Editing and Rewriting: The Dreaded Middle, by Rebecca Raisin
My mum says I don’t listen. She says she can tell because I get a vacant look in my eyes and I say OK, a lot. And one thing I’ve learnt over the years is, mum’s are always right. She’s probably been telling me my whole life, but seeing as though I don’t listen – I can’t say for sure. In regards to writing, I find it very difficult to take criticism. It’s not because I think my writing is perfect, I know I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, it’s more self preservation. Hence, I switch off if I hear something I don’t like, to protect myself, in case I start to believe I can’t do it. Or I’m not good enough. Or I’m kidding myself…you get the picture.
I’ve been editing Mexican Kimono for about six weeks now. So enmeshed in this crazy fast paced world am I, that I often find myself talking like my main character Samantha long after I’ve turned the computer off. I know the story inside and out, I know the characters and all their foibles, I know where they live and what they love. I know them better than I know myself, it seems. I love Mexican Kimono, and I’m proud of it, but I knew there was something missing, something not quite right, but just couldn’t work it out. This kind of dilemma happens to many writer’s when you’re too close to the piece. It’s my baby though, and I’m protective of it.
Steve read my recently rewritten outline, and instantly summed up the problem for me. The dreaded middle. Lost focus. More conflict and resolution. Argh! Instantly, to protect my brittle confidence, I told myself perhaps if he read the whole manuscript he might think differently, but I wrote down his suggestions, as we discussed movies within the same genre as my novel. He suggested I watch these movies, and see how the story develops through the middle with the character trying to resolve their issues and failing until closer to the end, where they potentially solve the problem, and learn something too.
I wrote down all Steve’s advice and signed off our Skype chat somewhat resigned. I’d always thought the beginning of a story and the end of the story were the hard parts, but by doing this course I’ve heard it time and time again about the dreaded middle (as I now refer to it). Later that night reading a book I have been so caught up in, I noticed the same thing happening. It had me racing to bed early so I could get back to it, but somehow through the middle, it began to lose its way. It was like an Oprah light bulb moment.
Steve was spot on with his advice, and just because THE DREADED MIDDLE needs work, DOESN’T MEAN HE’S SAYING I CAN’T WRITE! I often have to speak to myself in capitals, just to make sure I’m really listening. The big lesson was; don’t become a victim to a pointless or ambling middle!
Renewed, I finally understand so much more about myself and my novel. It’s such a huge learning curve, and I obviously need to learn much more about taking advice, learning to appreciate critique, and realising it will improve me as a writer, and perhaps as a person. You never know I may even start listening a little more to my mum.