First of all let me start by saying that yeah, yeah, yeah, we at Mad Genius are messing with you. We have all decided to randomly switch days so you never know which of one of us you’re going to get, Mwah ah a... I mean, Amanda is busy today, so I picked up her day and she’ll blog on Wednesday.
I debated briefly doing a web-linky type of post, but frankly, I haven’t looked at that stuff in so long I’d probably steer you wrong.
So instead I’m going to talk about something that I hit again and again and again in my writing life. (In art too, but since art is a hobby, that’s inconsequential.)
About a decade ago I took a workshop with Oregon Writers’ Workshops. It was invaluable for various reasons, but I got my money’s worth before the first day was over. As one of the instructors, Dean Wesley Smith was talking about this and that and the other thing, trying to get us acclimated to the surroundings and each other, he said casually, “of course, every novel dies halfway through. If you push through that point, you’ll find it lives again and gets finished.”
I had at this time several unfinished novels, because I lost interest about halfway through. That information alone, would have been worth what I paid for the workshop.
It had never occurred to me that this was normal or that it happened to other people. I assumed if the novel died, it was because something in it was fundamentally wrong.
Since then I think I’ve come to understand it better. See, when a novel first comes to me – and I suspect to other people – it’s this bright, splendorous thing, with complex connections and meanings everywhere.
There is only one problem with that – there isn’t the room to put all those connections and meanings into a book, let alone the fact that readers would need to STUDY it, not just read it and it would fail the basic duty of entertaining.
There is also the need to pin the book to the pages – to give enough information about whatever you’re talking about that the reader can follow. Like this: in your head, the book is of course complete and clear, but for the reader, you need to provide clues. “Must remember to start with John doing something nice, because if he is flogging conscript workers, they won’t know he has to do that to survive his brother’s rule” type of clue.
This takes away a lot of the cool and shiny that the novel had in your brain before you wrote it. And by the middle of the book, it might seem to you that all the cool and shiny is gone, and why bother finishing?
But if you push through, you eventually realize it’s just like ... falling in love versus being married; writing down your dream, instead of just dreaming it; baking the cookie and eating it, instead of dreaming of the cookie.
Reality – the reality of the finished book – might lack the shiny-cool that made it sparkle in your head, but it will be outside and – hopefully – in a form other people can read and enjoy. It’s a compromise, like seeing your spouse with messed up hair and morning face, but it is the only way to make it real.
So, next time you’re stuck around 40k words – or if you’re me at 20k, 40k, 60k, 80k, 100k – push through. You’ll be surprised, afterwards, that the split doesn’t show where the book stopped.
What is amazing is that by the time I took that workshop, I had written eight full novels (one recently published as Darkship Thieves
Well, I’m a pro now, more or less, and there are a bunch of other pros on this blog. What are the problems that consistently bedevil you that you think you might be alone in? Who knows? It might be a well known complaint, with a well known work around. See if you can stump the writer! (not hard) with your real or fictional writing problem. (Hey, since fiction is such a part of our lives, it should get its own billing.)