I am at that place in my work in progress in which I want to set the manuscript on fire. Usually, this is only a figurative problem. After all, despite my sometimes tumultuous relationship with my laptop, I’m not likely to actually set it on fire. This time, I am writing in a notebook. I truly could live out this fantasy, and it is only the more level-headed side of my brain that is keeping me from following through.
The point remains, in the lifespan of every writing project there comes a moment in which you don’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. In many cases, it is the dreaded inner critic who rears its ugly head. It wants to convince you that whatever you are writing stinks worse than anything that has ever been written. It doesn’t deserve to ever see the light of day and you are wasting your precious time on this earth by continuing to spend another moment working on it.
Sometimes, it can be a simple lack of inspiration. Where should this story go? What do the characters want? We don’t know and so we ignore the file (or the notebook) until we can no longer even remember what the story is about.
Another problem can be boredom. Writing can be great fun, but it can also be work. And sometimes, work can be boring. There are so many other things that we could be doing other than spending our lives typing or scrawling on paper. There is a whole life out there to be lived, there are mountains to climb, there are Facebook statuses to write, toilets to clean. There comes a time when anything seems better than facing another minute looking at that blank page!
So, what can be done when one is stuck in the middle? Some people abandon the project all together. This is why there are many more unfinished manuscripts than finished ones. But, that’s not what we want. After all, we are writers. We want to persevere. We want to complete our projects. We want to see our names on finished books!
I wish there were an easy solution, but the only one I have found is to keep going. Keep sitting in that chair and writing. Tell the inner critic to take a hike. This is a first draft. The inner critic should only be allowed to have some input on later revisions. Right now, we are just getting the story out. Suffering from lack of inspiration? Have your character do something totally out of character. Give him or her an adventure. You may need to edit it out later, but it will keep you writing until the moment passes. You may even find you’ve written something worth saving or expanding upon. And, yes, it is okay to go out and live a little – all writing and no play makes writers dull. Call it research and see what things you can find in the world that you can incorporate into your story. You never know what you might be able to use. I once got a good idea on a mini-golf course!
And so, as I trudge through the middle, I will continue to resist the urge to make my notebook meet a sad end. If you are stuck in the middle as well, keep the faith and keep working. The middle passes, to be followed by the beauty that is the end.
Do you have any good strategies you use to get through the middle of your works in progress?