Monday, June 18

Where's your "muddle?"


At what point in your WIP do you decide it’s all crap and you need to trash the whole thing? Do you have a specific place? We’ve all heard of the sagging middle, what prolific author Debbie Macomber calls the “muddle.” Did I say heard of it? Oh, good grief, we’ve all survived it.

As I struggled through a scene—yes, it was a love scene and no, I don’t like writing them—I tried to remember if it is always like this. Most of my books have at least one full love scene, some of them two. Have I really fought for every single word of every single one of them? This one, the one that started this paragraph, took me eight days. Eight days!

When I finished the scene (and the many, many glasses of Diet Cherry Coke that were required), I read back over it, knowing I’d have to re-write it again and again before anyone could bear to read it. Because, of course, it was all crap.

I have other times I think the book isn’t going to come together. Final chapters give me tear-my-hair-out fits, because, I think, there’s a bittersweetness to ending the story. I’m ready and I’m not. But I never doubt I’ll write that last chapter.

Occasionally I’ll read over a page and notice I’ve started three paragraphs with the word “she” and the other two with the heroine’s name. All too often, the word “was” is the second word in the paragraph. Throw in a few dozen words ending in “ly” and you have a whole page of…oh, I can’t use the word “crap” again…a whole page of detritus. That’s not exactly right, but I’ve used wronger.

I’m not a good describer, either. My people often end a book with different eye colors than they started with, a dimple in the wrong cheek, and slim hips on what was a curvy body in an early chapter.

But these are easy fixes, although sometimes embarrassing when someone else catches them. The love scene however, the eight-days-to-madness thing, is awful. I’ll never be able to finish this book. No one will ever like it.

And so I read it again, a few days later. And it’s…you know, it’s not too bad. I need to add a little, trim a little, remember she only has two arms and he’s not double-jointed, but I can do that. Sure I can.

Once again, I’ve survived my own particular “muddle.”

Where’s yours, and what do you do to work your way around it?

26 comments:

  1. Eight days is quick! I've been known to spend a month on a sex scene, no problems. But yes, I have the hair tearing moments, having one right now actually because although the first draft is finished i'm finding, as I work through it that there are a ton of smoking guns that I've set up at the beginning and haven't addressed...help.

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    1. LOL. I've been known to have a few of those myself. In my MIP, I have several people in the first chapter who have never been seen again. I'm sure I'm going to have to address that...eventually!

      Thanks for coming by.

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  2. Oh the love scenes are rough. I have written one and am about to revise it again for the hundredth time, lol. I think my "hair tearing moment" would be when I'm in the midst of writing and realize that I have no idea where the story is going. I'm kind of a pantser writer and not so much a planner:) I have a story that I got nine chapters into and just quit because I thought it was too boring and no one would ever want to read it. I'm sure I'll pick it up again sometime, but it's been sitting on my laptop untouched for the past two years.

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    1. Been there and done that! I had one that went 120-some pages. The people were wonderful, but the conflict (only had one) was satisfied by Chapter Three and it was all downhill from there. Still like those people, though...

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  3. I hit a wall at 25,000 words this time, because I actually planned a story instead of pantsing it as usual. I knew I had to choke out another 50,000 words. I sitll have plenty of conflict, story lines to connect, and people to get to various locations. I think the enormity of the word count overwhelms me. Usually I just write until I'm done and I might be over 100,000 words, then I revise. I think already having a contract is what scares me and a DEADLINE.

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    1. Hi, Morgan. I love the premise of writing till I'm done. I've never had a contract for a book I hadn't already written--I wonder what THAT would do for my panic button.

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  4. I'm struggling with an ending right now--trying to wrap things up in a romantic suspense so that the story concludes satisfactorily and yet makes sense. Finally decided to give my antagonist a moment of redemption, so that's the next scene I'll write. My biggest problem is information overload, I explain too much, thinking that I need the reader to understand. I think I may need to give my readers more credit and just tell the story... ;)

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    1. Oh, me, too, but I just want them to know what I know! And I love the "moment of redemption" for antagonists--you never know when you might need him/her again!

      Thanks for coming by, Nan!

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  5. I'm in it right now--and obviously here practicing the avoidance technique. My word count is about 80 percent of what it should be and I've reached THE END. I've done the quick read, and realized how many logical potholes remain in the late middle. That's both good and bad. I know how to get my word count up--but I have to write the parts that didn't rush into my head in the first draft. One word at a time.

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    1. This is a part that tends to go easier for me, so I'll wish that easy on you, Chris. First drafts are so slow for me and I like the speed of followups!

      Thanks for coming over.

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  6. The beginning is actually my 'muddle' - when I'm still trying to figure out the exact goals and motivations of the main characters and trying to get them to show through...Once I'm through that part, the rest is...well, not cake, but a LOT easier!

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    1. You have such an organized mind! I so envy that, but think it's too late for me. Thanks for stopping by, Kristi.

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  7. LOL. Muddle? I love that.
    hmmm....I guess it's the end that usually gets me. I have a hard time wrapping it all up, I guess. hmmmm....

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    1. Ends are sudden, and I think sometimes we complicate them too much in an effort to get all the loose ends tied up.

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  8. I'm with D--I think my muddle is the ending. I think because I'm pretty much a pantser and don't always know how it's going to end--so I get 3/4 of the way through and I'm in a panic because I'm running out of word count and still have to figure out my end.

    But I definitely have little muddles all the way through.

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    1. In all honesty, I do, too, so now I'm seeing strings of little mud puddles... Thanks, Margie! :-)

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  9. I had a wry smile while reading this post. My muddle usually comes about three-quarters of the way through the book. I just keep writing, taking comfort in the fact I'll have words to play with once I'm done. Just do it! Is my motto :)

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    1. Wow, Shelley, I think that's a good place to have one!

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  10. Uh, can the whole process be a muddle? I have no particular problem with any type of scene, but I'm not a plotter. I've learned that when I have writer's block, it's actually a plot problem in disguise that I need to go back and fix. And the most important thing to do is keep working and revising. Whenever I'm in the middle of a difficult MS, the lure to quit and try something else is almost overwhelming, but I've learned that every manuscript is going to present challenges and I won't get anywhere unless I push through them.

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    1. Good for you, Linda. I have too many UFOs (unfinished objects, to segue over to sewing terms)because I haven't persevered.

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  11. LOL, Liz! Although I go over and over each new manuscript, I always end up with something I just didn't see that my editor catches. Of course, I always think, how didn't I see that!

    My editor is a prize I never take for granted. And I've committed all of the above at one time or another. lol

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  12. I always hit a wall at chapter 5. Haven't figured out why yet. Love scenes? About a week.

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    1. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who takes quite a bit of time with love scenes!

      I used to hit my wall at Chapter 6, every time, but that changed somewhere along the line.

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  13. I want to change things every single time I read a ms even after it's meant to be the final final draft. When my editor very supportively told me more 'sex'/ sensuality was needed I thought...okay...and started all over again. Wouldn't it be nice to get it right first time?

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    1. Yes, it would. But if I actually do get edits back for the first go-through and they're light, I wonder if the editor has caught everything!

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