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Sep 25, 2012

That Dread Brought On By The Middle Of A Book

Over at Six Words for a Hat, Scott, who writes both fast and well (damn him) is in the middle of a manuscript:
Thirty-thousand words puts me somewhere in the middle of the novel, or somewhere toward the sixty percent mark if I stick with the plan of making it a 50,000-word novella. In either case, I’m now in the middle of the middle. I discovered this project middleness not by figuring the word count of the draft, but rather by noticing that I have been feeling a powerful sense of disquiet about writing. The feeling that this novel is an empty, pointless thing and that indeed every novel I’ve written is an empty, pointless and likely embarrassing book is a sure sign that I’ve arrived at that stage in the drafting process where I’ve got to just brass my way forward through the writing and work toward the final act, which I recall once thinking was a good idea to write. This feeling is so familiar and so predictable that I am almost bored by it. Yes of course, I say. Right on schedule. The temptation is to abandon the novel, to spend more time reading or exercising, to think about other things. But of course I won’t, because I’ve been here before and I know how it works.
Apparently Scott is writing this novel without an outline "in the shape of leaves blown off a tree in an autumn windstorm." That's exactly the shape I'm trying to avoid at the moment--it's too much like what my house looks like, thanks very much--but the Middle Dread I'm feeling is the same.

I have a draft of Book 6, but I'm suddenly confronted with the fact that despite my careful outlining, there's a huge lopesideness about the story, which must be corrected. My first two corrective attempts were insufficient.

Last night, my 2 year old son crawled into my bed while I was asleep. Usually I wake up, but I was particularly tired and didn't.

 Not, that is, until a huge THUMP, as of something precious and expensive breaking, woke me up. I'm ashamed to say that my first fearful thought was that my laptop had (somehow) fallen off the bed. I hope that doesn't secretly reveal my priorities!

Because the second thought through my head was the fear that it was a child, and then a wail confirmed this.

 Lights on! Leap from the bed! Check the wailing child for life-threatening injuries!

 There were none, but now that I'd had more adrenaline shot into my system than coke in a junkie, it was impossible for me to get to sleep. Instead, I lay awake, fretting over my book.

This is exactly what writing the middle of a book is like, lying awake at night, fearing that you've forgotten something important which is going to roll off the bed and get hurt.


scott g.f.bailey said...

"This is exactly what writing the middle of a book is like, lying awake at night, fearing that you've forgotten something important which is going to roll off the bed and get hurt."

Too darned true! I'm going back through the first seven chapters, looking for subplots and characters I've already forgotten, and seeing if the primary story gets enough time. I also figured out yesterday how I'd rewrite the first chapter, because I've known for some time that it doesn't work the way it is. And all of this action on my part is, of course, entirely panic-driven. "This book sucks! Oh my god, how this book sucks! Why am I a novelist?" etc.

Tara Maya said...

LOL. Yes, exactly. I think I drove one of my Alpha readers crazy last week because as she was trying to give me feedback, I interrupted, "So you're saying the whole thing sucks?!"