- Guilt. We associate quitting with losing and we hate that. Even though we know it's not working and no amount of sub-plots or zombies will make it turn around, we don't want to admit that we've written ourselves into a hole.
- Others have succeeded, I should too. Others succeed because they work themselves out of that hole. What you haven't seen are their filled hard drives.
- If I only worked harder/spent more time/was smarter-prettier-more of a champ in the sack. This line of thought benefits no one. We all have the same amount of time and how you choose it may not depend on your wishes. Give yourself a break, tiger. Except in bed, do yourself and your partner a favor and learn a new trick or two. ;)
So, if you've found yourself in the saggy middle, what's the best way out of it or when is it time for the old heave-ho?
- When was the last time you laughed or cried while writing your story? After an emotionally depleting scene, it's easy to switch on the auto-pilot and fall back into the arms of your outline instead of moving the story forward. Find those soft spots, and give them more dimension. Give your characters more depth, more problems, more chances to be a hero or villain. If that means killing off a village of vampires, or putting the moves on a totally inappropriate brand new character -- do it. At least it'll get you out of your funk.
- I have a story that I love but I tucked away the hero in a storage locker and can't think of a way for the MC to break him out. Slick move, Graham. I've spent two years trying to figure out how to get him out without sounding like an idiot. Too late. It's time to move on. Who DOES that? Storage locker, sheesh.
- Grab a handful of index cards and write down the essence of your story chapter by chapter if you're truly stuck. Is there conflict or just long passages describing a sunset? Are your characters whining or becoming better people? Cut the bullshit and get to the reason they're there. By breaking it down, you'll see where you need to prop up or cut out some characters or scenes.
- Read. I know, time's a'wastin' but by reading either in or out of your genre, it gets your brain kickstarted again. You'll see another writer's turn of a phrase, roll the language around on your tongue, and remember that you have something to say.
Sometimes it's better to let a story die a natural death. Life happens. Stories don't get written. We learn from it and shake our moneymaker at the next great idea. Trust your instincts. If the story sucks -- it sucks. Learning when to quit is brave. Failure is another learning experience but what you do with your badge of loser honor is up to you. Keep going. Get to the next idea. And don't ever stick your hero in a storage locker.