I was making decent progress on a novel I had been working on. It’s got a solid outline mapping out a few of the major characters arcs and the overlying plot. But a little over a third of the way in, I realized something terrible. The scene I happened to be typing was…boring. It felt like the filler songs in the middle of a CD.
I pulled out my outline and tried to figure out why the scene was even there and what it was supposed to accomplish. And that was when it really hit me. The scene I was working one existed solely to fill space until the next “important” scene.
And I think that’s the problem we all face whenever we run into trouble with the middle of a book. We find ourselves filling pages with things that don’t really influence your overlying plot. And parts like that can get boring because it may not actually matter to the story whether or not they are even written.
So what do you do when you catch yourself writing boring filler stuff in the middle of your book? I would suggest doing these three things to reevaluate those boring scenes.
Remember what your book is about.
This is where it can be handy to have a ready-made elevator pitch of your novel. Read it now. Ask yourself what your books is really about. If your character happens to be going through the gun cabinet remember old hunting trips when the novel has nothing to do with hunting, then kill the scene. If your book is about a hunting safari, but you are having your character infodump on his previous wives who have nothing to do with your plot, kill the scene.
This can also pull in questions on theme. Theme can at times still be hard me for, and sometimes I might not even know the theme until the first draft is finished, but if you are aware of your story’s theme, look at it and ask whether or not the filler stuff is relevant to it. If not, cut it and replace it with something that is.
Remember who your book is about.
It’s a good idea to make sure the focus of the novel remains on a handful of primary characters. There may come a part where the main characters are in-between major plot points. It may be tempting to give them a little break and switch to the point of view of a minor character here.
This may be okay if used scarcely, but never forget who the story is about. You don’t want to go off track and start writing a storyline for a character that doesn’t need one, which may not be important at all in the larger picture.
Another idea may be to take a slower moment to get to know your primary character better. Do not, however, do this by showing mundane slice-of-life activity that does nothing to move the plot. And certainly don’t accidentally slip in a backstory infodump.
Remember where your story is supposed to go.
Take another look at your outline. Or if you don’t have an outline, think about where your story is supposed to end. Does the middle of your novel help build to your planned ending? If not, what other purpose does it serve? Find a couple of chapters in the middle and ask yourself those questions.
If they are not advancing the plot or serving some other important purpose, it’s time for some revisions. Try throwing in some foreshadowing, or fleshing out a few more details that will help make your ending stronger.
And when all else fails, throw in more conflict.
Another thing that works for me, especially with story stories is to pick one of those boring parts and ask myself what is the worst thing I could possibly do to the main character at that point. Throw something heinous and unexpected. That should at least keep you from boring yourself. Of course, this easier in shorter pieces where you can afford to make changes on the fly, than in longer pieces where a big change could alter your novel and have you rewriting your outline.
I hope some of these tips can help you when you do get stuck in the middle of your short story or novel. The most important thing is to remember is that if you get bored writing it, your audience will get bored reading it.
Thanks for reading and if you’ve got some other tips to share, feel free to let us know in the comments section!