It’s a common enough experience. That point when you are half-way through the novel, after the first flush of enthusiasm begins to fade, the feeling that the story is going nowhere and all you’ve written is a load of second-rate rubbish.
Never have I experienced it with such a vengeance as with the novel I’m currently writing. I had to abandon ‘Blood, Lace, Chocolate and Chips’ way back in the autumn when I needed to concentrate on getting the previous novel ready for publication. Then came a holiday followed by a major op.
I had visions of having four to six weeks of pure writing time when I came out of hospital as there was to be no Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates, line dancing, Zumba or housework. It was not to be.
What I had not anticipated was that my brain would turn to mush. My six brain cells were not only incapable of standing in a straight line; I could get them to face the front! For five weeks all I could manage was watching undemanding TV. I couldn’t even muster the concentration necessary to read more than a chapter at a time.
As if that were not bad enough, things went further downhill when I eventually returned to the novel. Reading the first couple of chapters, I decided they were rubbish and gave up in despair. The next day, I retrieved the manuscript from the dustbin and rewrote the first chapter. Reading the remaining chaps, I decide perhaps it wasn’t so bad after all BUT I still had no idea where to go before final chaps when all would be revealed. I appreciate that the received wisdom is that you make a detailed plan before you start writing but that’s not for me. I tried that once and was bored halfway through Chapter 2 and gave up. The joy of writing is never knowing where you’re going to end up.
You can only feel sorry for yourself for so long. Eventually, I pulled myself together and I’ve spent the last five weeks writing feverishly whilst the creative juices have been flowing to the exclusion of all else.
There’s still a great deal of work to do. It’s turned out to be by far the most complex book I’ve written in terms of finding myself in areas I know very little about. The amount of research has been phenomenal and I’m not sure if some things are credible let alone correct. (Exactly what powers do MI5 have, especially in a foreign country etc?) Politics, big business, quangos and sub-committees are not my forte, but there you go. Montgomery-Jones has a lot to answer for! My anti-terrorist officer was only meant to be a minor character in the first novel but, not only did he demand a bigger part, he insisted on coming back in all the rest.
So if you are experiencing the mid-novel blues, kick the dog, shout at the kids, smash all the plates or take to the bottle if you must. But remember it’s an essential phase and it will pass. It forces us to take stock, establish the essential ingredients and you’ll end up with a better novel because of it.