Slog Syndrome: Writing the Middle Part of Your Book

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Writing the beginning of a book is like jumping into a new romance. Everything is fresh and interesting and delicious. The road before you stretches into so many possibilities. Your days are filled with that heady rush of magic, that springtime-of-the-soul sensibility.

All you want to do is sit and stare into the eyes of your book for hours on end.

And then you hit that weird point somewhere around Chapter 5.

Suddenly, you feel committed. You start to consider what could go wrong. You start to notice issues that really will need some work in the long run. The way you feel about your book is shifting and you feel like you’re on unstable ground.

The good news is that this is perfectly normal.

Whenever we commit to anything, whether it’s writing a book, launching a business, or pursuing a relationship, the decision to commit necessarily narrows our options. This is not a bad thing. It’s more of a “one-door-closes-and-another-one-opens” type of thing. We actually do this all of the time. It’s just that sometimes we get stuck on it if it involves something in which we are deeply invested.

For instance, when you choose to attend a certain school, you are closing the door on many other schools. Or, when you choose to eat lunch at one restaurant, you are closing the door on the other restaurants vying for your business in the same area. We make decisions every single day that cut possibilities from our life.

But when this same decision-making process involves our book, writers tend to get triggered by it on a number of different levels.

It’s very similar to how many people get triggered when committing to a romantic relationship.

In both cases, commitment narrows our focus so that we can examine our efforts honestly and take personal responsibility. Is the plot of our book not working? Why isn’t it working? Are we having trouble with clear communication? What might we be doing to block others from understanding what we’re trying to say?

Untangling the webs and knots of our emotional lives and our creative projects are one and the same thing. It’s just not that much fun. And in both cases we usually discover things about ourselves of which we’re not terribly proud. Like, some of us have serious problems with procrastination. Or we’re paralyzed by a fear of failure. Or we’re so terrified of rejection that we hide behind a superiority complex.

We’re all just human and none of us are perfect. But even if you think you already know that, when you hit the middle of your book and start the uphill slog to get through it, your writing process will be brutally honest in showing you exactly where your shortcomings are.

At that point you’ve got two options. You can take it as an opportunity to quit and go find something else to do. Or you can take it as an opportunity to grow as an artist and a human being.

If you want to grow through it, the first step is to realize that just because the way you feel about writing your book has changed doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing it. It just means that you’ve hit the slog of writing the middle part of your book and things have gotten real now. If you feel that uncomfortable tension that comes with moving out of your comfort zone, then you are exactly where you need to be.

The second step is get with the mentality of a worker bee and keep slogging. Even if it’s uncomfortable, or you find yourself sitting at your writing desk gritting your teeth and sweating blood to write those important scenes that you know have to be written. You’ve just got to push through. It doesn’t matter if you’re only pushing through an inch a day, as long as you’re still pushing.

The only cure for slog syndrome is to slog through it. None of us like it. I’ve talked to more writers than I can count who have asked me, “But why couldn’t I just have chosen to write an easy story?”

And the answer to that is because I don’t believe there is a writer in this whole wide world who is looking for easy.

If you enjoyed this article you might want to check out:

The Dark Side of Being a Writer

Write Like Hell

Why You Finishing Your Novel Is Exactly What the World Needs

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10 Comments

  • Reply Janis 4 June, 2014 at 9:42 am

    What I really like about this is that you identify the problem, and you provide the solution, just keep slogging. Such comforting solid advice when you get feeling down and stuck!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 4 June, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks Janis! And I just visited your blog. Congratulations on getting the first proof copy of your book! That is truly awesome news 🙂

  • Reply Lori Robinson 4 June, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Ok, I must admit that in the past few weeks I have been procrastinating writing my book. Instead I have focused all my energy on my blog, AfricaInside.org. But after reading your post I realize with my book I have hit the slog. YUK. It sounds awful and feels worse, but thanks for reminding me it’s just different.

  • Reply RAM 4 June, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Just the kick in the a** I needed… thanks!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 4 June, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      You are so very welcome 🙂 Now get to writin’!

  • Reply Glynis Jolly 5 June, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Yes, I’ve hit that place where each step feels like I’m wearing men’s work boots that are way too big for me. I guess this is where I put the meat of the story, which, in some places get tedious. At the same time though, I’m as excited as ever because I’m past all of the introductions of characters — most of them anyway.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 5 June, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Oh yes, I am WELL acquainted with those men’s work boots that are way too big. I might have the same pair 😉

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 5 June, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I guess I was lucky coming to writing after years as a sculptor and experimental psychologist. I remember in my first full novel hitting the slog patch and thinking, hey, it’s no different from making a sculpture or designing and carrying out a study. They are all project work, which is why I love them. All have phases: creative, engineering, labour, finishing, presentation, peer review. Each phase has up and down-sides, but they ALL come to an end. Then you get to start all over again.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 5 June, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      What a great breakdown: “Creative, Engineering, Labour, Finishing, Presentation and Peer Review.” For me the “slog” comes about when I hit engineering and labour, and finishing too, to be honest. I’m going to start looking at it as a phase though, instead of a slog. It sounds way more positive.

      • Reply hilarycustancegreen 6 June, 2014 at 3:17 pm

        Those are my sticky patches too. I am finally (self) publishing the one that I have been editing for a couple of years now and although I am daunted by the marketing business ahead, I can feel my creative juices loosening up already on the novel I started in January.

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