Friday, October 12, 2012

How to Help Your Novel Through a Midlife Crisis {Without Buying it a Sports Car}

Is your novel suffering from a saggy plot? Flabby middle? Receding writing time?

Here are the warning signs which could indicate you (or your book!) is going through a midlife crisis:

#1: Unhappiness with the life or lifestyle (or plot) that may have provided them with happiness for many years (or pages).

#2: Boredom with people and things (or characters) that may have been of interest to them before.

#3: Feeling a need for adventure and change.

#4: Questioning the choices they (characters) have made and the validity of decisions they made years (or pages) before.

#5: Confusion about who they (your characters) are and where they are going.

#6: Anger at their spouse (or WIP) and blame for feeling tied down.

#7: Unable to make decisions about where they want to go with their life (or story).

#8: Doubt that they ever loved their spouse (WIP) and resentment over the marriage (time spent writing).

#9: A desire for a new and passionate, intimate relationship (with a new WIP).

Warning signs kifed quoted from no I'm not ready to go that far. No, my WIP and I have had enough separations over the years. Now we're in it for the long haul. We're going to make this work. I think we need a weekend away together.

Does any of this sound familiar?


Well, I'm pretty unhappy with my WIP's life right now. I'm bored with parts of the plot. I'm confused about my main character and don't feel like I know him as well as I should. I'm not angry at my WIP (yes, I'm aware this metaphor is really stretching now) but I do find my thoughts straying at times, thinking about other book ideas. It's so much easier than facing the glaring problems in my WIP.

I question my character's choices, going back and forth, wondering if they would do that or maybe this instead. I haven't reached the point where I don't love my manuscript anymore or resent the time put into it. Which is a good thing. Because I've put a lot of time into it.

*pause* Come to think of it, my husband might resent my manuscript....

Sometimes I do think about the time when I am done with this project, when I've finally figured out how to get it where I want it, all nice and shiny and ready to be submitted. And then I'll be able to work on the next book which keeps tugging at me, trying to lure me away. However, I am being faithful to my WIP. I will finish it. And then I'll abandon it, I mean...let it go out into the world (or my drawer) and move onto the next project.

So, what are some solutions to getting over a midlife crisis? Besides buying your WIP a red convertible? Or giving it liposuction? (wait. that might is getting rather wordy...)

5 Steps to Work Through Your Novel's Midlife Crisis:

Step #1: Think positive about your WIP! It sounds simple, but look at the good. Think about what originally drew you to this project. Go back to portions of your novel that you know you got right. Let yourself read them and smile. Or have you gotten positive feedback about certain chapters or scenes? Reread your critique group's comments. Celebrate your strengths!

Step #2: "Embrace change. Yes, it can be scary, but it can also serve as the catalyst that gets you unstuck."

 Isn't it better now to look at your WIP and realize it needs work than to keep blissfully typing away and be blind to the problems? Examine where you are bored. Look at what needs to be better and figure out how to do it. In the words of one of my favorite speakers and mentors of all time...

Pinned Image

So, let yourself go crazy. Brainstorm wild and wacky ideas to help you fix the problems in your WIP. 

Step #3: Ask for help. Talk to critique partners or your group. Find people who will be honest with you. Tell them you can take it (and put on your big girl panties) and see if they have any ideas on what is missing from your WIP. Stronger characters? More compelling plot? Better dialogue? 

Step #4: Be willing to let this take time. Face the fact that it might take awhile for you to resolve whatever issues you're having with your WIP. Don't rush to fix it. You might just end up replacing your problems with a whole new set of them. 

Step #5: Write. A lot. Don't avoid your laptop because it's too hard and you don't know how to fix your story. Sit down and make yourself face the problems. And if you don't know what to do, then work on a section you do know how to fix. Start with something small. Even if it's just fixing some weak dialogue. Eventually you'll feel up to tackling the bigger issues.

"Sometimes, you need to experience some discomfort to find the right solution."

If you see me driving around town in a shiny red convertible with puffy botox lips, please force me to get back to my writing.

But what about you? Are you struggling with your novel's plot or other issues? Is it going through a midlife crisis? Or have you already been through one? What solutions worked for you?

Quotes and ideas for fixing your midlife crisis came from  How to Stop a Male Midlife Crisis ...who knew you could get writing advice from a source like that? 


  1. Good tips. Thanks! I seem have more of a problem with beginnings and endings than middles, but I do go through those times where I get stuck and have to just bite the bullet and push on through and keep trying different things and have patience until I work it out.

  2. Erin, you are one clever gal. I think time apart can help the author/MS relationship, and so can something that's not advisable in a real-life relationship: have a fling! Start something new and exciting, even just for a little while! You'll come back to your true love with new ideas and a fresh outlook. :)

  3. This my girl, is extremely good writing, very very clever, I had to re-read it to my wife.
    Great job putting something that for writers is such a downer of a subject and turning it into a wonderfully funny piece.
    Thank you so much, it was just what I needed.

  4. Ha! That was well said and we've all been there. I like Dan Well's quote... or maybe it was Larry Correia. Either way, I think it fits in with your #2 fix: "If I get bored with my story, it's time to blow something up."

  5. Anthony - I love that quote by Dan Well. Thanks for such an awesome post - my WIP is flabby in the middle while new story ideas are begging me to abandon the story for them. I love you advice to write like crazy and also give your story time. Great post! I love your blog :)