In Part 1, we looked at the main reasons why writers tend to hit a slump halfway through writing their novels, and some of the ways to avoid this common problem, but more importantly, we looked at how writers can avoid these same problems.
The main thing is that all serious writers should aim to prepare and plan.
There are, however, times that even with the best preparation and planning, it becomes very difficult to move forward with writing the novel. It happens, there are no real answers to why, but if and when it does happen, writers can take practical steps to get the novel moving again.
Take a break - One of the easiest things to do is to take a break from the novel and go and do something else for a few days. Sometimes a break from intense focus is what makes us focus better. It’s a well-known fact that people work more efficiently with regular breaks. Any break – even if just for a day or two - lets your mind breathe, process and refocus. You can then go back to the novel with new impetus and ideas.
Sometimes we focus too much on something that our brains find it difficult to process anything, so creativity and imagination comes to a halt. A break from it usually does the trick.
Read the last few Chapters - Some writers like to re-read the last couple of chapters of their novel to kick-start their creativity again. This is not to be confused with one of the reasons why the novel may suffer a slump in the first place – when the writer keeps going back and meddling with previous chapters (which can screw up proceeding chapters) – because the idea here is to merely read what you’ve written, to get a feel of where the story is. No meddling, tweaking or editing is allowed at this stage.
A read through might also help you pinpoint areas why the story is sagging or where the story is not working– it suddenly becomes visible with a simple read through.
Read a Book - Go and read a similar genre novel to yours. Sometimes just reading other authors gives us an inspiration boost, it motivates us and gets us all fired up again to tackle the novel.
Another creative way to approach this is to imagine your novel is a movie. It sounds strange, but it’s an interesting exercise. Which scenes would it show, how would it play? How would it show the story, the characters, themes and the conflicts?
Re-imagining your novel in this way can help to stimulate ideas and stir creativity. Not only that, it can help you visualise it. This actually helps some writers who find it slightly more difficult to convey what they want in a novel, and this kind of exercise provides the right kind of inspiration and motivation.
Of course, those are a few practical ways to the slump, but there is no better option that to prepare and plan your novel before you embark on it. You wouldn’t take a long road trip without knowing where you are going, would you? The same is true for your novel. Plan where it is going, who is involved, what it’s about and where it will end.
Remember to plot, characterise and prepare a chapter outline before you start, because with those simple foundations in place, you can then follow the checklist below to ensure that your next novel won’t sag halfway through:-
- Plan the story – whose story is it? Who else is involved? What are the character’s key motivations?
- Outline your chapters – the more detail, the better.
- Think about possible subplots and how they might affect the story and your characters.
- Always have themes in mind and weave them into the story.
- What’s the end goal – how will the story end? What does your main character want to achieve?
- Is it the right genre for you? If it isn’t, then your writing will reflect this. Stick to genres you enjoy.
- Take time out when it’s needed
- Do a read through of the last couple of chapters
- Read others books. Get inspired!
Remember the old adage; fail to plan means you’ll plan to fail, and that’s one of the biggest reasons many novels fail to get anywhere.
Next week: 10 reasons why stories fail