Over the weekend I had the following exchange at one of my favorite writing coffee shops:
Me: Small latte, please.
Cashier: For here?
Cashier: [Does a dance and cheers before announcing the order to the barista]
Me: That’s a lot of celebration for one drink.
Her: Aren’t you excited about your own order?!?
Me: I wasn’t before, but I am now.
Her: [Tone very serious, turning toward barista] See, what did I tell you? Changing. Lives.
I’m starting a new manuscript this week. It’s what we set out to do, in the beginning. Change lives. The ideas are great, the words flow, the themes gleam with brilliance. The book really says something. It’s going to be the best book ever.
Then comes the middle. The plot sags. The characters don’t seem quite as interesting. Everything changes; the work becomes ponderous, heavy. We writers begin to question our very existence in the middle.
We can still see the heart of the book, beating hard. A little exhausted maybe. The dark thoughts we have about our own work creep closer: “It sucks. The characters suck. It isn’t saying what I want it to say.”
All that dark stuff surrounding the heart of the work, the stuff that seemed so innocent before, has grown darker and started to take over, threatening the integrity of its exhausted heart.
I know this happens frequently – from talking to other writers, and from my own experience. So I’ve decided to try something different this time: I’m STARTING in the middle.
I mean, I basically know what’s going to happen in the beginning. And though I don’t know PRECISELY how it ends, I have an idea of the major choice that will present itself to the main character.
I feel like I can write these sections – the beginning and the end – anytime. What I NEED first is…the middle. The place where things get sticky and we begin to question ourselves.
So I’m starting there. Can’t say too much about the plot, except that it changes lives. Er…maybe…one life. I hope. But I’m really excited to write the middle of this book first, because I think if I know the middle, I will understand the beginning better, and maybe finally figure out the ending.
I just need to keep the heart intact. Before all that foam that makes it up disappears from my head.
And if all else fails and the middle wears me down, I’ll just order another latte. Hopefully it’ll come with a heart as big as this one.