Chapter 4 and beyond

I can feel the doldrums coming.

Halfway through Biome NE47, I felt overwhelmed by despair: this story would never resolve itself. As Margaret Atwood mentioned in a recent Guardian Book Club, novel writing is a kind of hacking through. It’s a necessary chore.

Now just at the halfway point of Prequel, with all the components in place for the story-telling, I just have to resolve the seven strands. Simples, right? But . . . no. It doesn’t feel simple at all. The doldrums are at my shoulder.

I think this is where the discipline, which the daily word count imposes, comes into its own. If I can just keep cranking along, making a steady course of 1000 words a day (usually developed as 5000 in a working week), then I shall be finished with Chapter Five by the end of February.

That will leave all of March to finish the final 20,000 words which will bring Prequel to an anticipated target finish of 70k. But the doldrums make it feel as if I’ll never get the resolution I crave.

The thing with the discipline is this: I’ll feel worse, really despairing, if I don’t put something down, if I don’t achieve the wordage target, than if I do, even if rather a lot of the first draft is dross. If the first draft does hang together, if it seems to work, then the next step, the joyous part, is in the finessing.

I’m rather looking forward to that part.

By Larry Winger

Retired scientist, devoted diarist (, community-minded aspirant novelist, I've lived on a smallholding in the East Allen Valley for the past 30 years, delighting in watching our family grow up, in experiencing the development of our grandsons, and in taking care of our small flock of chickens and garden.


  1. I experience this all the time, every time. Some of it is I get bored with what I write; some of it is lack of discipline and commitment. I have been told one way to get charged up is to take an entirely different story idea, or take the backstory or a character from your project and write 1000 words on it, then go back to your main project immediately afterward.


    1. Sounds like good ideas! My own way, at least once (I don’t know if I’ll get through this one or not, but by persevering, I’ve pushed on through Chapter 5, anyway) . . . at least once I did manage to push on through, until I fell in love with the developing story again. I have no idea if the eventual reader of the main novel will find [what was] the doldrums section boring, or what! I can say that having pushed through to the end, I was able, with good critique from readers, to go back and fill in some crucial narrative gaps that seemed to make the novel sing throughout. My ambition by the end of Chapter 5, or 50k words, in this ‘Prequel,’ is to find a new song.


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