The Dreaded Middle

Hey, it’s Sarah Graves, here, and it’s that time, again: I’m in the middle of writing a book, and Maine is in the middle of trying to freeze and/or depress me to death. Because first of all, I don’t know about you, but I find beginnings and endings to be the easy (relatively easy, that is; easier than being drawn and quartered, for instance) parts of books I’m writing, and the middles — in which further development must jog along hand in hand with well-maintained suspense, among other things — the difficult portion. When I’m writing the middle of something, keeping a good attitude is crucial, because at this point attitude is about all I’ve got going for me.

Not that the book isn’t okay, or maybe better than; I wouldn’t know. It’s just that in the middle of writing it, I don’t believe that it is. It could be the Great American Novel, and I’d still think it was pond slime; it’s just the way I am at this point in production.

Meanwhile, Maine’s trying to kill me, too. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s way too quiet, and have I mentioned that it’s cold, yet? We’re getting a break so far this year from zillions of feet of snow, possibly because I bought a new snow shovel in autumn and stood it on the porch; if I’d bought a plow blade for the pickup truck, I could probably have accelerated global warming. 

In short, these are the times that try this Maine writer’s soul, and I suspect I’m not the only one. In fact, you too might be a Maine Writer in Winter if —

1)Your two best friends are named Mr. Coffee and Mr. Heater.

2) You can deduct fingerless gloves as ‘office equipment.’

3) You keep Prozac pills in a little glass bowl on your desk, like M&Ms.

4) The M&Ms work better.

5) You’ve covered the whole ceiling of your office in light bulbs that promise to deliver fake daylight.

6) Those lightbulbs are lying jerks, too.

7) The sun going supernova sounds like a good idea to you. It might not last long but at least it’ll be warm and bright.


8) When your neighbor says she’s going to Florida for the rest of the winter you say that’s nice, carefully not bursting into tears. (I don’t know where that sunny smiley came from, but I’ll take it.)

9) You don’t care how the dog smells as long as he’s warm and will lie on your feet. Ditto for your spouse (if you still have one considering the mood you’ve been in).

10) You’ve hidden all sharp objects and firearms from yourself in case some cheerful fool asks, “So! How’s the writing going?”

I know, spring is coming. By that time I’ll probably be a raddled hag with stringy hair, wild eyes, and fingernails like Howard Hughes’. As for the book, the words ‘the end’ are near, as well. Winter will be done, and so will this manuscript.

And the truth is, even as crazy-making as I’m finding them right now — the long quiet days, the crystalline nights, the hours and hours spent in that other world I’m building — I’ll miss them both.

You might, too, if you’re a Maine Crime Writer in Winter.






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12 Responses to The Dreaded Middle

  1. Literally, right now as I am typing this, my feet are freezing from a draft (must go upstairs to change out of ordinary sneakers and into sheepskin boots) and my laptop is surrounded by newspaper twists I’ve been making to start the kitchen woodstove. On the plus side, the sun is shining. Today. Tomorrow? Nine inches of snow.

    And I refer to the middle of the book as “the slough of despond.”

  2. Barb Ross says:

    Amen. Say it, sista!

  3. Gerry Boyle says:

    What better time to lock yourself away with a good story, especially one you’re making up!
    It may be dreary, but at least there are no distractions with the winter we’re having. No snow. No snowshoeing or skiing in the woods. No fun. No sun. Darkness for most of your waking hours. Nothing to do but write.

    And when you finish, the grass will be green. Pop a few M&Ms, chase them with coffee, and keep on writing. And if you feel like killing somebody, just do it! On paper, of course.

    • Sarah Graves says:

      Wise words indeed, sir. In honor of them, I am about to make M&M’s parent co’s stock go up, in case any of you would like to get in early…

  4. I venture that a Massachusetts crime writer in the Middle and in the winter understands it pretty well, too!

  5. I love, love, love Maine, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t winter there. I fled Utah winters two years ago. They were bad enough. I’m sending you some warm, cheery sun from not-so-sunny-at-the-moment Florida, packaged in a little envy over the fact that you enjoy writing beginnings. In fact I’m currently procrastinating the beginning of my next book by reading one of yours! It’s a brilliant move, if I do say so myself.

  6. My brother used to say that the state mineral of Maine was rock salt. Same for the Catskill Mountains where I grew up. This brings it all back and reminds me why I don’t plan to spend a winter (endless winter?) there again.

  7. MCWriTers says:

    I sure can relate! I always get bogged down somewhere between chapter sixteen and chapter nineteen. Lately, I usually discover that the answer is I need to squeeze in a new chapter. That I was rushing to write “the end.”

    I save going crazy for February, when I wear a hat, made from a coathanger, with a large arrow pointing down at me, and the words: Caution, Nasty Person Below. It works pretty well to prevent homicides around here. And this year, in honor of the aging persons increasing need for light, I’ve bought one of those lightboxes, which sits beside my desk. I call it my grow light. So far, I haven’t grown happier, calmer or taller, but I hear that it takes time.

    Hang in there, sister…

  8. Sarah Graves says:

    Your kind comments remind me of another thing it’s good to do this time of year: count my blessings.

    And that coat hanger hat…I might have to make myself one of those, too.

  9. Oh, to be a Maine writer!!

  10. MCWriTers says:

    On the bright side, roadkill has a much longer shelf life in January than it does in July.

  11. Hi, I’m not a writer of mysteries but a great reader of them. The point is, I’m a bookbinder, and my bindery is on the ground floor of the former barn of our 1847 house here in Maine, (where the cows were), and talk about cold feet! I’ve found that to keep the cold from coming up through the cement floor, in addition to standing on 3 or 4 layers of old shag carpeting, wearing those thick felt liners for boots is very effective. Cheers

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