Writing a book – fiction or non – takes dedication, commitment, time, and plenty of hard work. In essence, it’s a relationship and like any relationship, the love you bear for your book can flounder.
After wooing an idea into our heads and courting an outline, it’s time for the heart-pounding excitement and trepidation of that first writing date. Writers all go through the honeymoon phase where everything about their book feels fresh and exciting. We can’t get enough of it and want to write, write, write. Often we go to bed full of anticipation for the next writing session and our story line is the first thing we think of when we wake.
I’ve read several articles that say the honeymoon phase when writing a book lasts for about fifty pages. After that, the thrill is gone. Your brilliant opening lines are out of your head, your world has been established, the majority of your characters have probably been introduced. You’ve finished the beginning and heading into the realm called Middle of the Book.
This is the do or die moment. Many writers give up at this point – the creative spark not strong enough to keep the embers going. These writers are like the teenagers who fall madly in love for a summer. They may never speak again, they may wonder what each other is up to now and then, but their relationship is at an end.
Writers who are determined to be writers push through, their commitment to the book is more than just a passing, summertime (or NaNoWriMo) fancy. They will later be rewarded by reaching the wonders that await at The End of the Book.
For Those That See the Relationship Through
It’s hard to reach the land of The End – and I mean the Final Draft, Ready-To-Be-Published-The-End. And sometimes, even though the commitment is there, the relationship feels forced. As you sit down to the keyboard, you feel as if you’re just going through the motions to get the day’s goal done. What happened to how great you thought the book was? What happened to how much you loved the characters? What happened to waking up excited to get to your book?
You Fell Out of Love with Your Book
It’s okay. It happens. Not every relationship is perfect. But like any human relationship, it takes work if you want to stick with it. So what to do if you find yourself contemplating book divorce?
Take a break. Sometimes a little time away from a book can make it feel new again. How long is hard to say. Too long and you may never come back. Too short and you won’t have given yourself enough time to build up the longing. Try two to four weeks, then read one of the chapters you remember as being one of your favorites. If the chapter surprises you, makes you feel proud of your writing, makes you wonder how you could have ever left the book behind, you’re on your way to a reunion.
See other books. You may not be comfortable with going cold turkey on your book. That’s okay. But working on it less may not be a bad thing. A good way to do this is to start another book – preferably something completely different than your old book. The thrill of the process of starting a new book may rekindle some of the passion for your old book. Just try your best not to leave the old book for the new book or you’ll end up trapped in a mire of half-finished manuscripts.
Invite a third party into the relationship. This can be scary. You’re already feeling vulnerable about your book, but a bit of third party intervention may be just what you need. Try to select an average Joe or Jane who likes to read the genre you’re writing. Your goal is to see how the book appeals to someone in your audience. You may be surprised how attractive a book you were on the brink of breaking up with can truly be to another set of eyes.
Try something new. Human brains crave the excitement of new experiences. Something new could be related to your book such as a new character or new subplot. It could be related to your writing style – try writing a setting description, page of dialogue, action scene, or whatever in the style of an author you admire; or try your hand at some poetry, experimental prose, or just some random free-writing exercises.
Or find a completely new creative outlet – get out some pencils and draw, smash up some tiles (very therapeutic) and make a mosaic, rip up some writers’ magazines whose advice is bland and redundant and make a collage or papier mache. Stirring up your brain’s creative juices can wake up those neurons that have been filled with ennui and get you back in the saddle of your relationship with your book.
Sometimes You Reach A Different The End
It can be hard, but you have to be true to yourself and know when the relationship is over. That tired feeling you have toward your book could be a sign that the book just isn’t working.
If you’ve tried all of the above and you still don’t feel even a tiny itch of passion for your book, take a critical look at the work and ask why. There could be a major flaw that just needs ironed out, but if you truly feel the book’s characters can not be brought to life, if the plot is stale or too off-track to set to right, or the storyline just too overdone, it may be time to call an end to the relationship (it’s okay, we’ve all got one or two bad manuscripts sitting on the shelf).
Then again, you could just publish it – there’s plenty of awful books out there that have made millions!
Regardless of where your relationship ends up, just keep writing. Eventually you’ll find The One!
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TAMMIE PAINTER IS THE AUTHOR OF THE TRIALS OF HERCULES: BOOK ONE OF THE OSTERIA CHRONICLES AND AN ARTIST WHO DEDICATES HERSELF TO THE TEDIUM OF CREATING IMAGES WITH COLORED PENCILS.