This week, I went full-on into writing a YA mystery novel. I’d been thinking about writing a mystery novel for a long time – had even started two over the past few years. But then, I’d get to the middle – I HATE MIDDLES – and think I was terrible at it and quit. This time, though, I’m going to persevere. I’m going to remember that I hate middles, that I’m always pretty sure I should stop working with words altogether and just open a cucumber booth at the local farmers market, and then, I’m going to keep going.
That “keep going” part. It’s the hard one. I see a lot of writers miss out on that one, and it’s probably why that is the continual and frequent advice of the talented Shawn Smucker – “Keep going!” he told me in a note. “Keep going!” he says on Twitter. Keep going!
The Pleasure of Starting
The potential of a thing is alluring. It sings with promise. We imagine paying our mortgage on the royalties. We picture talking with Oprah on her patio. We think of being invited to the Met Gala and having the burden of trying to pick which designer outfit to wear.
When we begin a new writing project – a blog, a book, a pitch for an article – or when we start a new process for marketing that thing – ads, podcast tours, newsletter swaps – we have a lot of energy toward that process because we know the potential there. We have the freshness of new to bolster our imaginations and undergird our hopes. Starting is invigorating because it is a place of hope.
The Drudge of Persevering
But in the middle, when you’re 9 chapters in and feel like you write like a third-grader who has never read a book, or when your blog is only picking up one subscriber every two weeks, or when your ads are barely breaking even, it’s so, so, so tempting to quit. To drop this thing and pick up another new thing because the middle is where all the hard work comes. It’s the one word after another. It’s the continuing to ask people to subscribe. It’s the tweaking those keywords one more time. It’s, in short, pretty boring.
Friends, it’s necessary though. It’s absolutely crucial. No successful – in whatever way you define success – writer has ever reached that success with something half-finished. No publisher picks up a great fantasy novel that stops at chapter 12. No blog takes off with only 9 posts. No ads work on the first try (Okay, maybe some lucky jerk has that happen, but it doesn’t for most of us.)
The reward only comes with the finishing.
The Sweet, Sweet Feeling of Finished
On Sunday night, I sent my next book – a middle grade magical realism novel – to beta readers. (I’m trying out a rapid release process to see if I can get my book sales engine going – I almost quit that, too, for the record.) And when I went to sleep that night, I slept hard. I had finished something – something that was immensely hard for me to finish for any number of reasons – but I did finish, and it was AMAZING.
I’ve now complete 10 book manuscripts over the course of my writing career. . . and each book was hard-won. Every time I wanted to give up in the middle. I wanted to just plant the hayfield on the farm in cucumbers and see if I could make a go of it. But as I come to that completion point, oh, the sensation of having finished something I believed in – it’s such a good feeling. I feel faithful to the way I was built. I feel confident that I can do hard things. I feel loyal to the characters and ideas I’ve shared, and I feel hopeful, all over again, that this book will be meaningful to the people who read it.
So friends, start new things. Try out BookBub ads. Jump into writing a new book genre. Launch that new website. Try new things. . . but also persevere with them long enough to get past the middle where it feels bleak and boring. You may need to give that thing up eventually, but don’t do it too soon. Stay with it long enough to give it a chance to live. It’ll be worth it.
If you have any interest in following along on my journey as a write magical realism books for young readers or mystery novels for teens, I’d love to have you join us. Just use the buttons below to become a part of my FB groups.