What if you’re halfway through your novel and it just doesn’t feel convincing? Do you scrub the project? Keep wallowing on through the muck? How do you know what’s right?
Annick posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
I’ve had a story theme that I’ve wanted to write as a novel for 4-5 years. My first breakthrough was discovering your Snowflake method, which really helped me to get started, define where I wanted to go, and how I was going to get there (eternally grateful)…
The trouble is, now I’m half way through my second draft, and I believe that the last half of my story isn’t convincing. I know where I want to end, and I believe that I’ve told a good story to about half way along the road, but I’m really not sure that the last few miles are ones I can write as well about as the first.
Any ideas? Should I work on different endings to see if I get a breakthrough? Should I carry on regardless and edit like a devil once I’ve got some meat on the bone? Does it mean that my main characters are flawed in some way I can’t determine? Is the first part of my story misdirected in some way?
The snowflake seems to have melted…
Randy sez: First of all, congratulations on getting through the first draft! That’s a major milestone in writing a novel. I’m delighted to hear that my pesky Snowflake method played a role in your getting there. I hear from writers all the time who’ve found it helpful, and that makes me incredibly happy.
Be aware that many, many, many novelists reach the same point you’re at, midway through editing the second draft, and suddenly get hit with a bad case of the “crappies.” As in, “Uh-oh, my novel is crappy and my story is worthless and I have no talent and probably my best career choice will be sweeping streets with a toothbrush.”
I suspect the solution to your problem is pretty simple. Let me lay it out for you in three stages:
- Finish this second draft you’re on. Sure, you feel a little wobbly about it right now. That’s common. It might possibly even be normal. If you’ve ever run a race over a mile distance (or 1600 meters), the third lap can be pretty rough, and that’s about where you are right now in your race to finish this book.
- Get a second opinion from somebody you trust. Maybe a skilled writer in your critique group who has shown herself trustworthy in the past. Maybe a good freelance editor. But you need somebody to read the whole manuscript and give you an objective viewpoint. (“Objective” here means “somebody who isn’t you.”) You may need to pay something for this, but very good friends often do it for free.
- Read that opinion, and then read through the whole manuscript as fast as you can, making a few quick notes on what you see, now that your eyes have been opened by a second opinion.
Once you’ve done all of the above (yes, it’s a lot of work, but professional writers work really hard), make the decision. Do you go on with the project? Do you walk away from it?
Either decision can be valid. If the story is fundamentally flawed and can’t be fixed, then walk away. If you’ve just lost all taste for the story and you can’t stomach working on it for one more second, then walk away. But if you see renewed hope for a way to make the story work, well then.
It might take you a month or two to get there, but when you do, email me privately on my Contact page to let me know how it turned out. I’ll be interested to hear what you learned and which way you decided to go.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.