When Doubt Arrives, Right on Schedule



I’m at that point in the book. It’s one of two moments of intense doubt that show up for me in writing a novel–every single novel.

The first moment happens at around twenty-four thousand words. That’s about a quarter of the way in, when the basics of the story are all on the page exposed to the light of day. I’m just getting familiar with them as a collection of actions, characters, settings. But they’re a lot less shiny than when I first envisioned them. They don’t have that ahhhhh new idea smell.

I’m getting used to handling them and trying to figure out if they actually go together. Everything feels awkward. So I naturally begin to question the entire concept of the novel. OMG–who will want to read this anyway? 

The twenty-four thousand word point is a good place to jump off, if I need to. I haven’t dumped entire projects at that point, but I have walked away from them for months at a time. Some people would call it resistance. I tell myself that I don’t know the idea well enough to have confidence that it will hang in there for the duration. (That might be b.s. See: resistance.)

But with this particular novel, I wrote an extensive outline–and it was good. So I knew it would work. I just had to let the story flow. What did I do? I walked away from it for most of the summer anyway. Fortunately, it was all still there when I returned, even though I’ve gone through a ridiculous number of changes in point of view. More than for any other book to date. But around thirty thousand words in I settled into a familiar close third person. (Meaning the reader has access to the most intimate emotions of the main character, but can still know things that she doesn’t have access to. Very occasionally I deliberately slip into the head of another character–but only in very specific circumstances. What are they? Not telling!)

Over the fall and into the holidays, I wrote another thirty-some thousand words, and racked up over thirty thousand in January. Now I only have about two thousand words to go to reach the magic hundred thousand word mark, and seven thousand before I reach my goal of one hundred and five thousand. (My last novel, The Abandoned Heart was about 114K, and came in at 401 pages.)

Seven thousand words is awfully damn close. I was joking with a friend two thousand words ago that I could finish in ten hours. But obviously I wasn’t prepared to sit down and knock it out over the following ten hours. She very wisely said, “So if you had a forty-hour per week job and went in to work and said that you had ten hours of work to do, but you didn’t really know when you would get it done, you know what they’d say: You’re fired.”

Ouch. But so true. I have to finish. I have no reason not to finish. But those same voices that taunted me at the quarter point are back. This is a critical time because there are clues in the story that are finally coming together, details I didn’t know before. There are a couple big things that presented themselves, but they freaked me out. OMG–nobody is ever going to believe this!

There are other pitfalls to finishing. Eventually, someone else will be reading the manuscript. No one has seen any part of this book except the outline. It will be judged. Or, it could be that there aren’t almost a hundred thousand words tentatively titled The Intruder on my computers. Maybe I’m having a Jack Torrance experience, and am secretly worried I’ll be found out.

I will finish. I must finish. But habits die hard. With each book, I tell myself I will break through these hiccup moments. Or maybe they’re more like speed bumps than hiccups, just slowing me down.

You know where I’ll be the next few days. Right here. Finishing.

P.S. I might have spent as much time creating the above cat meme as I did writing today. Maybe. 😊

February 2  Words

Journal:  425 words

Long fiction: 570 words

Short fiction: 0

Non-fiction: 0 words

Blogging: 672 words

Exercise: 25 minutes, yoga

4 thoughts on “When Doubt Arrives, Right on Schedule”

  1. Julia Kirmse says:

    You so rock!

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      LOL–Thanks, Julia!

  2. skyecaitlin says:

    You are almost there! You should be hugging yourself, too! BTW, it sounds great.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      Thanks, Skye. So close–self-hugs only when I’m done. 😊

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