You’re working on your novel. You’re writing away and the words are flowing great and then it hits you. The doubt.
You have no idea where you were going with this. The characters are all stupid. What made you think you could pull this off? You’re just so sick of this story. More than that, you’re sick of this whole writing process. Why should you give up another night to this boring book nobody’s going to ever want to read anyway? What was easy writing before is now like pulling teeth and the thought of walking away from the whole mess and catching up on TV for a week seems like a downright sensible thing to do. You’re just wasting your time with this thing anyway.
And stopping does feel like the logical thing to do when you hit that point. Beginnings are so much easier than the middle that as soon as you type your way towards the midpoint it’s so different from what you were doing a few scenes ago that you assume something must be wrong. Your ideas must be all bad. You must not be a good enough writer. Better to just stop now before you make an even bigger mess of things.
So you want to quit. But here’s the vital info you don’t have: Every writer in the history of ever feels this way when they hit this point in a story. Every. Single. One. No matter how many published books you have under your belt, everyone hits a point in their writing when they succumb to the triple headed beast that is doubt, despair and boredom and want to throw in the towel forever.
So what’s the difference between you and that name at the top of the bestseller list? The experienced writer knows this moment is coming and when they feel like quitting? They don’t. It really is as simple as that.
The fact is, once you push yourself past this dreaded point of existential doom and force yourself to keep writing against the pull of quitting, a magical thing will happen. You’ll emerge on the other side of the bog invigorated, your confidence in story and self restored, and it will be a straight shot to the end of your draft. It’s basic story structure working to your advantage as you drag yourself out of the complexities of the midpoint and race into the excitement and fun of the climax and finale of your book. While the novelty of both the process and your story carries you through the beginning, your characters racing to the conclusion will power you through to the end. And all you need to do to get there is push past the urge to quit in the middle and keep going.
Sounds easy enough, right? But it isn’t or there wouldn’t be so many writers out there with unfinished manuscripts. You’ve hit the do or die moment, the exact point in a draft when most writers abandon the project.
It’s all well and good for me to tell you to keep going when you want to quit when the very thing that pushes me through that moment is the knowledge that I have done it before. How are you supposed to motivate when you haven’t done it before? When it happens in the midst of the very first novel you’ve ever tried to write?
You’re going to just have to take a leap of faith. You’re going to have to keep hacking through this blasted jungle on nothing but hope that the clearing is ahead. You’re going to have to jump off that cliff and trust the creative parachute that has caught every writer before you to take you safely back to the ground. You’re going to have to dig deeper and ignore the twisted gargoyle weighing on your shoulder that keeps tell you to quit because the only way to get it to fly away is to keep writing and prove it wrong.
So as you write your novel, do yourself this one simple favor and it will make all the difference. When you hit that point in your writing when everything feels bleak and you want to quit? Don’t. Finish the book instead. It’s the only way.