So, you’ve written all the action scenes, blown up as much as possible, you know what the ending is going to be – in fact, you’ve probably already written it – and you’ve got a killer opening line.The problem is, you’re stuck in the middle section of your novel.
It’s like a dystopian wasteland. You can see the tumbleweed rolling about the landscape. There’s an eerie wind blowing its way through your imagination, and stunted trees dot the horizon.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t get enthusiastic about a particular chapter, or a transitional part of the plot and you’re making all sorts of excuses to yourself.
How on earth are you going to fire up the enthusiasm to tackle it?
Write from another character’s point of view
Get out of your protagonist’s headspace for a while. Yes, I know you’d usually be accused of head-hopping, but bear with me.
By looking at your character’s story from a different person’s point of view, you’ll see traits and reactions you didn’t notice before.
Now, simply rewrite that scene from the original point of view. You’ll be amazed at how effective this trick can be.
Write a scene, not a chapter
We all know that we’re supposed to have a kick-off point at the start of each chapter, that we have to capture conflict and interest within those few pages, and that something must happen at the end of the chapter to ensure the reader wants to keep reading.
A chapter is essentially a mini-novel in itself.
The problem is, with all that structure, sometimes we’re guilty of not taking a step back and saying to ourselves ‘Yeah, but what does it look like? What’s going on here?’
Instead, pick one element of that chapter and write outwards from there. This might mean you have to bend the rules a bit, which leads into my next point…
Ignore the plot – give your characters some ‘wiggle’ room
This one is working well for me at the moment. Between my second and third novels, I turned from a pantser into a plotter because I’d written myself into a corner once before and had to ditch a whole heap of words to get the story back on track.
The only problem is that on my latest project, I’ve been guilty of over-plotting. So much so, that my characters had nowhere to move. At the halfway mark (40,000 words into a 80,000 word novel), I’ve had a bit of an Etch-a-Sketch moment – I’ve still got the plot framework in place, but I’m letting the characters run with it for a bit, to see what happens.
In turn, I’ve got the fun back into the writing, and the words are flowing a lot faster.
Ask yourself “why?”
This is one of the most powerful tricks I’ve learned recently, and it comes from David Morrell’s book The Successful Novelist.
He advises doing this right at the beginning, before you’ve even made a start, but if you’re like me and prefer to go charging in when you’re all enthusiastic and panic about things later, then this is a great exercise for you.
Look at the scene you’re stuck on, and simply ask yourself “Why?”
- Why is this happening now?
- Why is my protagonist concerned?
- Why is my antagonist doing this?
You get the idea. Write down the answers – they might not appear in your novel, but they will serve as a launch pad for opening up that scene to you.
What techniques work for you when you’re writing the middle section?