I tried to pay close attention to the "how" of my writing during the last WIP I drafted. I even jotted the occasional note so I would remember where I stalled, and my thoughts on why I may have stalled.
Here's what I found:
I usually have a lot of enthusiasm when I start a project. I'm busy
researching, fleshing out the characters, considering plot points,
developing the setting. I'm printing out maps, and photographs, and
research info to paste into the WIP notebook. I always keep a notebook
chock full of the Stuff of the book, including my jottings, my ideas, my
snippets. That's the first month, what I call the Kickoff Month.
My enthusiasm wanes in the middle of a project. This is the Sagging
Middle people talk about, and it's not just for the book but I think it
happens for the author, too. That's usually Month Two of a project.
Here's an Interesting Point I discovered:
This is where craft comes into play. You have to learn the craft in
order to write, and it's when creativity is waning the craft comes into
play. This is where I relied on my knowledge of how to craft a good
scene to tide me over until the creativity reared its head again. I made
sure each scene had GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict). I made sure each
chapter moved the character and the plot forward. I allowed the
characters some freedom to shift the plot, but I kept a close rein on
Month three is where the creativity picks up again. I once again hear
those character voices in my head. This is where I go back and start to
add in tidbits to the Sagging Middle. I tweak and I fix and I shift
things around until it no longer sags. And I have enough momentum by
this time to gallop to the finish line with little effort. This is what I
think of as the Finale Month because it's when everything wraps up. I
am NEVER sorry to see a project end. I think this ebb & flow of
creativity helps keep everything fresh.
Once I finish a book, I go through it once for consistency checks (did
her eyes stay green for the whole book?) and go through it again for
what I think of as Manual Labor: checking for overused words (I have my
list next to my computer), making sure the plot hangs together, making
sure my motivations were firm for each character and especially the bad
Then I let it sit while I start considering my next project. This may be
editing an older book, it may be starting a new one, it may be edits
from my editor. I let it sit for at least 3 or 4 months. Then I read it
again and I'm always surprised that, wow, I wrote this and it's not so
bad. It could use some tweaks, but overall -- it's good.
Then it's off to my critique partner and ... well, you know the rest. More edits, more sitting, more edits, then done.
I never realized how I go through distinct phases during the
construction of a WIP. Now that I know it's there, I'm going to keep a
closer eye on it, so when I get to that Sagging Middle I can remind
It's just a phase. Persevere. The Finale isn't far away!