Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The horror that is Chapter Seven

I hate chapter seven with a passion you wouldn’t believe.

In a 50-55k book, chapter seven falls around or just after the mid-point of the book for me. But don’t confuse my hatred of chapter seven as having something to do with the dreaded sagging middle. In order for the middle to sag, you must assume there’s an end somewhere. As a true-blue Pantser, I guarantee you that when I’m in chapter seven, there’s no way in hell “The End” exists.

So why the hatred of chapter seven?

It’s in chapter seven that I realize my hero’s motivation isn’t strong enough to continue to carry him through the plot. It’s where I realize what little plot I have sucks big time – and is probably overly contrived to boot. By chapter seven, I’ve decided my heroine is too stupid to live or totally unlikable, and that she and my hero have all the sexual chemistry of an oatmeal cookie. Chapter seven is where my career ends.

Now, back in the days when “editor,” “deadline,” “contract,” and “money” were simply vague concepts, dealing with chapter seven was pretty easy: I just turned off the computer and walked away.

I’d dither about, organize my sock drawer, have long conversations with the Playfriends and my CP about ways to fix the problems. I’d write newsletter articles, blog entries, and letters to the PTA. This was the opportunity to play with the first three chapters, enter them in contests, and stress over the results. I could easily kill anywhere from two weeks to two months before I’d figure out what I needed to do and get back into the book.

But those days are over. Chapter seven is still the bane of my existence, a harbinger of my downfall, proof that I suck. But I no longer have the luxury of time to wallow in the horror. Decisions have to be made quickly. The sock drawer goes unorganized as I stare at the computer screen, willing myself to figure out what happens next.

Feel pity for DG and AC who must live with me during chapter seven. In the old days, the freak-out was spread over a long period of time, and while they may have tired of listening to me whine and moan about the general I suckittude, but that’s nothing compare to the all-out disastrous nervous breakdown they had to witness during my most recent chapter seven. With no time to dither about, options had to be discovered, argued and discarded at warp speed. I paced, I talked to myself, I sent emails and called people to solicit opinions. It got ugly. You probably heard the sigh of relief when I reported to one and all that I’d typed the beautiful words “Chapter Eight.”

Am I the only one who goes through this? If not with chapter seven, when? Even if you’re not a writer, I’m sure you can relate. (And if not, lie to me :-) )



Playground Monitor said...

I just finished writing chapter seven about twenty-four hours ago, but it's the first chapter seven I've ever written so I'm not sure I'm an authority on chapter sevens.

However, by the middle of it, I was ready to alter the plot by having them crash on the way to the charity ball and die in a fiery inferno or have criminals fleeing from a bank robbery break into their house after they got home and shoot them execution style.

But I didn't. They danced and kissed and if the power hadn't gone off tonight, I'd be a little further into chapter eight, dammit.


birdzilla said...

Thank you PC for the early morning flash backs...grrrr. Let us add this to the ever growing list of therapy issues.

I do not write and probably never will besides work papers. I do read 2-3 books a week.

Typically during the mid-book cyclone, I practice stealth mode and walk around the house trying not to be seen. When it gets really bad, I just go outside to the little house (or somewhere a mile back in the woods) and recluse into the fetal position and rock myself to sleep.

Let us please keep this between ourselves. Right now I am about 50 miles from the house, but I have to go home eventually.

Angel said...

Love it, Birdzilla! Maybe you should pass those options on to the other hubbies for good measure!

I'll tell you PC, that having a plot doesn't help this crisis much. Coming from the plotter side of the fence, I KNOW where my characters are going, but I still hit that middle of the book crisis where I think this entire book sucketh! Big time! I must be the biggest hack of all time to try to pull this off, etc, etc, etc.

Yeah, not pretty. But worth it to get to the beautiful ride that is close to the end. I'm almost there, and I can't wait!!!


Smarty Pants said...

I don't know that its always chapter 7 for me, but somewhere usually around 7 or 8, my momentum just peters out. My heroine locked herself in the bathroom and didn't come out for two months. I'd gotten her in there, had a general idea that she needed to come out, so I could move onto the next plot point in my outline, but I wasn't really sure how to GET her to come out. Should the hero force his way in? Should he let her be alone? Would she come out if he asked? Would she ignore him while he yelled and ranted?

Then, at last, I had it. The hero took the door off the hinges. Problem solved.

Zilla, you just need to learn how to live in oblivion. DB wouldn't know if I was on chapter 1, 7 or 17. Honestly, most times he couldn't tell you if I was working on a book at all, much less which one about what... all you have to say is Sumerian Sex Goddess and his eyes glaze over.

Maven Linda said...

The middle of the book always sucks. Go for a drive. My best thinking always happens behind the wheel of a car.

When I stall, it's always because I've gone off track somewhere in the past two chapters -- usually just a small detail, but details matter. Until I figure out what that detail is, I'm dead in the water. So walk away. Go read a book. Do something else. Organize your sock drawer, or -- even better -- go shopping. Give your brain a rest. Yeah, it might take a week before you realize what that tiny wrong detail is, but once you do everything will flow.

What's with this "I suck" because a book isn't flowing like a river? Stalling midway definitely sucks, but that's external, not internal. Would I share shoes with sucky people? No, I would not.

