When my husband and I dine out, we often order appetizers, which we find to be the most inventive and interesting dishes on the menu. The other night, at a restaurant known for its creative chef, we were hungry enough to ignore that habit and ordered main courses. Mine was a very plain chunk of cod with a sauce that was indecipherable. Michael’s was a steak slathered in a sauce far too decipherable, and couple of measly slices of potato. “Ugh,” Michael said. “We should have known. A meal is like a book. The middle is always the worst part.”

As a reader, I certainly find that to be true. I often find the energy lagging in books and I’m tempted to jump to the last few chapters (dessert!). Furthermore, as a writer I encounter the kind of writerly exhaustion to which Liza alluded in her last post, around page 150; in other words, the middle.

Some things can help. If I write the ending chapters (as I am tempted toward as a reader), I can trick myself into working backwards, so I don’t notice when I get to the middle. The randomness exercises that Liza mentioned, be they Ron’s talismanic words, my picture cards, or just plain reading articles on subjects far and wide, can push me through. Another way of getting through is to write chapters that I do not plan to use. Often, though, the only solution is setting the manuscript aside for a couple of months (something which I recognize is not always practical in a graduate program).

Well, I’ve finally finished the two books I’ve been working on: one adult, and one MG. On the first, it simply took years and years of writing and tossing, writing and struggling through the middle. On the second, I was helped along by a brilliant agent, whose advice supplied the key to unlocking the structure of the book. Does anyone else share this middle morass? What do you do about it?