A few tips for fixing the core of your story
Writer's block, am I right? When you get to the middle, everything seems to fall apart. Here are a few things that will help you get past the writer’s block so many of us fall into when writing a novel.
You know how it is. You start a draft, and the idea is rolling strong. You’re ten chapters in before you’ve come up for a breath. And then, all of a sudden, you can’t breathe…
The idea has virtually evaporated into thin air. The intimidation from seeing the blank page comes back. The fire in your belly has dulled to an ember, and as you sit in the middle of the ocean that is your novel, you’re wondering…how do I swim back to feeling sure about my novel?
This happens to so many of us, right? Writing the beginning is usually easier. But once we get beyond that first or second act, things seem to make a lot less sense. Writing gets harder. Daily word counts start to shrink. The passion spoils into frustration, imposter syndrome, writer’s block, or worse…
While I may not have all the answers for you in just a few hundred words in a blog post, here are a few things to think about and look for when you get into the middle of your draft.
Who’s actually your villain?
We fall so deeply in love with our heroes that we forget to give them a counterpart. Why would we, they’re so perfect, who could possibly want to oppose this wonderful person? Well, guess what? Your hero ain’t perfect, and their imperfections are things your villain are going to exploit—and have a lot to do with why your villain is acting out in the first place.
What does your villain want?
If you can’t answer this off the top of your head, you may have a serious problem. And if it’s something general like ‘taking over the world’ or ‘getting revenge,’ you’ll have to dig deeper. Your villain wants something very specific and so nuanced, and it’s hiding under the grand scheme of their chaos. It’s like when a child throws a tantrum. All they want is the cookie their ‘angelic, perfect’ older sibling stole from them.
What does your hero have to lose?
If your hero decides to not go on this adventure, what happens? The book ends! But the hero is probably left with something missing, in addition to living a lackluster (at best) life. If Harry doesn’t get on that train, he’s stuck living with an abusive family in a tiny little closet. A compelling hero’s story doesn’t have a perfect little life in the beginning. Take something from them before the story even begins, and give them even more to lose—because losing that would just be the end of the world.
Is there a victory yet? You know, one that’s too good to be true?
You may notice that, in many books and movies, there’s usually a ‘false victory.’ Seems like the conflict is resolved somewhere in the middle of the book. And the hero and their squad think it’s time to celebrate! This is usually when you see characters partying down, sharing first kisses, and relaxing like everything is okay.
It isn’t though. Your villain isn’t done yet. And what the good guys thought worked only makes things worse.
This segue is important because it’s going to force the hero to think deeper about not just themselves but the world around them.
Is there a secondary character in all your scenes to play off of your hero?
A scene is a conflict between two characters. Even if those two characters are on the same team, a solid scene has someone pushing against the hero, even if it’s their bff. Try to keep the solo scenes to a bare minimum—I challenge you to keep it down to one, right around when your hero hits rock bottom at the end of Act 4.
Do you know who your mentor is?
This is the person who the hero is learning from. The Morpheus to your Neo. The thing about Morpheus though is that he’s a failed hero. The Matrix could’ve been about him! But he couldn’t defeat the agents on his own. He needed help, hence why he called upon Neo.
Who’s your mentor? Where did it go wrong for them? That experience will be vital wisdom for the hero later in the story.
And that experience has so much to do with the mentor’s relationship with the villain.
These are just a few things to look out for when writer’s block strikes when you’re writing deeper into your novel. The other reasons are myriad, so stick around this blog and we’ll keep you informed!
Kyle is available for author coaching and can teach you how to outline using the hero’s journey. Find out more about him.