That comment came to me this week from one of my most loyal readers. He'd just finished reading Chapter 10 of "The Prodigal." I don't blame him. I hated it, too--only more. To be fair, he wrote back fifteen minutes later after re-reading the Prelude and was slightly mollified, but his initial reaction was justified.
I knew the end of this chapter and exactly where it would fall before I started writing "The Prodigal." In number of chapters and number of words, it's just short of halfway through the book and is the fulcrum point on which the whole novel balances. And even knowing what would happen, having already written the Prelude, and knowing how the book ends, I felt gut-punched when I wrote the last sixteen words in the chapter. I remember sitting in front of the computer with my hands clenched in fists thinking, "Now what?"
Of course, I have an advantage over my readers now. I know exactly what happens in the next eleven chapters. It's not all pleasant, but it all has a purpose. Still, I think about life and I think about my characters and I look at the little crescent moons carved into my palms by my fingernails. And like Tony, I feel a gaping hole in my spirit that nothing can fill.
If you've been through the experience, you'll know what I'm talking about. If it was long enough ago, you may have healed.