Writing a novel is a journey. It often takes more time and is more challenging than writing a short story. It’s very common to get to the middle of your novel and feel uninspired and not be sure of what to write next or how to make it to the end of your story. You’re not alone, though – this is a very common experience and happens to most (if not all) writers! Our writing mentors have gotten stuck before (many times), so they’ve taken the time to share their tips below.
Amy recommends making a scene jar …
I like to make myself a 'scene jar' for when I get stuck. This jar is full of little slips of paper, and on each of them is a brief description of a key scene in my story. For example, 'Main character discovers letter'. Then, rather than wallowing in my 'stuckness' for too long when it inevitably occurs (it happens to the best of us and is all part of the process!), I pull a random scene from the jar, set a timer, and write that scene. It doesn't matter if I haven't written up to that point in the story yet, or if details change later. The important thing is to keep going. Keep making progress. One word in front of the other, even if it's written back to front or inside out, will get you to the ending!
Vicki recommends breaking the process into bite-sized chunks …
Currently, I’ve got three novels on the go – one finished and edited, one finished and due for its first major edit, and one at the planning/initial writing stage. All stages are fun to me! I approach novel writing in bite-sized chunks. I spend time coming up with ideas and letting the creative juices flow. Then when I’ve got a sense of what the novel is about and who the characters are, I start writing, dashing out the story quickly without worrying about ‘how good it is’. Then when I feel I can ‘see the shape’ of the novel, I stop and read over what I’ve written to figure out what to do next. When it’s finished, I edit and polish so the writing is strong and concise, the character arcs are powerful, and the story has a satisfying finish. I find it’s easier to write a novel – and to keep going to the elusive end – if I have a clear idea of *how* it will end while I write. I often have an internal image of that final scene, and I write towards that. The excitement of getting to that final triumphant (or sad or peaceful) scene spurs me on to write during the (hard) middle bits.
Eliz recommends creating a loose plan but leaving room for surprises …
Writing a long story can very much feel like a marathon and something you need to trudge slowly but surely through. But once you get to that finish line, it is a glorious feeling. At the moment, I am very much at the starting line of my novella. There are parts of the puzzle I am still trying to piece together, but as a writer, I know they will be filled in once I’m in the flow of typing away. You can do all the training and practise you want, but it’s the first step that is the hardest. If you’re wanting to (or are) writing a long story, it is most certainly a good idea to plan, but don’t plan EVERYTHING. The surprises, twists, and turns that come along the way (that were not planned), I feel, become the most memorable parts of the story. Trust the process and the story you want to tell.
Julie recommends having a word count goal ...
I’m currently participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and am writing a young adult novel about a girl who relives the same day over and over again. As a perfectionist, I often get caught up trying to make sure my chapter/scene is perfect before moving on, like in this current manuscript, writing her first day over and over again. With NaNoWriMo, the aim is to write 1700 words a day, ending up with 50,000 words of a novel at the end. This goal has helped me to get the words on the page each day as there isn’t time to spend/waste on rewriting a scene. As novelist Jodi Picoult once said, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” I recommend having a goal (no matter how big or small) of how many words you want to get down each writing session and working towards that goal.
Izzy recommends revisiting the things that have previously inspired you …
I’ve been writing a manuscript for the past four years, and at the moment, I’m about three-quarters of the way finished! I’ve found if I ever feel stuck as to what should happen next in my novel, I listen to my favourite music or reread my favourite novels. Often if I listen to or reread things that have previously inspired me, I find that I rediscover elements of why I was inspired by them in the first place. This usually makes me realise what’s missing from my novel and what I need to add next!
Feiya recommends focusing on the journey …
Writing a novel or longer story requires patience, perseverance, and practice. There is no shortcut – I have found that it really is the journey, not the destination, that matters.
We hope you found these tips helpful. Everyone’s process is different, but it’s always worth trying what has worked for others (or you before) when you get stuck. Which of these tips are you going to use next time you get stuck in the middle of your story.
Where young writers (and some older ones) write.