I’ve mentioned several times over the past few months that I’m writing a YA novel as part of a collaboration. For my part, I’ve taken on the task of writing the first draft, which will then be joint-edited by my co-author and me. I’ve been writing into the draft nearly every day since early January, so for about 60 days, thereabouts. A few days ago, I cruised past the halfway point and entered into the third quarter of the novel.
For most stories, I find this stretch of the writing to be the hardest. If you’ve ever run a marathon or done anything that is endurance-based, the third quarter of your activity is generally the most grueling. Your fresh start has passed, and the milestone of the halfway point has slid behind you, yet the finish line still lies far in the distance, and your body and mind are tired and ready to stop. This is where the newness of the story idea has faded into the reality of what you’re putting on paper (or screen, as the case may be!), and the adrenaline high of the story’s climax is still many key scenes away.
This is where writers earn their money. At this point, it’s easy to abandon a project if you hit even the slightest adversity. I know because I’ve done it, more times than I’d like to admit. But I’ve also come to understand that if I cannot keep moving forward, I will never succeed as a writer. Whoever said, “writers must write,” didn’t phrase it properly, in my opinion. Sure, writers must write, but more accurately, writers must write to the finish.
Over the years, I’ve become a more mentally-strong author, and I’ve developed ways to handle what I have called the doldrums. I may not have hit the doldrums yet for my YA novel, but I know I’m getting close because I’ve started to dabble with short story starts. This means my attention has started to wander somewhat. It hasn’t gotten bad yet; I’ve managed to return nearly every day to the novel manuscript and set down a fresh 500-to-a-1000 words, which exceeds my daily writing goal. I’m sure this is for two primary reasons: I have an incredibly strong story outline assembled by my co-author, and I still believe in the story and its characters. If I can push through the next three weeks, I’ll be entering the home stretch, which I know will be easier. So, much like the marathon runner, it’s one word after the other, with each word bringing me closer to the finish.