Instigator said...

Zilla...I will be home at some point today :-) Actually, I am a complete and total b*tch during chapter 7 so I don't blame him for disappearing. If I could I certainly would.

However, I think I've figured out a way to get past the dreaded chapter 7. This time I've been writing scenes in order but not breaking them up into chapters. I'd actually breezed past chapter 7 before I even realized I was in it. However, I have now stalled in chapter 9. But I think that's more because I've been distracted than because the story isn't working. In fact, I left my hero and heroine very, very happy. And I'm about to blow their world apart again...heheheh :-D.


Darling Geek said...

If last weekend's box office results are anything to go by, heroines that are too stupid to live or totally unlikable are quite the money maker these days, so you're good to go!

Also, why would any man's eyes glaze over at the phrase "Sumerian Sex Goddess"?

Smarty Pants said...

Because I'm talking about my writing and he's yet to figure out the role he can play in all this. He just goes and reads a dirt bike magazine.

And I don't think Bella was TSTL. She's a teenaged girl and a fairly rational one as teenagers go. I think her fight and flight wires are just crossed a little. Mine are too, so... ?

Angel said...

Yes, Darling Geek, I don't think you want to talk about Twilight like that around here. Better keep that opinion to yourself, or some of the Playfriends might get ugly... (Obviously he didn't read the obsessive posts about it...)


Problem Child said...

You know, I told DG he was taking a chance. Finally, I write a post where he can get sympathy for having to live with me, and instead of taking advantage of it, he picks a Twilight fight... Sigh. Talk about TSTL...

And Maven Linda says I don't suck. (cue happy dance) I think I'll add that to my website. "NYT Bestseller Linda Howard says, 'She doesn't suck!'"

Crystal Lee said...

I feel your pain, PC. I understand all about the illustrious Chapter Seven. For me this milestone represents completion of the first third of the book (yeah, single title). Seems like I was there for several thousand years (this feeling is quite possible when one is a pantser stirring the cauldron of the mind waiting for magic to happen). Chapter Seven is its own form of purgatory. But I am proud to say I am in Chapter Eight now, where new doors await for me to step through them into a new Promised Land.

Hang in there PC!

Crystal Lee said...

Yes, cauldron is a real spelling variation of caldron. I checked, but it does look funny - much like Chapter Seven in its early form.

Anonymous said...

I don't write books but read them. And Linda is right, get away for a bit, that's what I do at work when I reach a point where I just want to scream!!!!! It can get so demanding I feel like my brain is going to explode - not pretty.

Sherry Werth said...

Uuh, Chapter Seven? Oh great. I thought it got better by then. Cos right now I'm thinking of using my Chapters One thru Four to light my fire pit!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Gee, I haven't even left chapter 3 and I want to blow these people up. It probably has much to do with waiting to find out if my editor even *likes* the idea. So far, I'm writing blind. Which was fine when there were no deadlines! But now, as you've said, when there's a document with dates spelled out and lots of legalese and you signed it because you had to -- OMG, you begin to wonder what you've done.

So, I have to get these people into a sufficiently interesting hook at the end of 3 and ship the whole thing to my editor TODAY. And then maybe she'll tell me if it's gonna fly or if I need to go back to the drawing board.

Hugs, PC. I'm with you 100%.

Darling Geek said...

And, as I said, I don't need sympathy for living with you. I'm actually quite fond of it.

Problem Child said...

Aw, my Geek is so sweet. (Only you could love my issues and neuroses and clutter...)

HTG, my word verif is sappe. Hmm... it's a sign for one of us, DG

Rhonda Nelson said...

No worries, PC. I think we all sort of stall out in the middle. As a pantster myself, it's usually that point that I've written everything that I knew was going to happen and then actually have to make the rest of it up. :-)

Gasp, choke, boo, hiss DG! Bella wasn't TSTL. As SP pointed out, she's just a teenager. I was stupid in love when I was a teenager as well. We've *all* been stupid in love, which is part of her appeal.

Playground Monitor said...

I got almost 1300 words written on chapter 8 and I'm sitting down now to get back to it. #2 son is coming in tonight and I had to dust the guest room and make sure it had clean sheets. I also had to see if the frozen lasagna needed to be thawed before I stuck it in the oven (it doesn't).

The story doesn't seem so saggy now. Perhaps it's because chapter 7 WAS the mid-point and I feel as if I'm coasting downhill now (and straight into the black moment).

I got a pair of flip-flops and a purse. Can I add that disclaimer to my bio too? LOL!

Kathy said...

I think you've already proven you don't suck, PC! (hugs)

Look out, DG. Whip it! Now whip it good! If I met a vampire who was hot, wild, and charming, basically Edward, I wouldn't care if I was too stupid to live. And, I'm not a teenager. ;)

Kathy said...

I'm off to be with family tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving, playfriends!! See you when I get back. ;)

jen said...

PC, I am so with you, babe. It's always around 6/7 that I think I have no story and I suck as a writer. After 8 years of this crap, let me assure you, you simply have to slog through it.

And I have to jump into the fray, DG, and say that if you were face-to-face with Edward Cullen (Rob Pattinson), you'd go vamp too. Any red-blooded, breathing female would. ;)