I recently hit the halfway mark on my new novel Summer Wind. It’s a Detective Mike Malick spin-off book. For three Lexy Cooper novels and one short story Mike Malick has been the main crime-solver, voice of reason, and carrier of half the narrative burden. Guys think he’s cool. Several female readers have admitted to lustful thoughts about him. Hell, I’m half in love with him myself! He deserves his own book, right? His own trilogy even!
Here at the halfway point (word-count wise. Plot-wise I haven’t even breached the border of Act 2 where the good stuff happens), it’s become clear that it isn’t working. It’s not fun to write. I fucking hate this book.
Understand, this isn’t my first rodeo. If I ever get this bastard out the door it will be my seventh book. So WHY am I hating it? What’s wrong?
The biggest thing is that I don’t have the Lexy crutch to lean on. Did I know she’s fun to write and the words in her point of view come pretty naturally? Yes, I did. Do I rely on her as a release valve for all the bad urges I can’t act on anymore? Absolutely. What I didn’t know is that my detective, Mike Malick doesn’t work without her. Or doesn’t work as well. In the Lexy Cooper books he’s strong and silent. As a straight man to Lexy’s clown and a firm hand for her bad girl antics, he’s charming and necessary. Without her? He’s becoming kind of a stiff.
This is manifesting itself in different ways. The first being he’s fucking boring to write (and read, no doubt). The second is that he’s acting all “Uncle Mike” with his number one suspect. Because apparently he needs to play that role. Or I need him to. And Lexy IS in this story, but her role is very peripheral and nothing is written from her point of view.
Thus far I haven’t figured out to keep him a tough-guy with an air of mystery but let the reader into his head enough to make him interesting. I think about switching to first-person. Seems like a cop-out. No pun intended. Okay, how about throwing in some scenes written in Yi and Rogers points of view? These are fun to write and definitely are peppier than the Malick scenes. But they FEEL ‘thrown in’ and sort of artificial.
I hate this book. I just published a book about writing and my own section on “The Middle” says that at this point you are sick of your book and will most likely hate it and that you should take a week off to refill the creativity tank and refresh yourself for the second half. Only I can’t do that. Because with book number seven I’m on a tight schedule. I need to hand off this book to my editor by August 15. Which means I’ve got to produce a little more than 700 words each weekday. “Why don’t you push the publication date back?” You say, quite reasonably. Well, because I’ve got Griefed coming out in paperback in August and then the first Lexy Cooper collection (the first three novels plus short story in one tome) November 1 for the holidays. If I push it forward, it’s going to either get lost in the noise, or I’ll have to push it out until early 2015 and really I just want to be done with this so I can write Lexy #4. Lexy is emotionally exhausting to write, but I need her. I can’t quit her.
But back to this book. I’ve made some errors that I know I’ll have to go back and fix but I just keep plowing ahead, like word count is going to save me. Like I’ll arrive at 70,000 words and suddenly it won’t suck. As I stay trudging on this path, I get further away from the bits I need to fix. This is like realizing you took a wrong turn but staying the course thinking that somehow you’ll wind up where you need to go. This is not smart.
- Can I give up? No, I don’t think I can do that.
- Can I start over? Ugh. And throw away 35,000 words, many of which are good?
- Can I course-correct? I guess I can, but I feel like I’m drowning in this thing and the only way to reach safety is to keep swimming.
- Can I simplify the story and make it a novella? Cut the clutter, remove some red herrings, cut to the chase and wrap it up in 15 or 20 thousand more words? I suppose. I originally wanted this book to be an “in-between” like the holiday short story, but as my plot grew more complicated I decided it could only be a full-length novel.
I still believe in the plot. In the whodunit and why, but I’ve gotten bogged down in random nonsense that appears on my computer monitor. I need to stick to the program. Stop taking side trips. I need to get a little “Uncle Mike” on myself, I think. So the question is do I keep going until I get to the end and then fix it in Draft Two, or do I stop right now and do a suckectomy (toss what isn’t working and salvage what is)? Yesterday I wanted to save it. Today, I want to watch it burn. Is the book as bad as I think, or is this Halfway Madness? The only way to find out is a full read-through.