I’m not a quitter.
Okay, ignore that telemarketing job I walked out on after less than a day. I couldn’t take the rejection.
Don’t consider my brief one-week stint flipping burgers at a bowling alley. I didn’t much care for the mess.
Fine. The one time I flat-out quit something, I was in the fourth grade.
An asthmatic kid who barely weighed 50 pounds, I walked out onto a soccer field not knowing the difference between a forward and a fullback. Like a deer caught on the city streets, I scrambled back and forth. I turned towards my coach on the sidelines in a desperate plea for help. The soccer ball came out of nowhere – at great speed and force – and hit me flat on the side of my face.
My nose bled.
The whistle blew.
Oddly enough, my recent novel-writing experiences mirrored my fear of rejection, my discomfort with a mess, and my day on the field.
I jumped back and forth between the first five chapters. I tried desperately to find my footing in the story and plow through to the end. At work, the story unfolded clearly in my mind. When I got home and opened the file, the plot faded, the chapters looked disjointed. I considered my options: walk away and let the novel gather dust on my hard drive, or suck it up and trust that the struggle yields a lesson.
One place I found solace was on The Sharp Angle, in Lydia’s recent post, The Benefits of Writing Short Fiction:
A good way to improve your skills as a novelist is to write short fiction.
Most of my writing experience is rooted in short fiction; I can write a lucid beginning, middle and end for a concentrated word count. So, I wondered how to translate those skills (in which I feel more confident) to novel writing (in which I fall back into the nightmare of a fourth grade misfit in the middle of a soccer field). Lydia responded to my question in her comments and helped me figure out the crux of my problem: the “ominous middle” of the novel, as she called it.
The middle of my novel resembled a custard pie that didn’t quite gel. Some semblance of structure existed, but most of the story oozed all over the place. No wonder I never ventured past chapter five. And, because of my fear, chapter five almost ate me alive.
But Lydia’s post, her comments, and her suggestion reinvigorated me.
I am armed and ready.
Nothing’s coming between me and my laptop, at least not during the hours of 1 and 3pm (aka. nap time for child #2). I’m balancing some novel work with short story edits and trusting that, with persistence, the pieces will fall together.
If’ you’re fighting with your novel and are dizzy from the glare of too much red ink on that rewrite draft, here are some links to re-energizing tips:
- From Julie Bush: Story, Write Back to Front
- Darcy Pattison (at Fiction Notes), Revise: Remember the 4 Sources of Conflict
- Larry Brook (on Storyfix.com), Story Structure Series
- Janice Hardy (from The Other Side of the Story), Re-write Wednesday: Oh, That’s Subtle
And, of course The Sharp Angle, where the conversations on short fiction continue.
What resources do you rely on to to carry you through the muddy rewrites of a novel?