Friday, September 23, 2016

I Love You . . . But You're Boring

A popular post from January 2010

By Julie Wright

It's a song, I Love You But You're Boring by The Beautiful South. Sometimes it's more than a song. Sometimes, it's your manuscript. Worse . . . sometimes it's mine.

So what happens when you wake up and realize you no longer love your manuscript? (well, I mean, you love it, but it's just so boring)

Do you try to figure out how to break up with it? Or do you muddle through and hope the relationship will improve with time?

I usually muddle through. Years ago, my grandma taught me that life is sweetest when you finish what you start. And by the time I get to the end and then go back through the book for edits, I can't seem to ever find that uninteresting, lacking-in-spark place where I'd fallen out of love. I know it was there, but much like a fight in real marriage, I can never seem to remember what it was about, or why it bothered me so much.

Other authors call this moment of disillusionment "The sagging middle." Usually this occurs when you've written out your original idea and come to a road block (or writer's block if it makes you feel more professional about your situation).

How do you get out of it?

-Move the plot forward.
So often we get caught up in writing the story, that we forget to write the story. If the scene you're writing isn't moving the plot forward in some way, or developing that character, you might not need that scene. And you might want to replace it with a scene that DOES move the plot forward and develops your characters.

-Build on conflicts.
Some authors get so panicked about the moment where they look at their manuscript and think, "Dude, that's boring." that they cut out the scene of conflict, assuming that it's the conflict that isn't working. But unless you're SURE the conflict is at fault, rather than cut it out, build on it. Make it stronger, deeper, scarier, richer. Put your characters in greater peril. Maybe put a traitor in their midst--something that will increase tension and conflict.

-Build your character
This ties into the other two but gets its own place on the list because this is important. You know how people are always saying garbage about trials and stress are character building? Well, don't punch them out just yet, because it's true. It's true in fiction too. By building the conflict and moving the plot forward, you force the character to act and react to the new situations. You force them to grow and make hard decisions. You build their character. People, even fictional people, with strong character are certainly NEVER boring.

So take my grandma's advice and finish what you start, even if that means muddling through something far removed from the honeymoon phase. It really is sweet to reach the finish line.


Kimberly Job said...

I'm at this point with my current manuscript. Thanks for the awesome suggestions.

Kimberly said...

Great advice Julie!

Nisa said...

Oh this was such a great post! I've been in the sagging middle and used some of those very things to move forward. Wonderful analogy too.

Travelin'Oma said...

Today I'm trying to remember why I fell in love with my topic in the first place. I know the love will come back, but I've been tempted to look outside my manuscript for a little excitement on the side. Your grandma's advice will keep me faithful.

I'm excited to discover your blog. I'm participating in the CBC and saw your name on the list.

Terresa said...

I feel like this post was meant for me today.

My first manuscript is definitely sagging. And I don't think just in the middle. It's a certifiable mess. One that I'm not sure how to wrangle. But I will, I will.

Thanks for the nudge.

L.T. Elliot said...

Are you reading my mind? Because I'm totally bored today. I need to step it up and...I don't know, kill someone. A character I mean. Yes...a character.

Susan said...

I guess it was everyone's day to have this problem because it was mine, too. And I kept plugging and now I'm feeling better. Thanks!

Susana Mai said...

@L.T. Elliot take out your frustration on your characters? Hehe, same here, buddy, bring on the body bags.

I've been hit by the sagging middle pretty badly lately, mostly because I'm overwhelmed by all the editing I need to do. Plenty of parts I like--ones I savor reading over and over--but they're overshadowed by the crapula. I've now sunken into the deep despair of "this is so cliche, nobody loves me, I will never be published, I am not worthy, crap crap crap."

It's not a pretty sight.

Heather B. Moore said...

Agreed! It's hard to keep the momentum going for weeks/months.

Laura said...

I thought the sagging middle was my not-genius-enough brain having warfare with the computer. Uhm, the thing is, I don't fall out of love, my brain just starts to numb. Kind of - I'm tired of writing- but then I can't stop thinking about the next thing that's going to happen and that's what keeps me going until my brain has time to catch up.

You're right about taking out lulls and adding more depth.

Alas, I haven't resorted to character murder....yet.