Friday, 8 May 2009

Coffee Break - The 70% Slump

Good morning! A Twinings variety pack (such good value) of teas on the table, the kettle behind you and a coffee brewing. The weather is sunny but with a very cold wind so I've abandoned meeting in the garden but there are still a variety of cold drinks available.

I've noticed on several of the blogs that people are mentioning the 70% slump, where you have a good proportion of the book written but then lose the oomph for completing it. I have to admit that my current WIP is on 95K with 10K to go and it's become a slog.

Why do you think this happens? Is it because you don't want to finish? You've become bored with it? Some other reason? Are you putting it off by looking to the next story?

How do you get over the slump? Do you have a slump at all?

32 comments:

Leatherdykeuk said...

I plough on, just slower.

Debs said...

I'll have an Earl Grey, if I may.

I think my slump could be because I'm desperate to get working on the next WIP. Too many ideas, not enough time to work on them all.

I think the answer is to simply keep going until something is finished. Saying that, I never seem to be finished, and just keep editing ad infinitum.

Lucy Diamond said...

I'm one of the slumpers (had reached the 75% mark and was plagued by 'It's all shite' feelings), but reading Cally's recent post on Neil Gaiman suffering similiarly really gave me a boost (cheers, Cally!). Yesterday I pushed on through past the 80% mark and feel like I'm heading out of the slump and straight on to the home stretch...

Leatherdykeuk said...

Debs - thanks; that's pretty much what happens to me.

Lucy - I read Cally too (and Neil during the Nano pep) hence this post. I have to force myself to write the novel (though other projects don't suffer)

Kate said...

I must admit my slump comes much earlier - somewhere around the 30% mark when the initial excitement and impetus has passed and all I can think is, oh lordy, I have at least another 70,000 words of this to write and despite my hope that THIS idea would be the one that emerges like a butterfly from the chrysalis, it is instead the ugliest of caterpillars.

At 70 I am usually grimly resigned to finishing and then taking the whole thing apart again at edit stage. Though I can see the reason for the 70% slump. Maybe I am just more of a pessimist and the doubts hit earlier?

I have to say, though, that having written 8 novels now (not trying to sound like granny teaching egg-sucking), you DO get there in the end and you simply have to find the ways of tricking/cajoling yourself past the potholes. Everything can and will be fixed at edit stage.

(which is where I am now, having had my edit deadline pushed back following intervention from my Vietnamese mugger...)

Leatherdykeuk said...

So sorry about your mugging, Kate. Thanks for the encouragement - this is my eighth novel, too, though most of the others are consigned to The Drawer That Will Not Open.

L-Plate Author said...

Ha, I like that 'The Drawer That Will Not Open.' I have one in there now too. It did try to get out once or twice but it's been locked away for good now.

I tend to get my doubts just before I get to halfway. I find 45-50k extremely hard to get past but once I get past 50% I seem to think that as there's less to do...

I usually write the last 30% extremely fast. It's extremely messy, full of holes but I am rushing to get to the end, probably to get it over and done with. Then I can get going with the ahem, editing of the garbage.

I know I have been quiet on the blog and coffee mornings as I am still struggling with this illness of mine (whenever the good old NHS find out what is wrong with me), but I have finished the first draft of book two. It stands at 97k, I'm aiming for 110k after editing. Thank god for rewriting! x

Lane said...

Coffee would be lovely - with the cream kitteh please.

I am a slumper. I'm not sure if it's at 70% because I haven't done a word count recently but it's definitely because the thought of tying up all the threads in a satisfying way, is daunting.

Yep, keep on keeping on is the only way.

Kate, I hope you're feeling much better now. That was a dreadful thing to happen:-(

Graeme K Talboys said...

Aw. How could you choose? Both kittehs plz.

Like Lane, with me it's the thought of tying it up in a satisfying passage and knowing you have to go out on a note that has readers saying, 'I wonder when the next one is out.'

I think I keep going because the thought of abandoning something that far in would be worse than not finishing at all.

SueG said...

I'm in the same boat now...almost done and pushing myself to finish. I guess the thrill is gone at this stage, but the idea of not finishing is too mortifying to give in to. I feel like I have to physically wrestle with myself to stop thinking about the next one.

Captain Black said...

I'll have a cup of stewed kitten please. Only joking, I'll have a straight black coffee. Folly wine comes later in the day.

I wonder if 70% or thereabouts is that point you reach when there's no more plot to iron out. In other words, you've done all the interesting design for the story and are simply left with the "coding"; the mechanics of getting the words down. That would certainly explain my 70% slumps.

How can the 25%, 30%, 35%... slumps be explained though? I've yet to come up with a plausible excuse for those.

How to cope with them? Soldiering on is the best bet for me, trying to get a minimum word count each day. Of course, encouragement from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Novel Racers or whoever, can only help too. Resisting the urge to start another project is paramount as well. I'm getting better at that but I probably still need more therapy.

By the way, congratulations LeatherDykeUK, you've now caught up with Zinnia for hosting the most coffee breaks.

Kate: Sorry to hear about your mugging. I hope you are okay. Superb shiner!

Rowan Coleman said...

Hello everybody

Got the internet back just in time for coffee morning! It only took a week longer than they said, who says BT aren't efficient.

I am like Kate, I get that 30% problem when suddenly I realise exactly how much there is to do and how hard it is to make the book work, I eventually push through it, get quite excited around the 50% mark, a bit fatiqued around the 70% phase because then you know the end is in sight but it is never as near as you think it is, its like a mirage - just when you think you are there it moves further away and there's always one more chapter. Then when its finished i am in a slough of despond because its all so rubbish. THEN usually I cheer up a bit for the second draft. I find stopping and reading through every 25K words helps refuel ideas and keeps me moving forward but I think every one experiences the same sorts of peaks and troughs - its just a question of keeping going - I say 'just!' there's no 'just' about it.

