Often times, when we feel the divide between our personal experience and that of our creative works, it has to do with us reaching the Second Act of our story. This is the part of the story in which most authors die after suffering from long hours of attrition. If I was to reintroduce that analogy of writing being an uphill battle, then the second act would be were the bulk of the combat takes place in. It is here that the warriors whom fight for your imagination do battle and perish in the name of your cause. Coincidentally, it is here where countless battles are lost.
It can seem hopeless–in fact–it is hopeless to many people.
But before I can tell you how to fix the Schism that forms during the Second Act, we must first identify which core feature causes this portion of the novel to be so infamous in how it discourages people. Writers know that writing is just about one of the most infuriating hobbies that exist on the face of the planet, but what makes the Second Act stand out? Well, as it turns out, there is one glaring reason for this.
By this point in the book, all the magic has vanished. You’re no longer being introduced to these characters that you had yet to meet and it’s still too early for all those interesting things you had planned out for the Third Act to start occurring. You’re starting to see that the bulk of writing consist of build-up and it’s here that we begin to realize that making a novel is no different from a job.
The Schism begins to widen when we take note of this. Suddenly, typing words on a word processor is not nearly as fulfilling as you had thought it to be, and suddenly you find yourself loathing the sight of that blinking cursor in Microsoft Word. Where you had first seen a mystery, you know see a dreaded chore. And a lot of this is from what you would feel as being a lack of progress.
When all you’re doing is building up to future events, it can often feel like you’re doing nothing at all. There’s none of the excitement of your characters getting past that opening sequence, nor the satisfaction of writing that event you’ve been building up to. Everything is hollow all of a sudden. All those actions that our characters take are merely repetitions of things that they’ve already done in the past.
To you it might be like trudging through Limbo for generations, or perhaps just being stuck in a ceaseless cycle of work. But I’ve got good news for you all. The solution is a simple one.
Independent of whatever you feel is the case, your characters have been changing all along! You’ve just been blind to all of it happening!
I would encourage all of you to take a hard look at the current page of your manuscript in just this instant. No, I’m not asking you to just read through it the way you usually would, but to analyze it. Analyze how your characters are acting, how they are perceiving the world, and how they interact with the other people around them. Yes, yes, I know that you’re wrapped up with thinking that they haven’t changed in the slightest, but bear with me as I elaborate.
Take all of those mental notes of your character’s behavior in that latest page of yours, and allow them to sink into your mind. Mock your writing, mock your characters, mock the story, mock whatever it is that pleases you! But keep it in your mind for just a few more moments. Trust me, this is all building up tot something.
Now storing in your mind all of those tidbits of info, close that latest page of yours.
Scrounge through your documents in the PC, get to whatever folder is in possession of your novel. Then do yourself the favor of opening up that very first chapter you created. Can you keep up so far? I’m serious when I’m asking you to do all of this you know. Don’t worry, this post is separate from the space-time continuum, take as long as you wish
while you search for your first chapter.
I’ll just be here.
Very well. Now that you’ve opened your first chapter (I’m not kidding around, open it if you haven’t done so), sit down and browse through your prose. Read those first few moments in which you breathed life into those characters. Reminisce on how new that world felt to you when you had first entered. Drown yourself in that childish glee that had galvanized you into writing that book in the first place.
I can personally guarantee you that if you’ve already reached the Second Act and are deep into it, that something in your story has changed. It could be as concrete as a character or even as abstract as the tone in which you tell the tale. But I know for a fact that something has changed. Usually, multiple things change.
And the moment you lay eyes on these is the moment that you realize that all of those unrecognized hours spent laboring behind a monitor had a purpose. You’ll see that you’ve been making progress in one way or another all along. And that ounce of progress should be enough inspiration to renew hope in your novel.
The creation of a novel is as much of a life experience as is a summer of travel or a night of partying with friends. There will be countless bumps in the road, and countless ditches as well. There will be choices you might regret and people you might never see again. But one thing is certain. You will change as a person, and your novel will change with you.
As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Mending the Schism, my friends.