So, How’s the Novel Coming Along? Muddles and Middles

By Lisa Alber

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plottentaclesWow, a lot can happen in six weeks. I read my previous post, in which I was very much the tortured writer as I began writing the first draft of my third novel. I was having a hard time feeling my way into the story. I probably had around 5,000 words written (approx. 20 pages) at the time.

I wrote:

I’m getting words down on virtual paper every day and trying to maintain faith that at some point (please, let it be within 50 pages!), I’ll feel a surge as I realize what the heart and soul of the story really is. In other words, I’m faking it a little bit right now–at least that’s what it feels like.

Now I have exactly 33,101 words. Pretty good! That’s about 132 pages. So, did the story’s heart and soul open itself up to me?


Amazingly, the process works. I’ve once again re-learned this lesson and found my faith in the process. It’s not that what I wrote is stellar. I can go back to any scene and fix dozens of typos, jot notes about missing descriptions, and growl because the story has already changed since I wrote that scene. But that’s OK because this is only a first draft. I continue on, knowing that I’ll return to the fixes later.

So now I’m approaching the dreaded muddle in the middle. Well, I’m officially in it I suppose. I’ve got plot tentacles waving around in every direction, a subplot that feels stupid and useless beyond words, and mishaving characters.

Like, eh hem, sex!!!! I don’t write novels with sex in them, I really don’t. Now, I might have been thinking about an interlude between two of the characters but not until later, AFTER the midpoint. Not yet, for god’s sake.

I was just a little surprised is all. However, after letting the scene sit a few days, I’ve decided that these two upstart characters knew what they were about better than I did. The fact that they sleep together so quickly is a surprise to them too and not without some fallout, which is crucial to the overall plot.

So there we go: crisis averted!

This pretty much sums it up.

This pretty much sums it up.

I wrote my first two novels without thinking about story arc and three act structure and all that jazz. At least not consciously. For this novel I did something different: I thought about structure before I started writing. Nothing elaborate, you understand, because I’m not organized enough to write actual outlines. But I had an overall arc, including the all-important midpoint game changer.

To get all mathematical about it, the midpoint would be about, say, 45,000 words in. I know what’s going to happen in a general sense. I don’t know how I’m going to get there, but I can feel my brain working on it in the background. My scenes are rising to that occasion because I’m setting the intention for them to do so.

I’m thinking the surprise sex scene is part of that. (To clarify: No sex on the page. It’s a Captain-Kirk-pulling-on-his-boots scene with waaay more drama.)

The best part is that unlike my previous two novels, I’m not drowning in the middle muddle. I’m splashing around a bit, but I’m afloat. Having that midpoint to work toward is saving my hiney!

I can’t tell you how jazzed I am overall … even though … Never mind, this is only the first draft!

What a difference six weeks make, that’s for sure.

So tell me about you. Whatchou been up to these past six weeks? How did summer treat you?