I’ve reached my least favorite bit of novel writing again, the end of the middle. In the beginning everything is peachy, I’ve got drive, energy, and none of my plans have turned out to be stupid wastes of time yet. As I write the energy dissipates and problems emerge – I start to uncover gaping idiocies, characters make very good points about why they would never do something like what I needed them to do for the plot, etc. The novel is starting to go off the rails.
Every time this happens, I struggle desperately to hold it on course, and sometimes this gets me through. Other times it just means wasted words on a plot that’s not worth keeping (see previous novel). Either way, I always run into the wall at the exact same place, the 2/3 mark. It’s the place where my bright beginning seems like hair brained scheming, but the end is still so far away I can’t see the finish line. Every morning I wake up feeling like I should just stop, go back and edit my way into something resembling a coherent plot. Sometimes, I give in, but not this time.
I’ve talked before about the novel as a wicked problem, a problem you don’t know how to solve until you’ve solved it. This was true two novels ago, last novel, and it’s true now. The 2/3 mark is where I’m deepest in the problem, my feet haven’t been able to touch bottom for a while, and I’m getting really tired of swimming. But I know if I keep going, push through to the good scenes that are still there, I’ll finish. Of course, the novel will be terrible, but my first drafts are always terrible. I’m just starting to realize this is because I’m secretly a much better reviser than a writer.
Some people really don’t need more than 2 drafts. Some writers just seem to know where their story is going. Some writers take dozens of drafts. All of that is fine, if we all wrote stories the same way, our stories would probably all be the same. It took a while, but I think I’ve finally made my peace with the idea of being a rewriter rather than a writer. I like to tell myself this skill is because of my amazing problem solving abilities, but really it’s because it takes me a while to have all my good ideas. This is fine, writing is not a performance art. So long as I get the story right by the time it goes out, nothing else matters. Now to just keep repeating that until the novel’s actually done.
Happy (belated) Thanksgiving and good luck with all your projects!