I'm smack in the middle of this stinking swamp right now. It's oozing at me green tentacles of slime and fuming my nose a mix of noxious gases and...well, it happens in every book I write, but only now do I see it clearly and know what it is, this dreadful viscous middle of a draft when the excitement of the beginning has worn off and the catharsis of the ending is too far away to be felt yet. I'm in the middle of the first draft of TUBE, at exactly 49K words, and it's fucking dragging.
Today was particularly hard. I wrote measly 2.3K words and each of them cost me a shattered bone. I know I will most likely cut them all out in the next drafts but I forced myself to keep going because I had to find a point when I had the next scene sitting in my head.
How do I do it?
Anything goes. Any idea, as ridiculous as it may appear, gets thrown into a pot. When I'm stuck and don't know what happens next, when that fire is gone out of the screen in front of me, I get up and either get more tea (by then I would've consumed so much coffee that drinking any more would be unwise) or do push-ups (you'd be surprised at things writers do to get themselves going) or stare out the window. I forbid myself to get distracted (though sometimes I do, dammit) and let my mind wander. Usually as soon as I forget about my book and start thinking about something else a wild idea surfaces.
Today it was the tunnel.
In my current chapter I have two dancers perform ballet Serenade on the snowy roof of a moving train (don't ask), and I was stumped as to how they would get down or what would happen next. Since I've just been on an epic train ride, an image flashed in my head. An abandoned tunnel I saw. Dusty black. Eroded. Creepy. Perfect! As soon as I got the picture, I raced back to the screen and wrote a bunch more words.
This happens all the time during the writing of a book. The only difference is, when I'm in the middle, it happens more often. To persevere and move forward I suffer through breaking like this almost every 15 minutes, and it sucks ass. I want to get online, I want to play Words With Friends, I want to read a book, I want to do anything but think about that stupid scene. But I know if I do, it will come. It always does. I just have to be patient. I used to freak out about it, thinking I'm blocked. Not anymore. Now it's a matter of waiting, and waiting can be bloody frustrating.
"Why," I hear you think, "why would any idea work? What if your idea is stupid? What if it's outrageous? What then?"
Nothing. Every idea is right. You know why? Because it comes from under the floorboards of your brain. And whatever bothers your brain, that is what it spills out. So when you're done with your first shitty draft, when you put it away for a couple weeks and pick it up after the break and read it from cover to cover, you will start seeing the pattern of the story. The breadcrumbs. The way out of the sticks. And that is what you want. Fuck that muck you have to cut out. Who cares? It was your warming-up exercise.
And that leads me to thinking that TUBE might be a longer book than I thought. Because it takes me a lot of thinking time, the slog is deeper, and I have to reach into that cesspool of my memories more often, so I'm pulling out some gruesome stuff. Of course I tend to stall. It's highly unpleasant. I'd rather forget and not stir that shit up, but I know I must. I know I will feel lighter after I vomit it all on paper.
That is my motivator to keep squelching through this middle-draft mud.
It will be the same for you, in your own way. Whatver it is you're struggling with, middle of the draft or not, if you just sit with it, just sit with it alone without interruptions or distractions, you'll know what it is, you'll catch it by the tail, you'll yank it out of your throat and you'll slap in on the screen. Let it fester there. I know you can. Do it. I will do it too.