The One Thing You Cannot Do
When You Hit The Dip With Your Novel
Do This Instead
I’ve written (plus finished and published) over 120 novels, and this is a pattern I’ve detected.
Around the one third mark, usually not long after you get into the second act, you’ll be convinced the story is garbage and you should scrap the novel and start again. It’s not just me who experiences this flattening of spirit and loss of faith in the current project, either.
In my own novels, when I reach that point, it’s because all the hard slog of setting up situations and characters is over. The pressure of producing a compelling opening is done. But I still don’t really know the characters that well, and there’s an awful lot of story ahead of me that I have to prop up on this mess of a manuscript I’ve got so far….
I always feel like the book sucks like a vacuum, at this point.
Seth Godin immortalized the phenomenon in his book, The Dip, which described this common low point in creative projects. Only, he suggested that it is at this point you can assess and decide if it is worth leaning in and continuing, or if you should quit.
For novelists, quitting at this point is absolutely the last thing you should do.
Do NOT quit while you’re in the Dip.
No, not even though Seth Godin gives you permission to exit.
Why? Because you are utterly unable to judge the quality of your book. Not right now. If you’re a typical author, not even when you’re finished the book will you be able to objectively judge its worth.
And when you’re in the Dip, your doubt about the quality of the story will range from a silent voice in the back of your mind, to a violent urge to get drunk and burn the manuscript.
You’re Allowed To Quit Past the Mid-Point – although even then is too early
This is a mind hack.
When you’re in the Dip and wanting to chuck the whole thing in, tell yourself that when you reach the mid-point of the story, you are permitted to quit then, but not before.
It’s a mind hack, because there’s a good chance that by the time you reach the mid-point of the story, you’ll be fully immersed in the story and the characters, rolling along at your best speed, and have no intention of quitting.
I’m betting you won’t quit.
It’s vital you push on.
Even if you reach the mid-point and the voice in the back of your head still nags about quitting, push on anyway.
Franz Kafka hated his own work so much, he asked a friend to burn all his unpublished pieces.
Kameron Hurley has to find ways to keep writing at all.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loathed his Sherlock Holmes stories so much he killed off Holmes and refused to write another for seven years (known as the Great Hiatus), until he was forced by public demand to bring the Consulting Detective back to life.
So it’s possible that even when you’ve finished the novel, you’ll still think it stinks. There’s a good chance you’ll be 180 degrees wrong.
Is there ever any reason to stop writing your novel?
You Can Quit Because of Non-Story Reasons
While publishing 120 novels, I’ve put aside two incomplete stories, both with more than 20,000 words written.
Both were abandoned because they were in sub-genres that sales and research told me were not worth pursuing anymore. Or perhaps I read the market wrong. To quote William Goldman, “nobody knows anything” about publishing.
If your reasons for quitting have nothing to do with the quality of the story itself, they might be good reasons to quit…maybe. But are you sure?
Best finish and ship your story, just to be safe. Let the readers decide.