Last Saturday, a friend of mine said he might take a break from the novel for a bit, because he wasn't sure quite where it was going, and he didn't like it very much at the moment. And I told him that meant he was most definitely Not Allowed to put the novel aside for a bit. Put a novel down when you don't like it very much, and you run the very real risk of never picking it up again. And the only way to be quite sure of where the novel is going is to actually write it, and see where it takes you. Plenty of time to assess whether it went in the right direction once you've gotten there.
(For those planning-type writers out there, that last snippet of advice is going to sound heinous and dreadful and like telling small children they should totally just run out into the middle of a busy road without looking first, everything will be fine, and for that matter strangers present no danger whatsoever and while we're at it, in the interests of making sure you fit in at school, have you considered smoking? I can only say I'M SORRY, but I don't plan my stories in advance. In fact, writing them in linear fashion is still kinda new to me, and something I'm struggling with, and if I could come up with a substitute analogy for you pre-planning types I would. Honest.)
Anyrate, the point of all the above is this: I have totally spent the past two weeks avoiding my novel. Because I'm not sure quite where it's going. And I don't like it very much at the moment.
I've had all sorts of reasonable and legitimate excuses. Edits on a short story needed to be done.1 Then when those edits were done, there was no point picking up the novel again because edits on Pledged should be landing on my desk soonish, and if I picked up the novel again I'd only have to put it down again. So I picked up a short story instead, because I don't have any finished short stories to submit and perhaps I could work on that. Only I've just hit a point in the short story wherein I'm not sure quite where it's going, and I don't like it very much at the moment AND ARE YOU SENSING A PATTERN, PEOPLE?
Because I sure as heck am. And, quite frankly, I don't like it very much.
The thing is, the middle of a story is always hell. (I have even heard the pre-planning types opine this, although presumably for different reasons.) This is partly why it's not-very-affectionately known as the muddle, among other names.2 And every single time I attempt a story, without fail, I have to learn this lesson about the muddle anew. Every single time I have to remind myself that it's not okay to put the thing down, the key is to get past this section, however I can. Slog through the words until I find a way out; leave a note "And then something genius happens!" and skip ahead; consume some stimulant of choice and stay up all night; try whatever trick has worked in the past and even a few that haven't, because every story is different, but whatever you do: just. keep. going.
So. Time to figure out a trick that will work for the novel.
- Okay, that one actually is quite reasonable and legitimate, but in the interests of full disclosure I'm including it. Because it was the excuse I jumped on to start this whole avoidance caper rolling, after all. [↩]
- My novels always earn themselves appellations like THAT EFFING CAR-CRASH OF A NARRATIVE around this time. For full impact it must be delivered through tight lips and with narrowed eyes and followed by the phrase WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT IT ANY MORE. Which is promptly followed by brooding silence and then, just when my friends have tentatively moved on to another subject, interrupting them with an angst-ridden yawp and the desperate plea MAKE IT WORK WHY IS IT BROKEN PUT IT BACK TOGETHER FOR ME! [↩]