Monday, November 14, 2016


The "murky middle" is a phrase--and a writing space--that strikes fear in the hearts of novelists in all genres. Whether you start with an outline (plotter) or follow your instincts from scene to scene (pantser), you eventually get to a place where you've set up all the relationships, planted all the plot seeds, and have to figure out how that BIG MOMENT actually happens on the page.

I know when I've hit the "murk" when I find myself writing the following red flags:
  • Extended passages of dialogue
  • Sudden info-dump 
  • A scene where the MC suddenly wonders about religion/love/politics
These red flags show me I'm trying to force the pace. That, perhaps I've stopped listening to my characters and tried to trump their "instincts" with the plot trajectory I have planned in my head. Maybe it's just plain old "sick of this story" page 200 burn-out.

I have found SCRIVENER to be a tremendous help at this moment in my writing process. Because each chapter in the novel I am building is broken into FOLDERS (chapters) and TEXT (scenes within each chapter), I can...
Write here, write now. Scrivener.
  • explore ways to move this content into other parts of the story
  • break a chapter into even smaller chunks turning info dump into, say, 3 discrete reveals
  • transform a fat wad of dialogue into several trim, natural-feeling exchanges and then decide to keep, move and/or remove each part
  • move a critical section of text--or even a whole chapter--to an earlier or later point in the story to shake things up and challenge myself (writer) and my characters (okay, also me, but as characters with certain information within the context of their fictional lives), creating a new level of tension in both the plot and the ACT OF WRITING (it's meta and cool!)
In the process of manipulating my words in these ways, I find myself recovering control of the novel's pace and reconnecting with my characters more honestly. It is neither easy nor fun. But, using the tools available in Scrivener to navigate the murky middle has been, for me, a little less scary. I've been able to get back on track and, most importantly, feel less overwhelmed/terrified/depressed and more excited about this manuscript again.