I think this has been asked before but how do you make yourself continue writing something when you’ve started to hate it? You mentioned getting through Ruby Fire was difficult but you couldn’t extend your deadlines. If the idea of a looming deadline doesn’t work for a person as a reason to continue writing, what do you do?
Say it’s something your normally enjoy writing– someone who enjoys romance and space opera’s writing a romantic space opera and then suddenly in the middle of the story after 30k words have been put into it they can’t stand it anymore and can’t make themselves finish.
Do you have any advice?
Writers typically develop writing hatred for three reasons, sometimes simultaneously: they made a wrong turn in the narrative, they are exhausted, or they have a new idea that’s much more appealing and it’s eating their brain.
Writing comes from a place of play. If you are exhausted, if really draining stuff is happening in real life, writing might be harder. Same for the new idea. Sometimes you get a new idea and it just grabs you. This is what happened with Maggie. I had to put it down at 30K two years ago for business reasons and instead of cooling on it, once we decided to work on it, I was all in. Waiting made it worse, because it ate at my brain to an unhealthy degree.
We are going to set those two reasons aside, because the solutions here are clear: get some rest and if you’re not under contract, try that new idea. Maybe it will flow better.
Let’s tackle the wrong turn. A lot of writers get stuck at around 30K into the manuscript. It’s called the 30K slump and if you Google it, you will find a ton of articles dealing with various ways of getting past it. The most hilarious of these comes to us from the NaNoWriMo crowd and suggests to throw in some “dialogue to keep things moving.” Oh, if only it was that easy.
Why 30K? Because most novels clock between 90-100K and 30K happens to be 1/3 of the narrative.
By the way, not everyone has the 30K slumps. I know a writer who hates beginnings. Just hates them. She will rewrite them 7-8 times, hate it, hate it some more, rework it for months, and then take off like a rocket past the 20K mark and finish the rest of the book in the same time it took her to spin her wheels on the beginnings.
Back to the problem at hand: what is typically happening at the 30K point that’s giving people so much trouble?
Warning: if you are a reader only, you might not want to read past this, because as Grandma Frida once warned, nobody likes to see how the sausage is made. I have warned you.
Commercial fiction typically follows a structure. When a writer sits down to write, they follow this structure organically. This is very important. If you attempt to turn this into a checklist of things you must do, you will end up with a bigger writer block. Please do not view this as a mechanical, plug-the-right-legos-in type of process. Just learn it as one of the ways to structure your story, be aware of it, and it will come naturally as you write.
Let’s assume commercial fiction with romantic elements, space opera, a hetero couple, male and female points of view. Typical structure of the novel would go somewhat like this:
Establish heroine. Show her in her environment. Add sensawunda (sense of wonder.) Demonstrate competency. Throw a massive problem at the heroine with high stakes.
Establish hero. Show him in his environment. Add sensawunda. Demonstrate competency. Throw a massive problem at the hero with high stakes.
Heroine attempts to resolve the problem.
Hero attempts to resolve the problem.
They collide. Sparks fly.
Not every story will follow this structure. This is the most basic framework for a plot-driven SF/F story with romantic elements. Pure romance will have a different structure, for example.
Let’s take Fated Blades. It’s a shorter work, so the 30K slump will actually show up earlier than 30K, but it’s the closest thing we have to a space opera.
From the Synopsis:
…Now, deadly, disciplined, and solitary leaders Ramona Adler and Matias Baena must put aside their enmity and work together in secret to prevent sinister forces from exploiting universe-altering technology. Expecting to suffer through their uneasy alliance, Ramona and Matias instead discover that they understand each other as no one in their families can—and that their combined skills may eclipse the risks of their forbidden alliance.
As the two warriors risk their lives to save their families, they must decide whether to resist or embrace the passion simmering between them. For now, the dance between their families continues—but just one misstep could spell the end of them both.
Available in ebook on Amazon (in KU) and in print at other retailers, if you haven’t read it and want to pull it apart.
By the way, here is a little funny for you from the Kinsmen folder, in case you think I am an authority on this and decide to take me seriously.
First Scene: Matias Baena
Establish competency: Rituals brought order to the chaos of life. Order was something Matias Baena deeply cherished, and so every Monday, at precisely 7:00 a.m., he entered his office on the top floor of the twisted blade that was Baena Tower and spent the next three hours sorting through the issues that had accumulated during the weekend. He read everything, organized it in order of priority, and formulated an action plan. At precisely 10:00 a.m., the small team of his top people entered his office to offer their insights and receive their marching orders.
Small problem: “Yes?” Matias asked. “Ramona Adler is here.”
Sensawunda: The Baena building borrowed its shape from the unfurling seco blade that gave the secare their name. It began as a wave, a low curve of plastisteel wrapped in panes of dark solar glass, dipped, then suddenly surged upward to the height of seventy meters, expanding into a hard vertical plane. A not-so-subtle warning. The glass brightened as it climbed, and here, at the very top of the building, the panels were a deep, vivid red. The tinted light flooded the hallways through the translucent ceiling. Normally, he found it soothing, but today the air above the black floor seemed drenched in blood.
