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Credit: Jens Johnsson

I thought it would get easier. I thought, at some point in my career I wouldn’t struggle so much with the same darn thing. But I was wrong.

Yes, I learn new tricks, new skills, new degrees of mastery with every manuscript. But without fail, every time, right around the half-way mark, I want to break down and cry. I can’t go any further. Like, it’s physically uncomfortable for me.

It’s the same visceral feeling I get at a large party, when the volume is going up, up, up, and all I want to do is find the nearest restroom and decompress from all the people. Or maybe just go home. And I’ve been thinking a lot about why that is.

You’re likely familiar with the notion that every writer has their favorite/least favorite part of the plot. You either love/hate to write the opening scene, or the ending, or the “murky middle.” And I think I had an epiphany the other day—a psychological theory, if you will—as to why that may be.

Full disclosure: I’m no psychologist. So this post is really just my own, personal, non-expert musings about why I struggle so much with a manuscript after I get past the midpoint.

My theory is that whatever part the writer struggles with the most lines up with that part of the real life human experience they struggle with the most. For example, if you’re shy and hate meeting new people, maybe it’s the opening scenes that are the hardest? Or, if you struggle with goodbyes, maybe your novel drags on and on well past the natural point of conclusion?

For me, I love new beginnings. New jobs, new friends, new whatevers. I also enjoy building those new friendships and all the banter, jokes, and witty repartee that goes along with it. So, I’m thinking it’s no surprise that my favorite thing to write is the beginning of each new book.

Where I struggle in real life is the serious stuff.

My sister and my daughters all enjoy deep, heavy conversations that dig into religion, politics, social justice, etc. And while I feel strongly about these topics, it’s very hard for me to engage in a conversation about them for more than a few minutes, simply because I get so emotionally exhausted.

This also rings true with writing the second half of the traditional plot outline. The “shields up/break up” part of the plot is so emotionally exhausting for me that I can only write it in hundreds of short 30-second bursts. After each one, I have to retreat to innocuous YouTube videos like “British Guy Reacts to Craziest American Foods” and “Best Thrift Store Buys of the Year,” just so I can refill my emotional tank.

It’s only by the persistence of an excellent editor (therapist?) and critique group, who push me into those uncomfortable spaces, that I’m able to get through the struggle.

Oh, and endings? I’m the queen of “ghosting” out of a party. When I’m done, I’m done, and I often can’t find the strength to go around the room and say goodbye to everybody. So is it any surprise that my first drafts end abruptly with my editor asking, “Uh…so…that’s it?”

Yeah. I think I’m totally onto something.

But what do you think? Does this theory have “legs?” Consider your own social anxiety or struggles with social constructs, and compare them to where you struggle the most in your manuscript. Is there a connection there? I’m sincerely curious.

Also…are there therapists who specialize in writers? Inquiring minds want to know.




About Anne Brown

Anne Brown (@AnneGBrown) writes adult romance (paranormal and contemporary) under the pen name "A. S. Green," for which she is a USA TODAY Best Selling Author. She began her publishing life with young adult ("YA") fiction, and is the author of the LIES BENEATH trilogy (Random House/Delacorte Press), GIRL LAST SEEN (co-author/ Albert Whitman & Co.), and COLD HARD TRUTH (Albert Whitman, April 2018). She is represented by Jacqueline Flynn of Joelle Delbourgo Associates. Anne was a proud contributor to Writer Unboxed's AUTHOR IN PROGRESS as well as a presenter at the 2016 and 2019 UnConference. She has been a guest blogger for WU since 2010.


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