I gotta say, The Writing Workshop Notebook by Alan Ziegler is the best craft book I’ve come across. I love the format which is literally notes and the pithy quotes. I read it all in one day and then started it again the next day. I wish they had it on audio.
In particular I loved this quote:
I’m gonna hang this poster at my desk, not just because I love the image of a helpless little girl about to be eaten by a monster, or because I have an unhealthy fixation on wolves and witches, but because Little Red Ridinghood ends with her defeating the beast that consumed her. Yes, she had to be saved the first time, but once she learned how to fight wolves, she was able to go on her way safely and merrily.
And that’s how it is with novels.
Most of the writers I’ve worked with have at one time or another been overwhelmed by the bigness of the task. Writing an entire novel, keeping it all organized and coherent seems overwhelming, and many people give up. In my experience, it happens when they are about three-fourths of the way done.
When they’ve been swallowed. By the doubt, or by poor planning, or by existential ennui, or by life. By the fact that the ending seems so far away and unapproachable. Or the beginning looks like such a mess and its impossible to wade through it and find something that will hook an audience and tie to the end and introduce the entire world and all the characters at once.
Every problem gets bigger and bigger and seems harder and harder to solve.
And that’s the time to take that step back, to permit yourself to leave that particular monster alone for a bit. Maybe beat the crap out of a short story. Or a novella. Or a poem, which I’m told are wicked little brutes on their own.
The most important thing is to come back to that fight when it’s fair again. When you’re prepared to tackle the material and wrestle it into submission. When you can look at it with fresh eyes. When being left alone has made the monster a little smaller and more willing to be tamed.
When I first read this, Ziegler’s quote just slapped me silly. I’ve been periodically fighting with and backing off from my thesis novel since I started writing it in 2015. And since I’m the type who feels guilty writing another project, like I’m cheating on my novel, I’ve been frantic every time I’ve taken a break to work on something else. I’ve worried it will make Finding Lost Sound disjointed or that I’ll lose the characters because I’ve left them alone. But when I look back, I think about how renewed I was coming back to Finding Lost Sound. Everything falls a little more into place after each absence. I’m beginning to think I was drowning under the sheer mass of my epic fantasy sci-fi romance and the novellas I’ve been releasing through Evernight were the little sips of air that have let me swim with the thing as long as I have.