are you stuck in the middle?

red, yellow, green leaves

There is nothing more exciting than the moment when an idea invades your brain. Characters, settings, and scenes for that next story appear out of nowhere, or come in dreams, or when you’re sitting at a stoplight. (Why are those people honking at me?)

So what do you do? You jot down a few notes and start writing. Right? 30,000 words later, you’re stuck in the middle of the novel. Burnt out. You can’t find your way to the end. That doesn’t mean you don’t know how your story is supposed to end. You just can’t figure out how to get there.

I found myself in this predicament at the 40,000 word mark of a sci fi novel I started writing more years ago than you’d want to know. The manuscript got shoved aside for more than 3 years until I re-read it and decided I was ready to tackle it. Sort of… Rather than do a detailed outline of the second half of the book, I wrote out the dialogue – essentially it is in script format with minimal description at the opening of each scene. I found my way to the story’s end (but it’s still half novel/half script).

I know that as a serious writer I should be setting daily word count goals. Ugh. I can’t do it. At least I haven’t tried it yet. I certainly don’t want my next novel to be 3 years in the writing. All right. Resolved: I will set word count goals when I begin work on novel #2 (see previous paragraph), which I’ll be diving into after I complete the revisions for my debut novel.

Have you found yourself stuck? What did you do to escape?  And speaking of revisions, how does ‘revising’ fit into that word count?


This post was inspired by some very useful advice from Kristen Lamb.
Image credit: Stoplight leaves by bwright923, CC-BY-NC-ND

  1. Marie Loughin Avatar

    Oh, I definitely got stuck. Multiple times. This usually happened when I knew what scene came next, what info was needed, but just could not find a way to present it that made me happy. That’s what usually holds me up…the feeling that my plan for a scene is not very spiffy. I eventually got through those times by bulling ahead (and a stunted, anemic bull it was, at times) and fixing it later.

    There is no “should” about word count goals. This fixation on word count goals can lead to two problems: 1) constant feeling of failure when you don’t reach your daily goal, and/or 2) rushed, poorly thought-out writing.

    Different writers use different tactics to keep up their writing speed. They might use a mixture of tactics. You might be constrained by time, for example. So set aside whatever blocks of time you can spare. While writing, turn off all connections to the internet, phone, and tv, and write. If you manage to work on your novel uninterrupted that whole block, then you can consider your writing session a success, even if you only produced 200 words.

    Don’t get me wrong…word count goals seem to work for some people. I may try it myself, for my next book. But not at the expense of writing badly.

    1. Char Avatar

      I eventually got through those times by bulling ahead (and a stunted, anemic bull it was, at times) and fixing it later.

      Ah yes, I know that method well myself. Sometimes mine is the anemic XXXX. (Easy to do a “find” on those parts.

      I do have mixed feelings on the word count objective. I don’t think I’ll go for a daily goal, but perhaps a weekly one. I am getting better about turning off all the connections, and as I’ve mentioned, I seem to be more focused when I’m NOT writing at home.

  2. Catherine Hedge Avatar

    Ha! This reminds me of the 100 page middle of my first book that I kept skipping around! It was the last part of my revision and ended up being about 30 pages. I was stuck in the middle for too long, but like the end product. I didn’t count the words since I figured it didn’t matter until the end, anyway! I’m like you…required daily word count feels too much like homework! Thank you.

    1. Char Avatar

      Wow! 100 pages down to 30. That took courage AND endurance. 🙂

  3. […] on my personal blog I talk about being stuck in the middle (but you already knew that because you’re following me over there, […]

  4. Char Avatar

    Reblogged this on The Many Worlds of Char…. and commented:

    Pulling one from the archives…. But with an update: I never did set daily word count goals. I have found I make steady progress if I write/revise at least an hour a day. I rarely miss that goal. What about you? Daily word counts? Or writing time?

Leave a Reply