Update: Still in the middle, and will be for a good while yet

So, I was thinking, just where IS the middle of a book? How long are you stuck in the middle after whizzing through the easy opening? I think I have decided that the middle begins once you have introduced the protagonist and many or most of the important secondary characters, introduced the world, and presented the protagonist with the initial problem. Once you’ve done that part, you’re out of the opening and moving into the middle. The early middle is often hard for me because this is where you’re moving into the actual body of the story and sometimes, if you’re a discovery or intuitive writer (Hi!), you’re not sure what the story is. You’re figuring out the story right at this point, and that’s why if I write chapter five, then delete and rewrite it, repeat repeat, that’s not surprising at all. (Thankfully, that doesn’t always happen. But it’s not unusual.)

The middle then stretches out and out and out some more, most likely with a series of problems that increase in severity (unless you’re writing a slice-of-life story or something). Then you hit the climax, which may be one scene, I guess, but is perhaps more likely going to comprise a series of scenes that increase in intensity. But the moment you hit the climax, you’re out of the middle.

So the middle is really, really long. That’s true even if the story isn’t three times longer than usual. (It’s repeatedly true if the story IS three times longer than usual, which is why Tasmakat really has three connected climactic arcs, not one.) I fully expect the finished draft of Silver Circle, after the initial hard cut, to be at least 150,000 words. That would be a great length and I will be happy if it winds up anywhere near that range. That means that I’m expecting the first draft, pre-cutting, to be at least 180,000 words, and longer would not surprise me at all. I won’t cut it in half unless the finished draft, post cutting, is over 180,000 words. That would not surprise me a lot either, but we’ll see.

I’m at 125,000 words, so I’m in the lead-up to the climax. It’s a long lead-up with lots of moving parts that will all need to come together. I’m trying to appreciate each and every moment when some element suddenly clarifies – like I just figured out this weekend how to knock Justin and Keziah out of what might have been a safe position and get them moving. I wasn’t sure how to do that given a problem that ought to have been solved. Fortunately, I can have that problem remain solved because there’s a different problem that can force them to move … too vague, never mind, but anyway, I’m about to send them toward the endgame and then go back and get someone else moving in the right direction. I keep breaking up chapters that get too long, by the way, so I’m now listing 40 chapters in the Headings part of the navigation pane. Of those, the first 26 chapters are finished or at least properly started. A couple others are also started because I’m still working on some chapters out of order. The last two chapters are probably going to be short denouement (I WISH I could learn to spell “denouement” right the first time, but I think that is a hopeless dream).

All this and also Thanksgiving was nice. Great weather on Thanksgiving Day, so all the dogs got to go to the park and I left the door open so the kittens could come and go as they liked most of the day. Magdalene discovered a place she could get out of the yard, so it sure was convenient that they have learned that a loud clang of spoon against pot lid means COME GET A TREAT. She whizzed back into the yard through the hole and up the stairs and into the house, I put canned food out for her and for Maximillian, and then I got big rocks and fixed the hole. As I type this – it’s Sunday – it’s much colder and drizzly, so a little bit of outdoor time is all the kittens want. They keep poking their heads out and saying ick, then very sensibly coming back in.

I haven’t made your pumpkin cheesecake, Pete, but it’s on my list. I did make Danishes with a tart apple filling to compliment the cheesecake filling, so that was pretty much my fancy dessert for the weekend.

What’s coming up:

Later this week, I’ll be posting another “which is real?” ChatGPT challenge, this one structured a little differently. I’m also pulling out various books that are amazing for one reason or another, the kind of thing that text generators are never going to be able to produce, and I’ll be highlighting those, so keep an eye out for that.

If you instantly thought of something you’d like to highlight that way, you can certainly plan either to share it in the comments of a relevant post OR just direct my attention to it and I’ll take a look and probably highlight it in a future post.

In the meantime, forward with Silver Circle!

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6 thoughts on “Update: Still in the middle, and will be for a good while yet”

  1. Well, I don’t think a text generator would be able to produce Adam Gopnik’s “The King in the Window”. It’s not all that often that I come across a children’s book which keeps me wondering where the HECK this story is going until about 3/4 through… and also has me thinking: “… Heck, I don’t even CARE that I don’t know where I’m going, because it’s an amazing ride!” (It’s a crossover between modern-day France, Regency France, The Man in the Iron Mask, Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, and goodness knows what else. I have a vague memory that Nostradamus is in there too, for example.)

    Hmm. Really MUST reread. The sequel unfortunately didn’t work for me at all… but TKINW was worth the price of every single disaster that I picked up at that same book sale.

    Or what about Paul Francis Jennings, who was a British humourist with a very dry wit. I don’t think text generators understand how to make humour actually funny. Here’s some Jennings:

    “… the fact is that a house actually GENERATES SMALL HEAVY OBJECTS. The householder must conceive of his house as though it were a jar containing a colourless, impalpable liquid, the ground of life, in which are suspended many non-soluble objects which tend to sink to the bottom. The higher the specific gravity of the things, naturally, the quicker they sink. It is not a matter of size. It is quite natural for a bed – big, soft, fairly light – to stay upstairs. It is the small, dense objects which form a sediment at the bottom of the house unless one keeps everything in constant agitation….
    We possess an extremely heavy little Oriental table, a charming wedding present which, nevertheless, doesn’t belong, somehow, in our small drawing-room. We keep it in the spare bedroom. But it keeps coming downstairs. Periodically we find ourselves panting and grunting round narrow angles of the stairs, taking it up again. It is made of some dense Oriental wood, full of sharp corners that tear the wallpaper. I don’t remember ever bringing it downstairs (which would be just as awkward, and therefore just as memorable). But we have carried it up at least four times.”

  2. Oh. Or James Thurber’s “The 13 Clocks”. For a completely different style of humour. (I love his children’s stories. Almost everything he ever wrote for adults, I hate…)

    “I make mistakes, but I am on the side of Good,” the Golux said, “by accident and happenchance. I had high hopes of being Evil when I was two, but in my youth I came upon a firefly burning in a spider’s web. I saved the victim’s life.”
    “The firefly’s ?” said the minstrel.
    “The spider’s. The blinking arsonist had set the web on fire.”

  3. I recently read Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson. I don’t think I’ve seen it mentioned here yet, so I thought I’d recommend it. It reads like a lovely little book, even though it’s not that little. It has a relaxed pace but plenty of interesting action, and a truly fantastic setting (just don’t think too hard about the water cycle). It also has a happy ending. On my first time through a book I just experience it. I don’t really notice a book’s strengths and weaknesses well enough to give a proper review until the reread. Still, I do know now that I will reread it sometime, and I think many of you would enjoy it too.

    I read this just after Rachel’s first Chat GPT challenge, so it was on my mind when I started the book. All of the interesting insights and unexpected turns of phrase i came across kept making me think “an AI could NEVER write something like this” as I read. Which is what brought it to mind now.

  4. Thank you Melanie! Kind of a long way to go yet, probably.

    I’ve got Tess of the Emerald Sky in ebook and audio, and I guess I should move it up my TBR pile(s).

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