The Short Story Ego-Boost: How to Get Through the Mid-Novel Slump

Writing an entire book can be just a little bit stressful, difficult, and even agonizing.  I know it may come as a surprise, but writing novels is challenging.

Here are the ten biggest reasons why:

  1. First there’s the whole major plotting thing.
  2. But it’s not just a plot.  You have to add plot twists on top of it all.
  3. Books also have a lot of characters.
  4. And those characters all need names and faces.
  5. It’s like they think they’re real people.
  6. They kind of are real people, actually, which is why they seem so fond of having names and faces and personalities and wardrobes and relationships… We are slaves to our characters.
  7. Books also have chapters.
  8. Each chapter has pages.
  9. Each page has words.
  10. And the words have to make sense

So by the time you’re done, you’re supposed to have a plot, twists, characters, a bunch of chapters, hundreds of pages, thousands of words, and sense.

Writing a book is hard.

When my muse goes missing, I figure she's probably gone on a trip into Tir Na Nog (the Otherworld). And she never invites me. I am bitter.

One of the hardest parts about writing a book that I’ve found is that midway point where you’ve passed the exciting “I have an awesome idea that will one day be a bestselling novel!” stage where every morning you wake to the joyful sound of your muse singing harmonious anthems of plot ideas in your ear.

You have not yet reached the final phase of writing, where the end is in sight and your muse gets one last surge of adrenaline and you both stagger exuberantly over the finish line and type the glorious word Finis amidst confetti and a hallelujah choir (at least, I think that’s what happens.  I have to finish a book first to find out…)

The middle is a very unhappy place.  It’s about halfway through the book that your muse decides the usual coffee break you allow her should be lengthened into a month long vacation in faerie-land and no, you’re not invited.  It’s also about halfway through that you begin to sneak glances at all the previous chapters and start spotting errors that need editing.  So, instead of moving forward and writing new things, you begin looking back at the stuff you’ve already written.  Hey, your cunning subconscious suggests, editing is important. The more you edit, the better your first half of the book will be.  If the first half is epic, who really needs a second half

Muses are like ninja bunnies: cunning, bad-tempered, and very fond of disappearing when you least expect them to

It’s also about halfway through that you usually get a sudden idea for a new, better book that’s really going to be the bestselling novel and really needs to get written immediately. It would be absolutely criminal to neglect such a marvelous idea. Morally objectionable, in fact.  So you nobly sally forth to do your duty and write the New Book.

And so, the sorry First Book sits in half-finished glory, your muse vacations in some unknown locale, and you are left searching vainly for some new inspiration and motivation to finish the First Book. Eventually.  Maybe?

This is why I have the tragic remains of many an unfinished novel lying in various folders on my desktop.  I’ve finally landed on a book idea that seems to have some promise of going somewhere and I’m firmly sticking to it.  But I’m now in that dangerous Middle Stage, so it’s tough going.  Sometimes, I need something to boost my morale in the writing sphere.  I need something small and easy to accomplish.

I need a short story.

Short stories are bite sized.  They have fewer characters (generally), fewer plot details and twists (most likely), and far fewer pages (always!!!).  A short story will not send your muse off to Avalon or your sanity into the stratosphere (well… okay, probably not).

And then I remember that my muse actually is a bunny... a dark, terrible bunny who wishes to enslave the world and subdue all to her fluffy will. Yep, that's my muse.

Writing a short story is a very character-building experience – no horrific pun intended — for someone like me because it forces me to think through an entire plot in a short amount of time.  It demands concise, well-constructed writing and just the right balance of world-building, plot, and character development. I don’t often succeed at it, but it’s a good exercise, nonetheless.

So, for my next few posts, I’m going to play a short story game.  I want to challenge myself and try to do some fun writing aside from… well… the book that will be finished come autumn.  Really.  It will.

So, here’s the game that I hope a few of you will help me with:

I want you, my readers, to pick three random nouns: one that has to do with something fantastical (a creature, place, or object) and two that are entirely mundane and present in the room in which you are sitting.

I will choose three from all of the suggestions with which to write my story.  No guarantees on how good it will be.  You’ll have to wait and see next week.