Sometimes the words just flow, right? And then there are the other times.
The stops and starts. The rough going. The flabby, ugly, dark middle of the process, where you’ve spent all the energy and excitement of beginning but haven’t yet arrived at the stage where you know there’s something really valuable and wonderful, not quite done yet, but you can see how you get there from where you are.
The middle can be so painful and it can last for a really, really long time.
I’ve been in the middle of my WIP for a while, and it’s been… let’s say tough. The main issue is that this book has required far, far more research than my other work, and while I strongly prefer to research and then write and then research again, I’ve had to move forward with writing this book while I’m still researching, and that introduces all sorts of challenges into a process that’s already, at least in my case, pretty challenging.
But I feel like I’ve turned a corner at last, and the breakthrough came from a place I wouldn’t have expected: the non-novel writing that I do. It’s particularly hard to make time for when I’m under a tight deadline for my fiction, but in this case, thank goodness I did. I was reading about lit-to-screen adaptations for a list I pulled together for the Chicago Review of Books, and in reading critics’ thoughts on various adaptations, the question that came up over and over was this: Why?
Why did Greta Gerwig feel compelled to adapt Little Women when that ground has been trod and trod and trod? Why did Edward Norton make the choices he made in his long-time-coming version of Motherless Brooklyn? Was there really a good reason for HBO to make an extremely expensive, hours-long version of His Dark Materials? And it got me thinking.
How long had it been since I’d simply asked myself Why?