Saturday, July 24

How I Write: Week Six – Motivation or Getting through the Dreaded Middle

How-I-Write2-banner Starting has always been the most difficult and scariest part of writing for me. My internal editor kept me for starting so many times that when I was finally through the start, I could hardly stop myself. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m struggling with working on my current project. Not because I’ve lost inspiration or motivation but because of the current situation life has found me. Besides the obvious obstacles we all face with life interrupting our writing, there are several reasons the middle is considered the ‘dreaded middle.’

The middle can be less exciting and less rewarding to write. Pantsers may find that they’ve lost the plot in several threads of subplots while Plotters may just be plain bored with the story and characters. There are several things that can help you push through and finish that book. Some are related to you and the changes that help keep your motivation up while others are tips and advice on slogging through the sagging middle of your plot.


Goal-Setting. We’ve already discussed how important setting goals are. Goals that are practical and reachable can keep you moving along steadily. However, there are times when goals are meant to be not met. Playing hooky from your writing might be just what you need. Be intentional in your breaks. Plan for them by writing more over several days before your planned day off and you’ll feel less guilty the day after.

Write or Die. In a future post, I plan to review in depth some of the writing software I use. However, I would like to mention Write or Die. A brilliant piece of software, it allows you to set a timer, eliminate distractions, and get to work. A pause in typing will change the color of the screen and then set off an annoying sound that is sure to get you back to work. Writers with more courage than I can set the program to eat their words when paused for too long. The online version is free and a desktop option with more settings is offered for $10.

Change your Writing Set Up . Sometimes a little change can get your creative juices flowing again. If you tend to write in the same place at the same time, pick a new location and/or a new time. I love to write at home but have also found some of my most productive sessions have happened at coffee shops and bookstores. Mornings tend to work best but pulling my laptop out at night on the bed can be a refreshing change.

Change your Settings for Writing. This may sound a little oversimplified but I love changing things around on my workspace. Flipping from one text editor to another, like moving from MS Word to yWriter or Storybox or Scrivener, can give your WIP a little makeover. A change in font sizes, types, and colors can also give you a little boost. Writing is a mental game. Do anything to keep the fun alive.


First, you must ask yourself if you and your middle have done (are doing) the following things. Does it keep the action moving? Have you kept your reader interested and invested? Have you set up the ending?

In the middle of this WIP, I wrote out a synopsis, which helped me to further strengthen the plot. Taking a look at it and answering these questions showed me the weaknesses (and possible strengths) to the storyline. James Scott Bell’s book, “Plot & Structure,” is also a great resource with some tips on ‘energizing a lethargic middle’ and ‘trimming an overweight middle.’ Some of his recommendations include adding a character, a subplot, or complication for those slow middles or cutting characters and subplots for those bloated parts.

At this point in my experience, I believe that writing should be kept separate from rewriting/revision/analysis. Some blocks are purely the result of overthinking and overworking your plot. Keep your fingers on the keyboard and your eyes off what you’ve already written. Plots can be fixed, characters can be made over, and scenes can be reworked….once you have the words down. Keep the devil at your back, keep moving, and the middle will surely turn into the end.

Click on the How I Wrote Logo above to find a listing of the other writers participating in this blog series.


Michael Hauge’s Story Concept Template – to give a little structure to the way you view your plot.

Mastering Subplots – Since subplots tend to pop up in the middle, here is Leslie Kelly’s take on adding them in.

Writing the Novel Synopsis – A Forward Motion workshop.

The Writer’s Toolbox – A great resource for writers put together by Lisa Gardner. Her synopsis workshop is a must to checkout.


Plot & Structure – A very helpful read, Bell’s book is easy to follow and gives example to help you craft a great plot.

My WIP Notebook – Jeannie Ruesch’s WIP Notebook can be used to keep your WIP details organized. 


Tatiana Caldwell said...

Great tips Isabelle, I especially like the one about changing your setup and setting. It's amazing how much a change in scenery can affect your motivation sometimes.

Kay said...

Not only great tips, but great resources. Thanks for sharing them.

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