How many times have I re-written these b****y chapters? Too many to count.
I’ve been in a rut for a while now, stuck in the middle section of my novel, trying to bridge the gap between beginning and end. Middle sections are notoriously difficult. Many novels suffer from sag at this point. I can see why. In the opening section of the novel I have set the tone, established my characters and created a situation ripe with conflict (I hope). The problem now is how to progress from here to the point where, narratively speaking, the shit hits the fan. Things can’t all implode at once. Each action/decision/event must lead to another as my characters’ lives are upended and overturned. To draw upon cliché, the dominoes must tumble one by one.
The problem with creative writing and the reason why writing a novel takes so b****y long (to all those people who have given up asking me when I am ever going to finish) is the gap between what you are trying to achieve and what you actually manage to achieve. Every time I read over these middle chapters I realise that the order of events doesn’t quite make sense, or a character’s actions don’t ring true, or I’ve overlooked one narrative thread, or over-emphasised another, or simply haven’t got enough going on.
With factual writing the goal is quite simple: it is to make things clear. The more cohesively and concisely you convey the facts the better. With creative writing it’s different. You have to suggest and evoke; you have to realise ideas and reveal character through the force of dramatic action. The most important information lies just beneath the surface. That’s how you make it interesting to the reader. That’s how you engage their imagination.
I am sure, with practice, the experienced writer learns to achieve the desired effect in far less time and with far less effort and wastage. But for a ham-fisted novice like me, today’s solution is tomorrow’s re-draft. And meanwhile the weeks and months tick by.