Publish date:

7 Things I Learned Mid-Book

I should have been barreling along in my nonfiction book, Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation, in strict obedience to my schedule for the deadline in the contract’s pdf stone. But I could only slouch at my desk and stare beyond the screen, with little groans escaping from my throat. I pecked a phrase, deleted it, pecked another, almost retched. My malady: mid-book slog.

As each day passed and I tried not to notice the date, I was 24 hours closer to noncompletion, which meant begging for an extension (but I was supposed to be a professional!). With cold hands, I realized my word couldn’t be counted on.

(Attending a writers' conference soon? Learn how to prepare.)

Trust Your Life
Image placeholder title

Column by Noelle Sterne, author, editor, academician, writing coach,
mentor, and spiritual counselor. Sterne has published over 300 pieces
in print and online venues. A spiritually-oriented chapter appears in
Transform Your Life (Transformation Services, 2014). A story appears in
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel (2014), and another
will appear in a Tiny Buddha collection (HarperOne, 2015). 
Her handbook
for graduate students helps them overcome largely ignored
but equally
important nonacademic difficulties in their writing: Challenges in Writing
Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual
(Rowman & Littlefield Education, September 2015). In Noelle’s book
Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books,
she draws examples from her academic consulting and other
aspects of life to help
readers release regrets, relabel their past, and
reach their lifelong yearnings. For more
about both books and Noelle's
work, see her

Mortified, I took radical steps: got up earlier, worked later, and finally started producing. In this grueling process, I learned many things. Here are seven.

1. Every fifteen minutes counts. Keep going. Flat and stupid as the words seem, keep going.

2. You’ll never use all the notes, articles, scraps of ideas, and brilliant phrases you’ve collected. Of every morsel I’d dutifully collected that I thought was so perfect, I used about a quarter. Unable to bear discarding them, I refiled them. You never know.

3. Time not working is still working. Sometimes between bites of tuna-lunch, I rushed to the keyboard to get down the word that escaped me all morning, or a related idea that suddenly popped in.

4. Ask your mind/muse/alter ego/God/Inner Idiot for answers. You’ll get them. “I need an example.” Whoa—a great one arrives in an email. “What else can I say to flesh out this section?” Whoa—another great thought surfaces.

(Hate writing queries? Find agents through contests, referrals, critiques and conferences.)

5. Ignore everything else when you’re on your writing schedule. It’s all too distracting. So what if the laundry piles higher than Machu Pichu, the garbage reeks and neighbors in the hall look accusingly in your direction, the mail piles up, your hair is greasy? You’ve gotten another page written.

6. When it’s time to edit, steel yourself. Oh God, it’s horrid! I didn’t fulfill my query and proposal promises! What am I going to do? No time!

Take a deep breath and start excising.

7. After a few pages, you’re shocked to see your writing is tighter and less adjectivally-dripping. Lean mean clean. Repeat as needed.

Finally, remember: This is what you want to do, this is what you clawed, clung to, and persisted at through everything until you could do it. As stagnant and uphill as you feel mid-book, nothing matches the fullness of sitting and writing.

You know you’re doing important work. Nothing means as much. Nothing fulfills your day, and life, as much. So, recognize these seven remedies for mid-book slog and, like me, you’ll finally finish—even on time.


Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

Image placeholder title

Are you a subscriber to Writer's Digest magazine
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.39.23 PM

Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more 
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying, 
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you'll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

From Script

Writing Empowered Superhero’s in CWs Supergirl and Understanding Animation From the Trenches (From Script)

In this week’s round-up In this week’s round up brought to us by Script Magazine, story editor Katiedid “Did” Langrock speaks with Reckless Creatives podcast. Plus, one-on-one interview with CWs Supergirl actress turned scribe Azie Tesfai about her groundbreaking episode and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: The Characterless Character

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: The Characterless Character

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is writing a characterless character.

When Is My Novel Ready to Read: 7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers

When Is My Novel Ready to Read: 7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers

Fiction editor and author Kris Spisak ties together her seven processes for self-editing novels, including editorial road-mapping, character differentiation analysis, reverse editing, and more.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Unold Crwca: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn unold crwca, a Welsh quatrain form.

5 Things for Writers to Keep in Mind When Writing About Spies

5 Things for Writers to Keep in Mind When Writing About Spies

A spy thriller requires more than a compelling story and clever plot twists—the characters need to feel real. Author Stephanie Marie Thornton offers 5 tips for constructing believable spy characters.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Team Up

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Team Up

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's time for a little unexpected team work.

Taylor Anderson: On Creating Realism in the Weird

Taylor Anderson: On Creating Realism in the Weird

New York Times bestselling author Taylor Anderson discusses the process of writing his new science fiction novel, Purgatory's Shore.

6 Books Perfect for Fall Reading

6 Books Perfect for Fall Reading

Whether you're looking for something cozy or a little spooky, these books are perfect for the fall season.

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

When it comes to a 30 day writing challenge like NaNoWriMo, do you need to prep beforehand to achieve success? Well, that might depend on what kind of writer you are.