Novel Writing Part IV - Keeping It Interesting


The hardest part of writing a novel (at least for me) is writing the stuff that’s a little less exciting. Now, there’s a rule in writing that if you’re bored by what you’re writing, it’s not good, and while I understand the sentiment behind that, I don’t think it applies in every situation. Not everything that’s boring to write is actually boring or even unnecessary. The thing about writing a novel is that it requires a lot of passion. Passion for the story, passion for telling the story, and passion for writing itself. That means being excited. But just like you get a craving for a certain flavor of ice cream or you get in the mood to listen to a very specific band, a writer will wake up really excited to write something very specific. And just like a reader is excited for the big stuff in a book (The fight scene! The couple’s first kiss!), a writer is excited about writing those things. When they get an idea for a book, they’re not thinking about the quiet scenes where necessary things have to happen. They’re thinking about the big stuff. But that causes a problem later because while the best part of writing an Avengers movie is writing the final battle, someone also has to write the scenes where Iron Man is in a cave, building a clunky metal suit from scrap metal.

So, here are a few tips for keeping yourself AND your reader excited while you’re getting through the tough parts.

If It’s Not Necessary, Cut It.

This is a rule that every writer should keep in mind when going into a first draft or a hundredth draft. Every word, every scene, every character needs a purpose. If it doesn’t have a purpose, it doesn’t need to be there. I’m not saying that your story has to be bare of the details that aren’t crucial, but if you’re struggling to write a scene, step back and make sure that it’s truly necessary to the story.

Cut the In-Betweens.

This is something that’s really hard for me to remember. At times, I think I’ve had any number of characters interacting in too many scenes in a row, so I’ll throw in a buffer scene to break those up. Inevitably, that scene will get cut later because it wasn’t actually necessary, it just felt necessary in my head. This is another place where we create more work for ourselves. Scenes like waking up, going to bed, going to work. They’re great if they’re crucial, but otherwise, they’re buffer scenes, and you don’t need them.

Write Active Characters.

Another thing that it took me time to understand was the difference between a passive and an active character. A passive character has things done to them, causing them to react, and that is how the story is driven forward. An active character makes decisions and does things of their own volition instead of in response. They make a plan and they do. Now, a character can be passive as an intentional character trait, but that needs to fit into the boundaries of the narrative, otherwise it feels lazy. Make sure your character is in charge of their own story, even when it feels like they aren’t.

Always have tension.

Now, this one is tough because it’s hard to always have tension without it quickly becoming forced. Instead, you need to introduce enough tension into the plot that all you have to do throughout is build on the foundation you’ve already set. Tension is easy. Create obstacles between your character and what they want, have your character struggle with their perception of themselves or their circumstances, throw your character into turmoil. As long as it’s believable, it won’t feel forced, but make sure that you’re building on your foundation.

Eye on the prize.

Keep your character moving toward what they want. Even if they’re not exactly positive what it is they want, they need to be moving toward what they think they want at least. Don’t let your character sit still. Make them move until there’s nowhere else to go, and then let them break through the wall and keep going.

Reconnect.

If your story feels like it’s slowing, you might have lost sight of its purpose. What are you trying to say? What are you trying to convey to your reader? It’s possible that you might have lost your connection with your main character too. You have to stick with them, or everything will crumble. Spend some time really focusing on why this story and why this character.

It’s easy to get lost in the mushy middle of a story. It’s the hardest time to hold the attention of the reader. In the beginning, everything is fresh and new and exciting, and in the end, we’re on our seats to see what’s going to happen. But the middle has to hold attention, or the end will fall flat. But you can do this. I know you can.


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