A to Z Challenge 2015 · An Encouraging Word · Mickey Spillane

M is for The Middle

Celebrating the A to Z Blogging Challenge with quotations on the writing life.


Nobody reads a book to get to the middle.

Mickey Spillane

 Ah, the middle. The meat of the story is here, and yet it’s the place where writers often lose their way. I know I do. I liken it to the Slough of Despond where, as with John Bunyan’s deep bog, we sink under the weight of the story.

My high school fiction students are here right now. They look forward to the 30-page story assignment with such delight. And then they hit the middle and become mired in discouragement. Right about the time the first 20 pages are due, despair arrives. “I’ve run out of ideas!” they wail. “I hate this! Can I start over?”

I’ve said this many a time. My laptop houses a graveyard of abandoned stories.

My students have this benefit: they must finish. (I do allow them to start over, but they must be willing to put in the work—a lot of work.)  “Press on to the ending,” I tell them. “Ramp up the conflict, work toward that Bleakest Moment. Keep spitting out words. Trust that ideas will come.”

Because ideas do come, but only if you keep writing. How many times have I written myself into a corner? And then discovered a clever solution that I’d never thought of? Readers of my novels have no idea how many times I wanted to quit.

Press on, writing friend.  Trust your creative mind to provide ideas. Consider too, that novellas are gaining in popularity. Your story’s ending might be nearer than you think.


Photo: KOMUnews (Creative Commons Flickr). Image is link.

9 thoughts on “M is for The Middle

  1. One of my most brilliant students had trouble finishing writing assignments. I finally told her just to slap it down on the page. She could rewrite later. It worked for her (and it works for me). Sometimes, I just have to get to the end. Then my creative mind takes over and works out the problems.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Slap It Down method is the best. So difficult in the beginning, because I am brought face-to-face with my inadequacies. Those inner voices that say: “You aren’t a real writer, you’re a hack, a poseur.”

      And yet as the minutes pass—as I continue writing stuff, willy-nilly—things improve, the story improves, my mindset and attitude improves. I find my way. As you say, Robin, the creative mind takes over and works out the kinks.

      The creative mind had better. Because it’s what got me into writing in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Knowing something to be true and believing it enough to own it, and to act on it, are two different things. I wish I’d had the confidence to act on this thirty years ago too, Tonia.


    1. And then we come to The End, and we’re faced with even more thinking.

      Because the end must deliver a punch. The one I’m working on now is proving to be more complex than I planned. And somewhat more exciting too. “Three more chapters, Laura,” I tell myself. “Or four.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, the middle is the hard part. Everything I’ve set up in the beginning must be tied to together just right as I move into the climax. There are usually so many strings that I have to go and cut up the manuscript quite a bit. Nixing characters, streamlining plot. It’s complicated in the middle!


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