I’m sitting at my desk, my cup of green tea having gone cold, my jack russell lying on the floor near my feet, and there it is—page 300 of the novel I’m currently writing. (Still no title for this one.)
I’m not sure why page 300 is so pivotal for a writer, but I know it’s not just a quirk of mine. I’ve seen other writers blog about it or tweet about it or facebook about it. Page 300 has special meaning. Perhaps it marks the beginning of the end, which is another way of saying the end of the middle.
When sitting down to write a novel, the beginning, of course, comes first. Beginnings are like are eating dessert before your broccoli. They are like a first date, a first kiss, like roses when it’s not your birthday. Those first fifty pages fly off a writer’s fingers, well, at least my fingers. And then comes the middle and the fingers come to a screeching halt.
If a writer has done her job well, all the plates are spinning by the end of the first fifty pages, which is to say the plot is set in motion. You’ve seen it—the guy who spins plates on top of wooden rods, dancing from one to another, giving each a nudge to keep it in motion. During the middle, those dreaded two hundred and fifty pages or so, the plot has to advance. Something must happen next, and then again, and something more after that. The tensions must rise, the consequences must escalate, the characters must try and fail. Try again. Some will succeed, while others will fall short. The writer must keep those plates spinning. Occasionally, one falls. It needs extra attention. A gentler hand to get it spinning again. But while the writer’s attentions are focused there, another plate is likely to tumble. One day at a time, one thousand words at a time, the writer trudges through the middle. And at long last, there it is. Page 300.
While page 300 isn’t necessarily always the end of the middle, because in ATLAS SHRUGGED, it is barely the end of the beginning, for many of us, it means we are close to the top, if you consider the ending downhill.
On another note, in my first blog, I promised you a picture of a manatee when they showed up in our canal again. Well, the thing about manatees is that they live underwater. So, here is a picture that I took this morning while dangling off the edge of my dock. First a gray wrinkled snout rises out of the water. Next, a loud snort as the manatee exhales. The snout disappears. My camera goes snap. You see a picture of the tell-tale rings left in the manatee’s wake. Sorry. Either my camera is slow or my clicking finger is slow. This is the best of many attempts.