Today is November 15th, which means there are nine days until Thanksgiving, and fifteen until the end of the month and Nanowrimo. Now, I might be going out on a limb here, but I’m willing to bet—based on experience—that some of you participating might be feeling a bit discouraged at this point. Maybe you started with full enthusiasm, rolled on for a week or so, and then…things started to slow down. You went from a run to a jog to a walk to, possibly, feeling like you want to sit down on the side of the road.
Believe me. I’ve been there. Which is why I am here to say don’t give up. Keep going.
If you didn’t know it before, you probably do now: writing is hard. (And if you’re one of those people who just glides to the computer every day, sits down and cocks your head to the side, cupping your ear to prompt the muse to begin singing, well, good for you. Also, I hate you. Just kidding. Not really.) Even harder is the middle of a novel, when you’ve blown through that initial rush and enthusiasm and find yourself still far from the ending. It’s like Margaret Atwood wrote in her story “Happy Endings”: “So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it’s the hardest to do anything with.” Right now, you’re probably saying, “Well, then I am no connoisseur. Because I HATE this.” (That is, if you’re even reading this, and not curled up under the desk, bingeing on chocolate and considering other career options. I’ve been there, too.) I remember when I was working on Just Listen, a book that was INCREDIBLY hard for me, and one of my friends made the mistake of asking how things were going. I said, “I feel like I’m underground, having to dig a tunnel to get myself out. And all I have is a tiny little spoon to hack away at the dirt with, day after day.” She probably would have looked at me like I was insane, but she’s a writer as well, so she just sighed, and nodded. We feel your pain, is what I’m saying.
Keep going. Even when you hate yourself, your book and everyone in it. Sit down, turn the computer on, pick up the pencil, whatever. Push forward. It will not be this hard the whole time. Right now, you’re at that part of the roller coaster ride where you’re climbing the big hill and everything gets still, and all you can hear is that tick-tick-tick, going up. But eventually you WILL reach the top, and see everything spread out before you, and then the pace picks up again. A lot of people don’t realize this, because they jump ship at just this point. I would love to see a statistic of how many manscripts are abandoned at around the 150 page mark, give or take a few thousand words. I bet it’s HUGE.
I was watching my friend and mentor, Lee Smith, on NC Bookwatch the other night, and she said something that really resonated with me. She was talking about how hard it is at the end of a novel, when you’re just tired and have lost all perspective, and how it’s difficult to really ever complete a book entirely. She said there’s a saying that most novels aren’t ever really finished as much as abandoned. The truth is, it’ll never be perfect, and eventually, when it’s done, you will have to let it go. But getting to that point is up to you.
Two years ago, I wrote an entry on this very day (creepy, right?) that covers this very same subject. When I wrote this, I was probably about seventy-five or a hundred pages into Just Listen, not in the spoon tunnel yet, but close. I had some dark days on that book, but in the end, it worked out better than I could have ever imagined. So do with that what you will. Still, if you want to procrastinate a little more this morning, you can check it out here.
Okay, enough cheerleading and commiseration. Gotta get to work.