Fiction,  Writing

3 Reasons Writer’s Give Up on Their Book (And How to Avoid it)

Is there more than one unfinished novel sitting on your hard drive? Are you wondering if your current work in progress is headed in that same direction? 


I feel like there are three reasons why writers get stuck in the muddy middle – they think their book stinks, they can’t see a way to end the dang thing, and they’re not getting along with their characters.  These are very valid and frustrating reasons, I know, but there are solutions and ways to avoid these problems so you don’t throw this book into the digital trash pile.


Reason #1 – Author’s Feelings


When you start to get stuck, all you can think is: this book stinks, or I stink, I hate this character, I hate this plot. 


What was I even thinking writing this book?!?


These are very big feelings, and sometimes you just need a break, a little step away from your project to get out of the weird mood. Sometimes you need to reconnect to your big why –  the reason you wanted to write this book in the first place. Maybe it was the character that you created first or the plot or something about the ending, something about this book got you excited at some point. So you need to re-remind yourself of what your big why is. I personally like to have some sort of physical representation of my big why in my writing space.


Now I of course use a tarot card for that. I usually pick one card that’s sort of the theme of the book I’m working on and I leave that in my space, but you can also use a vision board or a digital Pinterest board, or you can literally write it down and look at it every day or once a week.  You can do this various ways, but you need to make sure you’re connecting with that Big Why throughout the writing process.  

Reason #2 – Can’t See Their Way To “The End”

There could be two reasons this is happening – you had too detailed of an outline and you are completely off track OR you never had an outline to begin with and now you feel painted into a corner with no way out.  Feeling this way can make you throw up your hands and say I’m Done! 

I suggest taking a step back and looking at where you are right now before you figure out where you want to go.  Give yourself a day or two and just think about your characters and where you would like them to end up. Then start doing other things – dishes, showering, exercising, cleaning – and see if ideas come to you.  Once you have an idea of how you want the story to end then you can figure out how to get there.  

Then, like stepping stones over a river, figure out the scenes you need to write to connect Point A to Point B.  If you are not where you need to be – let’s say you are completely off track – just write from where you think you should be and fix things during edits and revisions. 

Reason #3 – Not Getting To Know Your Characters

Yes, you created them and you have the characters sheets with hair color, eye color, where they grew up and what they do all filled out but sometimes that’s not enough. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again – I like to think of characters as my friends. Even the antagonist, even the bad guys, even the side characters. I think of them as real people. And I talk to them like they are human.  Non-writers might think I’m a crazy person, but it works really really well.

Sometimes I do this process out loud, sometimes I write things down in a journal, I always use Tarot cards, but you need to start talking to your characters and asking them questions.  I use Tarot to help me create my characters so I will grab that card, but you can choose one now or use an image off the internet or a magazine.  You can also just picture them in your head, but you need some visualization of your character so you can interview them, journal as them, talk to them and find out their hopes, their dreams, their wants and needs, their fears, etc. 

You can also ask them questions like:

  • What do you want me to know about your story? 
  • Why did you give me your story to tell? 
  • What do you want by the end of this story?
  • What do you want me to know about OTHER CHARACTERS?
  • What can you tell me about SETTING?

It’s kind of like being their therapist, you want to go deep and learn things about them that you didn’t know before.  Treat them like friends, build a relationship.  Yes, this process takes time, but it’s better to take some time away from your draft and deepen the relationship with your characters than scrap your novel all together. 

If you have multiple manuscripts or novels that you’ve scrapped or stopped writing on because you got stuck in that middle, it might be time to bring in a writing coach.  This is what I do with Muddy Middle to Manuscript, my four session 1:1 Coaching package where I walk you through your feelings around your novel, plot and characters and then help you get your story back on track, help you get to know your characters better, and help you find the needed motivation to get through the muck and type The End.  I use Tarot to facilitate the conversations, help us understand the problems you are having, and brainstorm answers and solutions so you can feel confident, energized, and excited about your book again. 

First drafts are hard. First drafts are messy. First drafts aren’t perfect, but we expect them to be. We expect them to be these beautiful things and we get really down on ourselves when they’re not. And I’m here to tell you that you, as a writer are valid. Your story is valid. If you have a story on your heart, it’s there for a reason and I wanna help you get that out into the world.  So if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below. If you’re ready to check out Muddy Middle to Manuscript, click here to read more and then schedule your first session