Monday, May 11, 2009

Trapped in the soggy middle.

When I give talks or workshops on writing, I often talk about the dangers of the soggy middle. Many beginning writers abandon their books there, feeling like they’re trapped in quicksand with no hope of ever reaching the promised land that is a satisfying conclusion.

A writer is usually excited and eager when they start a new book – a great idea, great characters who just can’t wait to get themselves down on paper, a great setting ready to be explored. Whether you have tightly outlined your plot or just have a vague idea, you’re off like a day at the races.
Writing the ending is exciting. Your masterpiece is galloping towards the conclusion, the characters are in place like pieces on a chess board, the climax builds.

And then there is the soggy middle. How to get from the excitement of the beginning to the excitement of writing the end. Even with the best outlined plot, it can be a struggle to make the leap over the quicksand.

I’m working on the fourth Smith and Winters novel, as yet unnamed, and am firmly stuck in that dangerous bit of ground. I know who did ‘it’ and why; I know what life-changing crisis Molly Smith is going to have to go through; I know that John and Eliza Winters’ marriage is almost going to break under the strain of revelations, and Lucky Smith will face enormous heartbreak.

The clues are laid, the red-herrings placed like mines in an open field.

And I’m slogging my way though the quicksand trying to get all these bits and pieces to line up and point towards the end.

In my mind, writing the soggy middle is the absolute worst part of being a fiction writer.

(Nice collection of metaphors, eh?)

If you are going to be in Southern Ontario at the end of May, please consider attending a great event at the Moonshine Café in Oakville on Sunday May 31st at 2:00. A line-up of outstanding writers, including Rick Blechta and Charles Benoit, and a mediocre writer meaning me, will be reading from our works. Rick and Charles might even be persuaded to grab an instrument and give us a tune or two. The Café has a liquor licence and serves light meals. For more info: www.themoonshinecafe.com.

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