Stuck in the middle of your novel? Start again here.
Remind yourself of your novel's story question. Don’t go looking up your notes
from the past to see what you wrote way back when you first started
this project. Write what you see the moral question as
|When the path through your novel becomes obscured... (Image courtesy of Dianne Lacourciere on Flickr.)|
now. It may have changed. That’s okay. Things often change in character-driven stories. In fact, they probably should. The original question may have gotten you this far, but changing it may be what gets you through the rest of the book.
So stop and think about what you have and ask yourself what question this story seems to be attempting to answer. (Note here that it is not what you want it to answer, but what it currently is in the process of answering.)
Don’t get all caught up in specifics. Keep it simple and something that addresses something universal.
- Barbara Kingsolver, for The Poisonwood Bible: How does one make peace with the terrible things one country does to another, when we’ve profited from them but weren’t responsible?
- Caroline Leavitt, for Cruel Beautiful World: What do you do when there is something you want to fix, and you can’t?
I had to think long and hard about mine. I started out with something different and a bit more conceptual since, as I mentioned previously, my current novel is more plot-driven than I am used to and focused more on the trajectory of outward actions. Thus, I was more focused on an idea of my protagonist learning that the goodness of the world that her parents taught her about in their isolated home environment was not easily applicable to the outside world. ← This is an example of getting too complicated and caught up in specifics.
Forming this as a question forces the idea to be simplified and forces you to answer it with a story, rather than you saying this is what it’s about.
I resisted the urge to state that the you is 12-year-old or that she was solving problems that were entirely new to her. It was important to use you because it is then asking all of us, not this girl, and makes the question feel universal. I did not get caught up in the concept of the plot. I boiled it down to this:
What do you do when all the people you depend on are in danger and you are left to get them to safety on your own?
And this reminds me what needs focus in the story.
Now, please excuse me. I must go write for three hours.
Stuck in the middle of your novel? I have been, too, so I'm forcing myself through in one month with a plan, even though I'm not the sort of writer who plans the book. If you want to know more of my long-winded explanation of this, check out the invitation. You've reached my first step in this plan I have set up. I'm completing it along with you.
Otherwise, here is the second half of the novel in a month, simplified:
- Write for three hours a day.
- Read at least a book a week.
- Follow through with reflective and planning activities.