A new member on our email list sent in this great question: “I’ve struggled with my stories falling slack in the middle. I just can’t seem to keep a story going!”
We asked our community of mentors, teens, and authors, and some great answers came in!
Take a break
“Hmmm… good question. Well, I’d say maybe take a break from it, for a few days. Kinda try to forget about it so your not constantly stressing over it, since that’s what usually tends to make it worse. Then after you feel like you’ve taken a big enough brake, come back, and look at what you’ve written from a new angle, take a deep breath, ask your guardian angle for some super spiritual help, and try again.
Also, just a tip, a nice run or walk in the open air usually helps too😜”
– Monta H, teen
Rethink the plan
“In my experience, stories falling flat in the middle come from two base causes. The first is a lack of planning. If your story hasn’t been thought out enough, by the time you reach the middle, you’ll find it hard to keep going and may completely give it up. My advice is to stop, rethink your core concepts for what you want with the story, and to begin again.”
The second reason is that people run out of steam! Authors are human, and humans get tired quickly. The best thing to do is to take a break (like Monta said), but also to return to your original inspiration for the story. What was it that made you want to write this story in the first place? A book? Favorite movie? Go back and watch or read it again. Go back to the beginning, where you started with your story…refresh your enthusiasm. Have someone read through what you’ve written so far and be your cheerleader. If someone else is enthusiastic about your writing, chances are you’ll catch their enthusiasm and get your steam back.”
– Max W
Elevate the issue
“I agree with what everyone else said, and if I were to add something it would be to try to evaluate the issue. If it’s a lack of planning, as Max said, you may need to take a break from the actual writing and work on some plotting. If you have an idea for, say, a scene right before the climax, or right after, you could write it in advance, and see how you can plan the rest of the book that you’re stuck on to build up to that scene you want. Then you can at least get some idea of what you’re going to do next, even if you wind up changing your original idea.
“If it’s a lack of inspiration, I would’ve said what Max said about going back to the original inspiration. You could also read similar books to the one you’re writing to gain inspiration from that. Or you could try going back and editing some of the chapters right before the one you’re stuck on (it sounds weird, but sometimes if I do a lot of editing I get so tired of it that I go to the latest chapter and just start writing to get a break from editing). Taking a break as Monta said can be beneficial, and getting some fresh air could help clear your head. Watching a movie could also provide inspiration.
“If all else fails, volunteer to do either an incredibly nasty chore or a job so dull that you’ll be crawling back to your computer begging your story for forgiveness in no time…”
– Beatrix T, teen
Go the other way
Such a great question. I want to turn it around, and look at it in a new way with you. When you watch your favorite movie, or read your favorite book, what’s the best part? Is it when the character wakes up with the new superpower? Is when they finally solve the problem or defeat the antagonist? Yes, those are enjoyable. But actually, the best parts are all the inbetween stuff. We want to see all the fun and failing as they test out their new powers. Or all the hue and cry of the chase, and what they do to respond to it all.
The story ‘falling slack’ could mean you’re in love with the beginning and the end, but forgot how to connect the two so that someone can’t stop reading, even for a minute. So here’s my number 1 tip. What is the decision or course the character must take to reach your story conclusion? Now make them fight against that choice, and do the opposite.
If the only way to solve the story is to climb the tower and rescue the orphan, then find a way to take that idea off the table. Try hangliding, or digging underneath, or trying to enter in disguise. That way you’ll also have more fun. Comment below what you think!
– Dominic, mentor and founder of LegendFiction
Hash it out with someone
I usually begin my stories with a concept and a basic idea of where I want it to go. It’s often enough to get me started, maybe get an idea of where I want to go with it, but after that I find it helpful to think of a theme to match the story. What issues or concepts do you feel passionate about, and do any of them fit into the type of story you are trying to tell?
That can help me fill in the gaps. Once I have a core concept, I can use that theme to help guide where I want to take the story when I get stuck. I’ve sometimes completely changed a story’s ending because it became about something I didn’t originally intend. Also as others have said, just step away. Sometimes when I’m having trouble with a section, I’ll think on it while I’m out running errands.
Finally, it helps to have someone you can hash it out with. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can bring a new perspective you haven’t thought about.
– Joe Campbell, mentor
What’s the worst that could happen?
“Skip to the end and write that, then work backwards to connect the end to the beginning. Keep the story moving forward with plenty of tension and conflict. Here’s another tip: Stop and ask, what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to my character related to their goals? Make that happen. 🙂”
– Katelin Cummins, Mentor, Book Coach and Writer
What would you add to this list?
What’s a new question you’d like answered?