Sunday, August 30, 2009

Combating the Chapter Four to Six Slump

The four to six slump is not the sagging middle – unless you count your sagging spirits. You’ve started your novel great guns and now you’re wondering if you’ll ever finish. Maybe you’re even muttering, “This is a dumb book. I should stop writing it now.”

After speaking to many other writers, I’ve discovered that this phenomenon happens to most authors between chapter four to six. It’s the place where many new writers quit. Right around there, the glow of discovery of a new idea starts to wear off a bit. The author starts to think, “What on earth am I doing? Will anyone even want to read this? This isn’t any good. I have no idea where to go from here.”

Are these familiar questions/statements? Are you nodding?

Let me assure you and answer the subconscious questions you might have.

1. What are you doing? You are writing a book. A story.
2. Will anyone want to read it? People will certainly want to read it, but for now, write the story for yourself.
3. What if it isn’t any good? It doesn’t matter if it’s any good right now. This is the first draft, often called the rough draft. It’s called rough for a reason. In the first draft, the point is to get out the story. It is not important to achieve writing perfection.
4. Where do I go from here? Keep writing, even if it’s a struggle, and you will discover where to go. Plot will happen, but only if you write.

It all seems so simple. Perhaps, I should end the article here. But how do you combat “The Slump?”

1. Knowledge. I have found that just knowing that the slump might occur about chapter four helps me to get through it. As they say, knowledge is power. If you know this is coming, you can expect it and work through it. For my first manuscripts, I struggled past this point, and I hope if the same happens to you, that you are like me and you refuse to give up.

2. Support. Surround yourself with other writers. It helps to know you’re not the only one experiencing this. Sometimes just surrounding yourself with similar creative energy will reignite the flame.

3. Plan. Some of you might cringe at this, but having some sort of an outline or plot will help to carry you through this point.

4. Guts it out. Chris Beaty says in his book, No Plot, No Problem, to just keep writing. The plot will happen. It’s true. Eventually, your characters will tire of twirling in circles and they’ll actually do something – usually something completely unexpected and then you will be off writing great guns again.

5. Give yourself permission to write badly. This is the most powerful defense you can enact. Merely, telling yourself you can write badly will get you going again. And keep you going. Write now, fix later.

6. If all else fails, give yourself a break. One day. One day only. Take time and explore other creative activities. Give yourself twenty-four hours and then after that get back to work.

Don’t let the four to six defeat you. Finishing your story will give you a sense of empowerment that you cannot replace. Once you have finished a novel, you will feel that you can do anything...including completing book two.

Happy writing – don’t give up!!!

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