The messy middle

I’ve struggled this last week to make any real progress on the sequel to Fallen Warriors. At last count I was at 23,892 words.

I have a beginning and the start of an ending, but have found myself bogged down in what writers technically know as “The Messy Middle”.

I had the same problem with the first novel. Too many characters and an uncertainty of how best to bring them together. I had a look at how many characters I’m planning to work with during the sequel. Eighteen! Eighteen characters for whom I want some sort of character journey, some interaction with other characters.

You know that mathematical issue where you increase the number of participants and get an exponential growth in terms of interactions? I think that is part of the problem. There is a reason why writers who are starting out are advised to stick to simple plots.

Anyway, there is a simple solution to the interaction growth issue and the messy middle problem. Technically this is known as “Bum In Seat”.

In theory all I, or any writer facing a similar problem, needs to do is place bum in seat and keep writing. Gradually the problem is resolved, one scene at a time.

It’s a solution that can be adapted to many issues and problems. One’s bum does not have to be in a seat – it can be standing at a workshop bench, or running another mile. Sonetimes the only way to resolve a problem is to keep working towards resolving it, no matter how messy the middle may be.

Going backwards

Well, yesterday was a bit of a disaster writing wise. I’d been going so well, 3,000 words a day on the Fallen Warriors sequel for a whole week and then – bamm! 789 words. Not only that, but I’ve decided I need to delete 300 words from another section.

On the plus side, I think that loss of 300 words allows me to do something that will be much better in terms of plot, making the story more interesting. I’m going to try and write some more today (Saturday) so I may yet get closer to my target. I’d hoped to be at 25,000 words by yesterday and I’m still 2,000 short.

So what actually happened? Why did I fail to hit my word count goal?

I did what I promised myself I would not do, I spent time on admin in the morning and got caught up in that, putting off writing until I knew I was going to struggle to hit my goal. Then when I started writing, I felt under such pressure that it took me longer than it should have to write anything.

Yet, I’ve been putting off the admin all week and I really needed to do some advertising. I called some more book shops and while I didn’t get any sales yet from those calls, I also had a followup from a previous contact which is looking promising.

I’m not going to spend all day writing to try and catch up. It’s the weekend and I’m in one of the most beautiful villages in the world on Regatta day. I’ve got kids to look after, ice-creams to buy and water to avoid falling into…

A regimented writing plan

How am I going to do this, write two first drafts in two months?

It’s going to be very practical…

I’ll get up, probably at 6am.

I’ll write for an hour and then have some breakfast – say 15mins.

Then write for another hour which will take me to 8:15.

I plan to then go out for a short run. Get the blood flowing again. Shower.

Back at my desk by 9am.

Write for an hour and half.

Short fifteen minute break.

Write for another hour and a half.

That will have been five hours writing with 1 hour and 15 min breaks, start at 6, finish at 12:15.

Regimented…

I’m not sure I’ve ever been that disciplined in my life!

Well, it’s a plan. They say no plan survives the start of the battle intact. That’s okay. The aim is to spend the rest of the day with my family. Unless they are away, in which case I will spend some time on admin stuff – marketing my existing books, blogging etc. Or maybe even tackle the household to do list…

I’m still planning to blog daily, though may modify exactly how I do that. If I’m writing 5,000 words a day towards my novel, I’m not going to feel the same commitment to writing a blog post daily. Instead, I may do what I’ve actually done for this week – write the week’s posts in advance and schedule them all at the same time. I’ll let you know.

If you’ve ever written a sequel (or a first novel) in a month, how did you go about it?

100 words – A transformation

The goal I set myself
to write 100 words
a day
for 100 days
is one I share with you.
The power
of daily progress
cannot
be overestimated.
Brick by brick
the house is built.
Drop by drop
a lake is drained.
Small steps
towards your goal
will take you there.
Small steps
will train you,
will build discipline,
will give you a sense
of satisfaction,
will allow you
to gradually
take longer steps,
walk further each day,
run faster,
jump higher,
until…
Not only has your goal been achieved
but you as a person
are transformed.
Will you join me
today?

© Mark Anderson Smith 2017