Don’t Disregard the Learning Curve

Fixer upper or disaster?
Photo by Inga Seliverstova on

Recently a friend asked how my fiction writing is going. I was relieved to admit that I hadn’t been working on it because an editor had been late getting back to me and I know how two projects to complete NOW. The truth is that I had started to question my ability to write fiction.

There are some things I do well. My settings are very well built and the details are germane to the story. I’m good at finding details that are relevant and help bring the story to life. This is, in all honesty, what I do best.

My characters are hit or miss. Some are three-dimensional. Others, even POV characters, I just don’t like because they are boring. And when that’s the case, I’m not really interested in fixing them. I’d rather do something new and glorious and unblemished.

Pacing? That’s another problem area. My first few chapters work well in terms of pacing. But as I approach what Kristin Nitz calls the Muddled Middle, I become mired. I just can’t trudge on. It . . .

. . . is . . .

. . . to . . .


This is usually about the time I become aware of an overwhelming number of problems with my story. There’s just so much that will need to be fixed. But recently I realized that where I see a ruin, someone else might see a fixer upper. Sure, I acknowledge that you have to slap that story down to fix it. But does it have to be so very bad from the start? Maybe I should just stick with nonfiction. It is just so much easier!

But then it hit me. It hasn’t always been easier. When I started writing nonfiction, it was a slog. I struggled to do the research, often over-researching, before I began outlining and trying to find a slant. Openings were my weakness and even when I started selling my work, this is what my editor revised most often. That and my endings.

My endings improved first. I learned to tie things off neatly and give the reader something to mull over. As I learned from my editor, my beginnings improved as well. These are still the hardest things to perfect for every manuscript but I know I can do it.

I can’t realistic expect writing fiction to seem as so-able as nonfiction. After all, at this point, I have so much more nonfiction experience. Still, over time, my nonfiction is going to get better. I just need to put in the legwork.


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