Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crawling over The Hump

I figured I would just jump into blogging over here with the issue that I've been dealing with lately.  As a writer, no matter how many novels you have written--whether it is your first or your eighteenth--you are going to have humps.  Some of them are smaller humps, little details that need to be sorted out, a stubborn character (my life is full of stubborn characters), stuff like that.

But I'm talking today about The Hump, which deserves the capital letters.  Trust me.

I think Jim Hines over at his blog on LiveJournal came up with an awesome chart that describes this very well. It's The Stages of Book Love and I have it printed out and taped to my computer desk, so I can look at it and remind myself that all of these stages are very normal.

The Hump takes place right around 25,000 words.  Sometimes a little before that, sometimes a little after that, but in the books I've written, inevitably I find myself bemoaning the fact that everything sucks.  My book sucks, the characters are doing things that suck, the story sucks, and why on earth would anyone possibly want to ever read it?  What is the point of finishing it?  How can I possibly type out even one more sentence?

Then I take a look at the word count.  19,000 words. 22,000 words.  Ohhh, I tell myself, I'm at THIS part.

Here, I have a choice.  I could fall flat on my face and give up on my novel.  Or I can pack on my climbing gear and slowly drag myself up The Hump, which in my mind resembles a really high mountain that you stare at and wonder how you're expected to get over it.  Is it easy?  Noooo.  No.  It's not easy.  It is painful at times.  I write things that make me cringe.  Sometimes, I go back and do some rewriting and editing to assure myself I'm on the right path.  Everyone writes differently--some people plunge onward and save all revising until the first draft is complete.  Some people have to stop and tweak, and tweak some more, and be completely satisfied with the first parts before they can move onward.  I do both.  It really depends on the book.

And some books come easier than others.  Last year, I wrote an entire novel in the month of November, for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and that story flew out of me.  The editing took several months, but the actual writing was probably the easiest that any novel has ever come.  With my current novel, on the other hand, it was like pulling teeth to get the first 45,000 words out.  It took so long for the characters to all "click" into place and finally feel like real people, and when that happened, I was so relieved.

In the end, I have to ask myself if I believe in the characters.  I may think everything is awful right now, but when I started this book, why did I start it? Because I loved something about the characters.  Because they had a story to tell and they wouldn't leave me alone until I started writing them.  Then I remind myself that after I get over The Hump, things will move along more than I could have imagined.  I will be flying down the other side.  My characters will suddenly be all over the place, keeping me awake in the middle of the night and demanding to be written now and not at a reasonable hour.  I will be entering that state where I zone out and stare into nothing as scenes drop into my head.  My husband will remind me that I still need to eat. It will be wonderful. 

And eventually, I will arrive at the end of the story--perhaps encountering more humps, but none so bad as that first major mountain.  My first draft will be messy, incoherent at places, in desperate need of my loving friends and family to attack it with red ink, but it will be finished.

My current novel has three individual parts.  I conquered The Hump in part 1, and didn't realize I would face another in part 2 until I reached it this week.  I've been busy pulling at my hair and thinking "everything sucks!" but when I checked my word count and saw that I'm at 23,000 words in this section, it all made sense.  Of course, this tells me I will likely reach another Hump in part 3, but I will conquer that one, too.  Because at the end of the day, I love my characters too much to let them go, so I will crawl up and over this thing until I'm on the other side.  One keystroke at a time.


  1. Now you have a blog! ;)

    OH THE HUMP! I've been on it since MAY. I feel your pain. Hopefully, soon I will be settled down and back to your regularly scheduled cheerleader/pace car soon!

  2. The Hump is always rough. You're always looking at the word count, questioning yourself and what you've written, and no amount of coffee can make things right.

    That's the point where you just have to keep writing and pushing on. Good luck on getting through over The Hump! (And, woot for writing blog!)

  3. My "hump" point has been at 75,000 words... I have two novels, both simmering on the back burner at about the 75K mark... the funny thing is, I know where they are both going, just not how to bridge "where I am" with "where I'm going"...

    I participated in NaNoWriMo last year as well (got the first 50K words of my 2nd novel done at that time, no prob)... I'm hoping this year to pick up where I've stopped and just write write write every day again, and break through the hump...

    Thanks for the encouragement! Glad I was pointed to your blog. I look forward to your future ruminations.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!