Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[process] Bulling through the bullshit

I’m at a point in drafting Calamity of So Long A Life (volume one of Sunspin) where the wordage I’m putting down feels rather like tedious natter. This is of course a normal phenomenon experienced by a great number of writers, often referred to as “the muddle in the middle”, though in my case this time it’s more like “the muddle at the 85% finished mark”.

One thing I’ve heard countless times in workshops, at retreats, and from aspiring writers in other settings is along the lines of, “I was writing this novel, but it just wasn’t working for me, then I had a better idea.” This is often accompanied by the statement that the writer has started six or seven (or whatever) novels, and finished none of them.

My response to that is that if you’d stuck with any of the ideas, you’ve already written enough word count to finish one, and possibly more than one. Consider this following concept carefully:

Finishing a novel is a necessary condition to selling that novel.

In other words, one of the most important writerly skills is learning to ignore that voice that sits in the back of your mental classroom, over by the glue pots, and drawls booooooring at you whilst you are pecking away at The Further Adventures of Spreadsheet Lad and the Balanced Books. It’s almost inevitable that at some point your magnum opus will feel boring to you. Heck, it might even be boring. But you don’t know. Not in the middle of writing it. How could you? You’re too close to the manuscript, and to the psychological processes of writing.

And if it turns out later that a portion of the manuscript is boring, then fix it on revision.

But don’t quit in the the middle because the novel isn’t working for you. Unfinished books don’t even have a chance to get read. And your inner voice is largely full of it in this context. Bull through the bullshit, finish the book, let it steep, and listen to your first readers.

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

Tags: books, calamity, process, sunspin, writing

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