I’m Not In; I’m Out

For a while now, I’ve struggled whenever I get to the middle of this book I’m working on. I do well at the start; I do well at the end; I just seem to get lost in the middle. I thought it might be me, or maybe the story. Then, when I needed it most, I read Neil Gaiman’s pep talk for the 2007 NaNoWriMo Authors, reprinted (with his permission, of course) in the QWC’s monthly magazine. 

It was as if Neil had read my mind.

He described my feelings about my book with frightening precision in sentences like this: “You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began – a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read – it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.” 

And then, with the words that followed – “Welcome to the club” – relief just welled up inside me. “Oh!” I thought. “Even published authors feel like this. I’m not an incompetent freak after all; I’m just a writer.” 

Only a short time before this, Kim Wilkins had said something similar on her blog. She talked about the two states of being while writing: inside the story and outside the story. She said: “Outside is not much fun. You chip at it, feel dislocated, distracted. But you must keep writing, because that’s the only way to get inside. Once you’re inside the story, everything flows, the world goes away.” 

I’m not inside my story right now. That feeling of dislocation – of being disconnected – is so strong that I see my mid-story plot now as fuzzy cloud of possibilities with only the most tenuous links to what it should be. I find myself wondering where to start, what to do to get out of this mess. Both Neil and Kim say the same thing; write. One word at a time, one sentence, one paragraph, one page.  

There’s no other way.   


Pep Talk from Neil Gaiman: http://www.nanowrimo.org/node/1065561

The Frantic Writer (Kim Wilkins’s Blog) – ‘The eleventh one’: http://kimwilkins.blogspot.com/2008/01/eleventh-one.html  

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