Writing a novel is exciting! But … what if you lose steam?

Learn more about TimSo you’ve decided to write a novel!!!

You’re excited, and you can’t wait to get started. You’ve even signed up for the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge. (At least, I hope you have!)

You’ve got all these ideas, and you can’t wait to get them all down onto paper. Writing a novel, here you come.

In short, you’re ready.

And then, about halfway through, it happens: you slow down.

You realize—with horror—that you no longer know where your story is going, and as a result, you can’t get motivated to sit down and write.

Like a fantasy hero trudging her way through a muddy bog in the driving rain, or a day hiker hopelessly lost in the woods with no way out in sight, the middle of your novel can feel like a windswept plain that looks the same in every direction. You’re basically lost in your own story.

There is, however, a pretty good reason why this happens.

Lauren Sapala, in her article “Why Writing Your Way Through the Middle of a Book Is So. Damn. Hard,” leaves no mystery: it’s because of all the exciting possibilities you may have imagined just a few chapters ago, only a few would even make sense at this point.

So how do you power through the sagging middle of your story, when you have no idea how to connect the dots from one chapter to the next?

Here are 5 exercises that will make the path forward more obvious:

1. Focus. Picture the central theme of your novel as a vein that runs through your entire story. Do all of your plot points revolve around it? Or can you identify some scenes, or even entire chapters, that veer off the path? By “trimming the fat”—which is easier said than done, because you wrote it, after all—you can tighten up the plot. Often, a clear direction for the rest of your story will emerge from what’s left.

2. Unfocus. This is the exact opposite approach. Eschew focus, write with abandon, and go in several different directions at once. This one’s for all you pantsers out there! As your story branches out, surely one of those paths will look like an appealing option.

3. Reimagine your plot. I’m not saying you have to go back and rewrite your whole novel, but just take a mental step back and look at the whole plot from a distance. This will help you rise above all those details that might be bogging you down. Consider not just what you’ve already written, but how your story might end. From there, start connecting the dots in your head. You might have to add, remove, or tweak some chapters to make it work, but it will be worth it.

4. Sharpen your character’s goal. What is it your main character truly wants? What obstacles have stood in her or his way up to this point? If many goals are pulling your character in too many directions at once, whittle it down to one goal. Any scenes or chapters that aren’t related to this goal can be scaled down or removed.

5. Write backwards. Sit down and think hard about how you might want the story to end. (That’s right, pantsers, I’m challenging you here!) When you’ve got the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, to use as a guiding beacon, the journey from “here” from “there” will be much easier.

Why am I bringing all of this up now? Quite frankly, it’s because this is the stage our first group of writers in the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge find themselves at right now.

So if you’ve already signed up for the next Challenge starting on July 1st, I’d like to say congratulations! I commend you for taking this step. At the same time, I want you to have a clear-headed idea of the challenges you’ll face as you work your way toward this phenomenal life achievement.

What did you do when the going got slow? How did you get through it? Share your tips in the comments below!

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