The Hump

The Hump –noun

  1. A rounded protuberance, especially a fleshy protuberance on the back, as
    that due to abnormal curvature of the spine in humans, or that normally present in certain animals, as the camel or bison.
  2. Physical geography such as a  mountain or mountain range (especially the Himalayan mountains.)
  3. Slang: Vulgar: an act or instance of coitus.
  4. A really good sushi restaurant in Santa Monica which closed down after they were caught red-handed selling whale meat.
  5. The wall of artistic or creative blockage that writers face when they are two-thirds of the the way through writing a novel.
Hint: this post does not concern definitions 1-4.

At one point relatively recently I looked down and realized that I had three novels that were stuck two-thirds of the way from completion. Every single one of them. I would reach this intangible point and just. could. not. cross. over that hump. The good news is that this is not an incurable ailment; the bad news is there is no simple or easy solution. This blog is part of my attempt at self-therapy. My hope is that by sharing my trails, tribulations, triumphs and other words that start with ‘t’ I’ll be in a better position to cross over my own personal wall at the end of the obstacle course and have books worthy of publication. Then I’ll share the climbing the next mountain, namely publication itself. Mike is in very nearly the same position I’m in (although earlier in the process,) so he too will be posting his thoughts and experiences. And opinions. Because boy-howdie, do we have a lot of opinions.

The funny thing about this particular problem writing is that I’ve found so few people who seem to talk about it. Who hasn’t heard of writer’s block? Except this isn’t writer’s block. I never have any problem sitting down and writing, nor do I have any problem with concepts and ideas. This is more like a profound insecurity — a second-guessing that occurs when I’m almost but not quite finished. I suddenly become convinced that everything I’ve written up until this point is complete and utter drek. This is when I discover I’ve overlooked some vital plot hole, where I realize that the main character’s motivations make no sense, when it becomes obvious that the world-building I’ve done initially has all been for naught. And of course there’s nothing to be done but to start all over again — which I have done with each of the three novels that I currently have two-thirds finished. In one case, I had finished the book, shopped it around to agents and publishers, and then decided it needed to be torn apart like the floorboards concealing buried treasure. Ironically, I still think that was the right move, but since it means that particular book has been ‘in progress’ for over a decade (and it is most decidedly not the Great American novel) I think it’s time for a change.

About a year ago, I first heard someone call this phenomena ‘The Hump’ and it was a light bulb moment.  Yes, of course that’s what it is. In the endurance race that is book writing, it’s the hard part, the part where everything has to tie together, the final climb up the slope to reach the summit. For some writers, the difficulty is starting, for others it is finishing. For me? It’s right there at the crest.

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