The Baena family was guarded by state-of-the-art security. Matias oversaw it personally, and he hired only the best. All his guards were seasoned veterans with combat implants and skills honed by training and battle. They were well armed and ready. And if he felt like it, he could kill everyone in the building in minutes. It would be a massacre. They would know that he was coming, and all their experience and weapons would do them no good.
If he could do it, so could Ramona. The secare were killing machines, and the six generations separating them from a long-forgotten war had done nothing to change that. If she snapped, he would be the only barrier between her and the slaughter of his people.
More sensawunda: The wall opposite the entrance was curved red glass, presenting a distant panorama of New Delphi. Between him and the glass wall stood a large oval table, carved from a single massive chunk of Gibirus opal. The mineral inclusions within the stone reacted to light, fluorescing with shifting ripples of color—fiery red, glittering gold, and splashes of intense emerald—setting the table aglow from within. Ramona sat at the table, her back to the window, her face lit up by gem fire.
He wanted to keep looking at her.
He wondered how fast she was.
He wondered if he was faster.
“Your wife is having an affair with my husband,” Ramona said.
For a moment they shared a silence as he came to grips with Cassida licking the inside of Gabriel Adler’s mouth.
Ramona spoke first. “That brings me to my second question. Have you experienced any security or data breaches in the last few weeks?”
You can analyze Ramona’s section the same way.
Now we have two choices: one, they can either try to tackle things on their own and keep coming into contact like Rogan and Nevada in Burn For Me or they can decide to work together right away, forced by circumstances. Fated Blades gets us to the work together point pretty fast.
Fated Blades happens to be 181 pages long in Word, and 1/3 will hit around page 60. (Thank you to Rachel for the correct math catch. Much appreciated!) So what happens on page 60?
She said it lightly, almost as an afterthought, and if he said no, she would walk away from him right there. The Davenports were competitors, that was true, and if they were eliminated, both of their families would gladly pounce on their orphaned territory and resources. But that was kinsmen business. All of them grew up under the same sky in the same province, they enjoyed the same food, carried on the same traditions, and laughed at the same jokes. Friend or enemy, they were part of Dahlia. The Vandals were outsiders.
Some things just weren’t done.
“I already forwarded everything we’ve learned to Haider,” he said. “I’ll call him when we’re on our way.”
She let out a quiet breath and opened the door for him.
They are off to solve their problem, and both of them finally decide to start trusting each other and work as a team. With the Davenports out of the way, they now zero in on the real villain.
Burn For Me is 392 pages, which means 1/3 hits around page 130.
Rogan and Nevada meet and he tries to convince her to work together.
Check this out:
Only Bad Options by Jennifer Estep: Kyrion, sexy antihero, and Vesper, lowly lab rat heroine; total of 31 chapters; Chapter 10 is the 1/3 point.
…I tightened my grip on the blaster and faced the docking doors. Of course, the doors were on my side of the ship. If the doors had been in the cargo bay where Kyrion was, then I could have gone through with my original plan to suck all the oxygen out of that part of the ship and suffocate him, along with the mercenaries.
Kyrion leaned against a counter, holding his helmet in his hand, completely calm and relaxed. “Last chance,” he called out. “I could kill them all in less than a minute.” He was actually trying to blackmail me into freeing him, just so he could turn around and kill me himself. Arrogant jackass.Estep, Jennifer. Only Bad Options: A Galactic Bonds book (pp. 136-137). Kindle Edition
They meet and must work together.
To reiterate, this is a natural progression of the narrative for a lot of writers.
Do you see how the first 1/3 of the narrative sets the stage? If you have followed the natural structure and are hating it at this point, one of two things is happening: the couple has no chemistry or the plot fell apart.
Look at your leads and make sure you actually like both of them. You must want to write more about either of them. Did you show enough competency and danger? Are they cool enough? Can they be cooler? Do you want them to be together? If they are together, are their abilities complimentary?
Look at your problem. Is it dire enough? How are they solving it? Is somebody going to die/come to financial ruin/lose their livelihood or war if they fail? Ratchet those stakes up.
I can’t help you with the couple, but when it comes to plot, if you are hitting a wall, try a 3 act structure. Three attempts to resolve the problem.
Big problem: attempt one, which leads to attempt two, which leads to a finale.
- Attempt One: Davenports
- Attempt Two: Senator Drewery
- Attempt Three: Varden
Make sure you have a loose plan in place here, so you can propel your couple through the plot. That’s your base, and then you wrap the romantic interactions around it like cotton candy on a stick. Send them to three places, or give them three enemies, or make them get three doohickies, and just roll with it.
To wrap up, rest, make sure you still love the idea, and if those two things don’t help, pull apart what you’ve written and make sure you’ve met the structural goals and your leads are all they can be. If all else fails, try a different idea. You shouldn’t keep writing things you hate unless you are contractually obligated to do so. It’s not good for your creativity.