Pep Talk Week 3: Friend or Foe?

Dan Wells helps you soldier on even when you feel like writing your book is a chore.

You made it to week three! Woot woot! You’re over the hump, and it’s all downhill from here, and ha ha ha ha I can’t even finish that sentence.

Real talk: this is where it sucks. Week three is the worst week of all, and I’m sorry. Don’t worry, though, we can get through this together.

Week one was about getting started, and everything was kind of new and intriguing. Week two was about finding your groove, and week four will about sprinting to the finish line. They’re all awesome, in their own way. Week three has nothing. Week three is about keeping your head down and getting the work done; it’s about pushing forward when all the novelty has disappeared, and the finish line is still too far away to see. There’s nothing sexy or easy or exciting. You’ll get to the end of the week and hate your entire book, along with maybe everything you’ve ever written.

Depressed now? Don’t be. Because here’s the good news: week three is my favorite one.

Week three is the work horse. It’s where the thing you started because it was fun turns into a thing you keep doing because it matters. It’s where the words you were writing because they were easy give way to the words you keep writing because they’re worth the effort. It’s where your investments start to pay off; where the threads you placed start coming together and the whole thing finally starts to look like “a story” instead of just “a bunch of stuff that happens.” The mid point is where, more often than not, your characters stop reacting to the plot and start acively driving it: they’re sick of this crap and it’s time to take matters into their own hands. Enough running from the Nazgul: let’s take this ring to Mordor and destroy it. Enough waiting around for Dumbledore: let’s break into the dungeon and protect the Sorcerer’s Stone ourselves. And the great thing about it is that we, as the authors, get to do the same thing. No more relying on the outline/the writing group/the inertia/the emails from random authors on the Internet. It’s time for you to pick up your sword and/or laptop and finally become the kind of hero your story needs.

Week three isn’t finished. It’s not the home stretch, and it’s not the polish, and it’s not a finished bicycle that you built yourself and can ride around on. It’s something better: it’s that beautiful moment where you’ve put together enough of the bike that the gears start to turn each other; you can push one part and another part spins, and you know in that moment that you’re not wasting your time. You really can do this, and it really can work, and it might not be done or pretty or even recognizable by doggonit but it WORKS. It’s a THING, and you made it YOURSELF, and it WORKS. And sure it’s going to need a lot of work before it’s done, but that’s okay because you can do it. You’ve gotten this far, haven’t you? Do you think that’s easy? Only amazing people can do what you just did, and that means you’re amazing, and the second half of the process is going to be…well, not easy. But doable. Reachable. Accomplishable. Those aren’t even real words, and they’re still true. That’s how amazing you are.

So write! Write until your fingers bleed and your eyes burn and your butt gets sore and your back curls into a permanent hunch. Write until you wish you’d never started this stupid book and no one’s going to want to read it anyway and why am I even doing this? Because you’re a hero, and that’s what heroes do, and even though you can’t see it yet, you’re going to win. You’re going to slay this dragon or save this world or solve this mystery or unite these lovers. You’re going to get to that home stretch and it’s going to be thrilling and you’re going to be victorious. And week three is the only thing that’s going to get you there. See? It’s not a monster. Week three is your best friend.

Let’s do this.

Dan Wells writes a little bit of everything, but he is best known for the Partials Sequence and the John Cleaver series, the first book of which is now a Major Motion Picture. He is a co-host of the educational podcast Writing Excuses, for which he won a Hugo and now helps run a yearly, week-long writing conference. In addition to novels, novellas, and shorts, he has also written and produced a stage play, called “A Night of Blacker Darkness,” and works as a staff writer on the TV show “Extinct.” He has lived in the US, Mexico, and Germany, and currently resides in Utah with his wife, six children, and 439 boardgames.

Twitter: @TheDanWells

Tumblr: @thedanwells

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