Journal

WIP Update – The Mid-Book Blues

I’m beginning to think that most of writing a novel is just not losing your nerve. ~ Lev Grossman

It doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of novel edits, or writing a fresh novel draft. Once I hit the halfway mark I suddenly start to wonder if I’ve spent the last few months working on garbage. It feels as if the end is nowhere in sight, and that it would be easier to trash the project to start on something new. I like to think of this as the dark night of the writer’s soul. It happens every time.

By now, I know this feeling is normal, and I just need to keep going.

I think it’s usually due to a combination of factors, including mental burnout, and physical fatigue. This past February, I badly needed a writing break. For the better part of the month, I buried my head in projects I’d put aside that had nothing to do with writing. My well was dry and needed refilling.

If the well’s empty, you ain’t drawing any water with that bucket.

I also know it will be worth it to finish. I’m halfway there! I will and can get to the end of this story. Not every writing day is fun, but I need to find a way to get excited about this story again. I also need to figure out a better working routine for myself, that includes a pace that’s sustainable, and allows me to enjoy this process as much as possible.

So in the interests of continuous process improvements (thanks day job) , here are a couple of changes I’d like to try out:

  1. Cut down writing time to a half hour commitment per day, and flexible weekends. I might write or I might not. I think more often than not, I can write more than half an hour once I get into things, but even if I sit there with the laptop on, and the document open, its still something to start action.
  2. Eliminate word count goals. I’m not going to stress about how much I write, as long as I write something.

I figure I should be done this draft by mid May, even at a slower pace. That’s not so bad at all. I’m still easing into things, but I’ll get through this, and past this. It’s a game of ‘chicken’ and I’m not going to lose my nerve.

Do you ever have moments like this? How do you deal with it?

14 Comments

  1. Considering I’m 9 months into the planning phase of my first novel since I shelved my first first novel… I’m just not in a place to fully appreciate this, yet.

    So where I want to say something wity or pithy or supportive… all I can say is “I hope it does’t go this way for me”, and suspect that it will go that way for me anyway.

      1. Maybe that’s why the first first novel was shelved. I’m also in the process of planning my new first novel, having shelved my first first novel, but now you’ve got me wondering. Maybe I was only going through a half-way through burnout/blues thing with that (I guess I would have been about half-way through).

      2. T. S. Bazelli Author

        See if it happens again this time? It still wasn’t wasted effort though. You could always finish the other novel someday, and think of this as an extended break 😉

      3. Well, for me… shelving of my first first book is something I consider to be at least a temporary thing. I don’t consider myself to have thrown in the towel on it, because I’m still dedicated to telling that story. It was just a realization, on my part, that I was not well-positioned to tell it: I didn’t yet have the skill necessary to handle the story I was working with.

        Thus, my thought has been: build those skills up on other exciting, slightly smaller-in-scope, but still ambitious stories. And in time, return to that original novel and tell the story the right way, when I’m better able to do so.

        So I don’t really count that experience for “throwing in the towel”. At least, not yet. We’ll see when the time comes to try for it again.

      4. Throw in the towel? On writing a novel? So far… not really. But I don’t really count my experience with my first first book… (for reasons I’ll maybe explain in reply to Louise below) and a short story just isn’t long enough to generate that kind of feeling, I don’t think (at least not for me). So that’s not a lot of experience to talk about…

  2. Kim

    I JUST had this experience.

    A couple of weeks ago a friend asked how my novel draft was coming. I told him it was slow-going, I was tired of the story and the characters and I had Shiny New Idea that I was tempted to start working on instead.

    He said, “Uh, yeah. That’s what you said last time you were in the middle of a draft.”

    So I did what you’re doing. Kept going. I’m at the 3/4 mark now and of course, it’s going much better. Just like last time 🙂

    It’ll get better soon! Good luck.

  3. Joelle Wilson

    Oh yeah I have those moments. Currently treading water in that kind of moment. Maybe if I let go of word count goals that may help ease me back to where I can stand again. So glad I read this today.

  4. If you’ve made it half-way (through actual writing, not just thinking about writing) then you’re almost certainly closer to the end than the beginning.

    It sounds you’re taking the sensible approach and going easy on yourself – there’s no point in forcing yourself to a gruelling writing schedule if it means you’re going to run out of love for your book. I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break – either writing something different or going off and watching daytime TV for a month and then coming back to the novel, you’ll almost certainly have rediscovered a lot appreciation for it and who knows, a few plots snags might even have magically fixed themselves!

  5. How do I refill my well? I read and relax. It sounds so simple, but honestly it’s hard to do sometimes, because I’ve become so wired to think that if I’m not writing, I’m not being productive! >P

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