Cool news this time–We’ve changed VENUES!

Lisa Hale, Cheri Earl and I have a new place–a bigger place–for the conference. And while it means we’re doing everything on our own, it also means that we have a huge potential for growth.

So save the date: June 14-18, 2010, and look for more information to come.

PS Rather than name all of Alane’s books, I just put up the link to her website. Alane and I have known each other a gagillion years–and have been fast friends since the moment we met. A cool tidbit (to me) is that she was writing The Circle of Blood the same time I was working on The Chosen One. While these books are not the same, they both deal with polygamy. Alane and I shared ideas back and forth on these books, including research. So there.


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11 responses to “Carol: Icky Middles

  1. Emily M.

    Hi Carol–I attended the conference last summer and really enjoyed it. I’m curious about the story behind the venue change. Is this a permanent change, or maybe something that will rotate back and forth?

  2. Thanks Carol. I’m guessing that understanding where you are and why you feel the way you do will free up your energy to keep going. I see it as making friends with that part of yourself, the part of yourself that gets stressed out about middles. So when she comes knocking you can say, “Oh yeah, I know you. You can stay for a while and visit but then I’ve got to get back to work.”

  3. Louise Plummer

    I am in the icky middle and I realized I need to decide the structure of my novel immediately. I need to see what it will look like. This involves cutting and pasting and inserts. Will there be chapters? Or will I stay with the loose titled sections? I really want to run a line through its center. That ‘a a lot of cutting and pasting. But that line excites me more than anything.

  4. Carol

    Good way of putting it, Paul.
    Are you a writer, Cuz?!

  5. Carol

    Louise, we need to talk. How about Wednesday night? I’m interested in this.
    You are way smart.
    And beautiful, too.

    PS Everyone should read ALL of Louise’s novels. More than once.

  6. Amy

    I want to read this dystopian novel of yours.

    I am currently stuck in the middle of my novel. But on Saturday, I woke up with a scene in my head and I got 10 pages typed up! I am very excited about this!!! I also really liked how it came out on paper!

  7. Icky middles = where I am in my novel…but since you have done it, and you keep telling me that I can do it, I’m going to get through them and so are you. We will finish our novels. My first novel ever, and your first dystopia.

    Oh, and if you ever need some more help with this WIYRC, I am willing. Otherwise, I will just be there.

  8. Thanks from me too, Carol! With my series novels for younger readers (7+), I always get stuck at around pages 32–34, which is very icky middle for that length novel. (It comes later in longer novels.) Those pages can take so long, and I wander. And wonder as I wander–what on earth am I doing? Where am I? And where did that person go who knew how to do this?

    Oh, and as I read your post I was also struck for the first time by how maybe I had an icky middle in my actual life, in my 30s! I was going along rather happily, as you said, when wham-o. Well, at least that helped me get ready for all those stubborn pages 32–34 that were in my future.

    (I too want to read your dystopian novel, although I did have to look up “dystopia.” I probably knew what it meant when I was 29, though.)

  9. Amy

    I am so heartbroken I can’t go to the new writing conference. I’ve been economically downsized. Maybe I can go the year after 🙂

  10. I’ve read Miss Louise Plummers novels. A Dance For Three was my favorite.

    So… what I’m gathering is, sometimes it takes getting halfway through the novel before the clarity of the plot is seen. Or forced upon you. I think that Alane chic knows what she’s talking about. And p.s. I love her novels too.

    Here’s a thought, never stop doing this blog. Okay? Can I get an Amen?

  11. Will

    Hello, ladies (and Paul)!
    It’s funny you brought up polygamy, Carol, because it’s at least three girls for every guy on here. (Surf City, you can keep it!)
    And yet, with all the lovely ladies around, nobody’s mentioned the novel/childbirth metaphor as pertains to the middle chapters. I guess it takes a man to bring up sex (and its eventual consequences) in any given conversation.
    I would elucidate, but Netiquette suggests limiting first posts to a cordial greeting and less than five offensive statements.
    Besides, the really funny Bradley Method Icky Middles post I was working on … ran into its own icky middle.


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