If you’re a novelist, you probably know what I mean by the “30,000-word slump.” It’s that phase of the novel-writing process where the initial excitement has started to fade, and the reality of the long road ahead becomes daunting. Let’s talk about what contributes to this slump and how to navigate through it.
The Loss of Initial Excitement
Remember the thrill of those first few thousand words? Everything was fresh, your ideas were flowing, and your story seemed to write itself. But as you cross the 30,000-word mark, that new-story smell begins to fade. You’ve been living with your characters and plot for a while now, and what was once a thrilling adventure might start to feel like a routine job.
Plot and Pacing Challenges
By this stage, you’ve laid down the foundations of your plot and characters, but now comes the challenge of moving them through the middle of your story. This is often where pacing issues become a bit too clear. You might find yourself questioning if your story is moving too fast, too slow, or perhaps it’s not moving much at all. The middle of a novel can feel like a puzzle where the pieces don’t quite fit.
The Creeping In of Self-Doubt
Self-doubt – the constant companion of the writer. It often decides to make a grand entrance around the 30,000-word mark. Questions like, “Is my story good enough?” or “Will anyone actually want to read this?” start to surface. It’s like climbing a mountain, looking up, and realizing you’re only a third of the way to the peak.
The Realization of the Work Ahead
Writing a novel is no small feat. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and the 30,000-word mark is where you start to feel those miles. The end of your story is still not in sight, and the amount of work left to do can feel overwhelming.
So, How Do You Overcome the Slump?
- Reconnect: Try revisiting the core idea or concept that excited you about the story in the first place. Sometimes, reminding yourself of the “why” behind your story can reignite your passion.
- Break it down: Instead of looking at the daunting task of finishing the entire novel, break it down into smaller, manageable sections or chapters. Focus on writing one small piece at a time.
- Embrace the middle: The middle of your novel doesn’t have to be a desert to trudge through. Find ways to make it interesting for yourself. Introduce a new subplot, a twist, or a new character to spice things up.
- Just keep going: Establish a writing routine that works for you and stick to it. The routine can be a powerful tool to keep pushing forward, even when self-doubt tries to hold you back.
- Write badly: Give yourself permission to write a bad first draft. You will revise and improve it later.
I always hit this around 30,000 words in and last month was no exception. But there’s no way out but through: nobody will write your story except for you. So if you’ve got the blahs about your project DON’T stop. Keep writing and you’ll break through to something fun eventually. Or, at least it’ll be over 😉