Rowan Coleman said...

p.s Kate - sorry about your mugger. I was mugged my four teenage boys in Bloomsbury Square a few years back. I was just so furious and shaken up and upset by it all - not to mentioned inconvenienced by losing all my stuff that was not valuable but important to me. I hope you are feeling better now. I hate those people.

Leatherdykeuk said...

L-Plate - I wish i could speed through the last third :) I get bogged down with tying loose ends.

Lane - yes - exactly!

Graeme - I know! Abandoning a project is something I've only done once.

SueG - I concur entirely.

Cap'n -- You're are right, of course. Daily word counts are our friends. This is only my sixth coffee hosting. Has anyone heard anythink of Zinnia lately. Her blog's been silent.

Rowan - Thanks for the encouragement. Cheering up for the second draft is something to look forward to!

Fia said...

I agree with Graeme. I hate giving up even when I know that it would be better to.

Kate - that's awful. You poor thing!

L Plate - 97%. Fanastic.

ChrisH said...

Yep, it's a 30% slump for me - hate it. I think it's usually because I haven't got something quite right, it's a kind of warning light to proceed with care. If it really looks bad I'll dump the problem into a limbo file and carry on from the bit I was happy with. If I keep going like this it does sort itself out eventually (though not without a lot of moaning and groaning!).

liz fenwick said...

For its the 50% slump - make it to middle and think what now??? if I can get to 70% I fall into the head long rush to the end barely breathing until i type the last word.

That's when the real work starts :-)
Coffee for me too.
lx

liz fenwick said...

BTW - if an racers are in London next week I's love to catch up for a coffee. I'm there from Mon afternonn to Thurs lunch. Wed is a bit tied up with the RNA but coffe needs to be drunk :-)
lx

Mrs Boob Pencil said...

My slumps are always about confidence. Particularly near the end I'm scared to complete, because then I'll be faced with the reality of whether it's any good or not. I assume it'll be rubbish, so I want to postpone that moment.

I don't know whether it's 70% though. I know at some point I get over that hump - a bit like breaking through a pain barrier - and then all I want is for it all to be over, so I start working like a thing possessed. And then I get a new slump... of avoiding going back to it for revisions, feedback etc. I'm in that with the current WIP, although to be fair I'm still awaiting feedback from a trusted reader. Once I have that I'll be officially ready to attack a third draft, but I bet I put it off some more.

Leigh Russell said...

Definitely because I don't want to finish. And I agree with the last comment. Anything that gives you confidence is inspiring.

Deadlines help - but not the kind my publisher came up with.
ME: "When do you want the proofs back?"
PUBLISHER: "Yesterday would be good."
I think she was joking... but needless to say, it put an end to my procrastination... for a few days!

Leigh Russell said...

Oh, and mine's a coffee please. Freshly ground with hot skimmed milk. And a very small biscuit. Do you have any broken ones? (Broken biscuits don't have any calories...)

Leatherdykeuk said...

Chris - Not a bad idea - rewrite the problem area.

Liz - I so need to get into that end rush!

Boob - yes, confidence is they key. Can I get some on e-bay?

Leigh - I concur. Deadlines make me work better, too.

JJ Beattie said...

I'm not sure. I've had a variety of wobbles all the way through. I'm at 51,000 of my first full-length-it-will-be-finished-even-if-I-have-a-slump... book.

I'll let you know where my slump comes.

Calistro said...

I think I have two slumps...

30% - when my initial enthusiasm for the idea has waned, I've written all the exciting scenes at the start of the book, don't know what happens between that point and the end of the book and wonder how in hell I'm going to make the plot interesting enough to keep the readers interested.

70% - when I'm fully aware of all the plot holes in the book, the characters that need work, the chapters that need rewriting etc but I can't go back and fix them, I need to push on to the end.

Like Clare it's a confidence thing with me. With book 1 it was the fear I'd be revealed as a shit writer, with book 2 it's the fear that it'll never get as good a reaction as book 1!

I think the trouble is I LOVE the idea stage of writing a novel, when anything seems possible, when it's the best idea you've ever had, when you can't WAIT to start writing etc etc...and then you do start writing and the reality kicks in!

Calistro said...

p.s. How do I get through it? I just plough on until the end. You can't edit a blank page and all that...

Leatherdykeuk said...

Thanks JJ and Cally. Plod through it. Yup that's what I'm doing.

Helen said...

Mine is like a rollercoaster. At the moment I'm on a down bit, possibly at the bottom. Hopefully, very soon I'll start the climb again.

DOT said...

This is a familiar problem for every artist. The ending represents une petite mort, as the French would say - both an orgasm and the death of something and many artists cannot bring themselves to face it. You have to let your baby go. Close your eyes and kick it out of the door.

Leatherdykeuk said...

It's not so much the kicking them out, it's them bringing back the dirty laundry every week.

Wordtryst - Liane Spicer said...

I never had a slump in the first one. Think terror and excitement carried me through. The second? I must've slumped every 30,000 words or so. Taking time out worked for me.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Thanks Liane. I'm glad you found something that works for you - that one would never work for me.

Annieye said...

I'm too late for coffee, but I'd love a nice cup of tea with just half a spoon of sugar.

I write my novels in sections (does anyone else?). I know where I want the end of the beginning to be, where the middle is, where the climax is going to be, and where the ending starts. If I get bogged down with one bit, I dabble with the next bit and sort of work backwards if you know what I mean.

I edit while I write though, which helps keep everything together.

I think I do this only because I work full-time, though. I don't want to waste precious writing time, so I'd rather play around with a later scene than sit plucking stray hairs out of my chin and playing solitaire!