Here’s a post from Patricia Wrede about getting through the middle of a manuscript.
I liked this part particularly:
Unexpected assistance can come similarly, from other characters (intentionally or not), from landscape or weather that helps the protagonist, from unexpected helpful twists that result from thing the protagonist did a while back. Or the “ups” can result simply from the protagonist’s grim determination to continue in spite of all the obstacles they’re facing. …
which led into this part, which made me laugh:
As with the protagonist, the solution for most writers, most of the time, is to slog steadily onward with grim determination.
Ha ha ha sob, yes, that’s pretty much the experience for at least part of the middle, for at least most books. There’s a great extended metaphor here, about slogging onward through the blizzard vs backtracking and heading for the gates of Moria:
Ultimately, the important thing is to keep moving. If you sit around in the blizzard thinking for too long, you (and your story) will freeze to death. Backtracking to a safe pausing-place is still moving. A safe place to pause, for the writer, is one where one has options to consider. The pass is full of snow, but the Mines of Moria are still a possibility—dangerous, but so is this whole journey. An alternative is to consider which of the characters’ options would be the most fun to write, or which would provide the greatest opportunity for the writer to throw in an unexpected cave troll or Balrog. This is where the advice to “have ninjas jump through the window” turns up—it’s not really about the ninjas, it’s about what the writer can do to make the story fun and interesting to write again. Because generally, in my experience, if the writer has fun writing it, the readers will have fun reading it.
And here I would say: readers almost always love the parts I loved best while writing, BUT readers also generally seem to be pretty happy with the parts that were a slog. Not always, but that seems pretty typical. Which is a relief, for some books in which the whole dratted middle was a dire slog, which can happen.
One of the things I don’t see here, but fine to be true personally, is that some books don’t have a tough middle. They move right along from front to back. That’s why they’re fast to write. For MARAG, I’m wondering whether any early reader will point to a few paragraphs about 15 pages in, 20 pages in, and say, “This seems slow right here.” But then things start happening, and I enjoyed those earliest chapters, but the action kicks up at the end of the third chapter and is almost, but not quite, nonstop from there. With a lot of grim determination to continue in spite of increasingly difficult conditions.
Even the action climax was fun. Both action climaxes, which happen boom-boom, one right after the other, though in alternating points of view. Then the falling action. I almost always like the falling action part.
It’s a lot less typical to enjoy the middle. Definitely nice when that happens, as with most of the books in the Tuyo series.