The dreaded middle

It’s finally here, and knowing that it would come doesn’t make it any easier. Three days before the beginning of NaNoWriMo, I’ve hit the dreaded middle of my novel. The point where I hate all my characters, I don’t know where this story is going, I don’t know how I¬†thought it was a good idea, and I don’t remember why I ever thought I could be a writer. Or that I had anything interesting to say. Incidentally, I still like Naheli’s Sacrifice, but I guess it has to be, then, the only great story I had in me. I’m guessing most writers know this feeling.

The good thing is, this isn’t my first novel, and this isn’t the first time I’ve hit this point in my writing. I was semi-prepared for it, and I have some strategies to pull myself out of it. My logical mind knows that this is a normal part of writing, that I’ve come through it before, and that it’s a matter of persistence and careful examination of the story now. Why did I come to a halt here? What problem is there that my Muse has spotted but I haven’t? Knowing that I’ve been here before, and that this is fixable, will stop me from giving up and throwing this story away.

What I’ve done so far is a read-through of my manuscript so far and a collection of all the story points that seem valuable and important to me. I’ve also found¬†that my main character has reached a point where her initial compelling need won’t carry her anymore, so I need to look at that and figure out how her needs have changed and what she wants right now. These are some starting points. Then of course there’s Holly Lisle’s brilliant writing course How To Think Sideways (I’ll never stop talking about that one), which contains a chapter exactly on this problem, so I’ll be going back to that and reading up on her advice. I know it’s helped me before.

The interesting thing is that a very clear split of Feeling and Thinking occurs here. The first half of a novel, for me, belongs mostly to the feeling part of my brain (although I’m such a structured person that probably a lot of thinking goes into it without me noticing), but this middle is thinking business. Most importantly, it’s now the thinking part’s task to convince the feeling part that we can do this. That it’s okay to stall, to falter, and that we’ll stand up again and see this novel through to the end. That it may take some time, but we’ll find the right path and we’ll turn this story into something we are happy with, even if it takes a long revision.

I kept a writing diary while I wrote Naheli’s Sacrifice, and it’s funny to read in retrospect. Having published Naheli and being so happy with the result, it’s easy to forget that it was a piece of work, too. I wasn’t by far happy all of my writing days. I messed up the ending horribly in the first draft. I had a story in shambles before I went into revision. And some days, I hated the story and Naheli and Thilkhan and their stupid island.

Then I revised it and I ended up loving it.

Keeping a diary like that makes it easier, coming to this point now with Darklight Rest. Once you have pushed your way through one, two, or several novels, you don’t encounter every problem for the first time. Of course there are always new ones, but some are familiar, and even if you don’t have the one-fits-all solution, it’s a comfort to know that you have fixed it before. I’ll fix it this time around, too.

NaNoWriMo starts in three days, and I’ll be ready to write on Tuesday. I don’t know how at the moment, but I will be writing. This part of a novel requires persistence, and that’s something I’m good at. So, off to diagnosing the problem.

Ever hit the middle of a novel and stalled out? Tell me about it!