I did my neurotic writer-in-the-middle trick this weekend. No, not that one with the pens. Shh.
I saved my WIP, currently standing at 45K, which is close enough to the middle for me, as a new doc, then messed around until I found a font weird enough to look totally unfamiliar, changed the text color to electric blue and the background to black, blinked a few times, reminded myself I was not on an old-school gaming site, and then read everything I had.
It gets in the way of forward progress. I know this. It means I sit there scrolling, nitpicking, fixing grammar and spelling mistakes and formatting, and obsessing over synonyms. It makes Inner Editor very happy, which I know is not how Inner Editor should feel at midpoint. She ought to be weeping hysterically into a cold cup of tea and clawing at the bulletproof plexiglass wall between her and all those dangling modifiers and plot holes I can’t see just now, and which will make me cringe the whole way through revisions. I know all this.
And yet, that middle-of-the-book pause is good for me, I swear. I’ve done it during the past two novels, and I expect I’ll do it during the next twenty (and the way these ideas keep smacking me upside the head, the next twenty are a pretty sure thing right now). Because I hate-hate-hate the middle of the book, as I have said too many times: I hate the way I write, I hate my plot, I hate my schedule. I doubt every word I type, and I’m sure no scene I scrape out of the bottom of my subconscious is worthy of that pretty blank page. Even the stuff I feel good about, I doubt. The middle is crazytime for me. I have very little confidence in anything dead center of a book. I don’t know where the words are coming from. Even if I’m following my outline to the letter, which I often am not, I can’t tell where the hell I’m going. The Long Dark Night of the Novel. It sucks rocks.
So I stop. I alter the appearance of the WIP until it’s as close to unrecognizable as possible. I pin my eyes to page 1, and sip coffee and compulsively chew on pistachios and scroll, stopping occasionally to fix some embarrassing mistake. And damned if it doesn’t actually start out decently and get better the further I go. I’m not writing tripe after all. These scenes are connected to each other. There are themes in the subtext. There’s character development. There’s increasing tension. I sort of look like I almost (gasp!) know what I’m doing, as long as you pay no attention to that nail-biting freak behind the keyboard. It’s not perfect, and already I can see some of the weak points… but it doesn’t suck. It’s actually, you know, pretty okay for a first draft.
I forget this part every time. I am always surprised by it. I pause to get perspective on the story: I end up getting perspective on me. As weird little habits go, I guess it’s a good one.
So, for this Monday, lets hear it: what little habits get you though the middle/end/beginning of you book, wherever you hit the wall?