Stuck in the Middle: 6 Steps to Get Your Novel Back on Track

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It happens. You think you know where you’re going. The beginning of your journey starts off super exciting. You have your road snacks, your outline, your shiny new notebook, and you’re off on an adventure entitled, I’m writing a novel!

Then, time passes and you hit the middle of your novel. You start to wonder, why the hell did I did I do this to myself? You stop writing. Guilt sets in. You can’t find your forward momentum. Now you hate yourself.

Don’t be hating. It’s all going to be okay.  We’ve all been there and you will get to the end. Don’t give up! Here are a few steps to get you back in the writing groove.

Step 1: Give your brain a side-trip

Seems totally counter-intuitive, but if you have the time to do it (as in, you’re not on a tight deadline), take the time to allow your subconscious to do its thing by consciously not dwelling on your story. Your brain needs time to digest and figure stuff out. If you keep hammering it, it won’t work. Go for a walk in nature. Do something fun and do not think about your novel.

Step 2: Set a deadline and light a fire under your butt

A lot of people work better under pressure. I know I get more done when I have less time. Maybe giving yourself an ultimatum is just what you need. After you take your brain break, set some long-term and short-term goals for yourself. Long-term: choose a finished novel date. Short-term: set daily, weekly, and/or monthly writing total goals. Start off small, like 500 words every two days and see where it leads. 

Step 3: Go back to your roadmap, aka your outline

If you started with a map, good for you! You’re a planner. You might want to go back and see if your journey is still the same journey. You might need to adjust as necessary. If you didn’t write an outline, now is a good time to get it done. Include what has happened so far and make a plan to go forward. Need help? Go for a walk or have coffee with a good friend and tell them the story thus far. See where they are confused and listen to yourself as you explain. You might end up figuring out your roadblock.

Step 4: Write the last chapter right now

Even if you never use it, do it. It’s a great exercise to get you thinking about where you want to end up. You might discover things about your character that you didn’t realize until you put them in the glorious light of the coveted FINAL CHAPTER.

Step 5:  Put some forks in your road: Twists, secrets, betrayals, and surprises, oh my!

These are great tools to make a compelling page-turner. Start brainstorming ways to add interest to your story with these ideas in mind. You might have to go back and revisit some of your chapters, but your word count will go up, pushing you further along your journey. It’s a win-win!

Step 6: The middle is the place to refocus

By now, in your story, you have reached the point of no return. You have laid out the groundwork by setting the scene, and hopefully, you’ve made your protagonist relatively, if not extremely, uncomfortable. You now need to head towards Act 3 by writing out Act 2. This character’s life will never be the same because you shook them up, so now what? That’s your job to make sure you are guiding this person towards their conclusion. Start asking yourself questions on how you’re going to get to the end, knowing that your main character has a new outlook on their life.

Now, go refocus your own life and finish what you started. The world is waiting to see where you’re taking us.


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About Author

Heather Rigney is a fiction writer, blogger, journalist, and art teacher based in Rhode Island. Author of The Merrow Trilogy--a dark, historical fantasy novel that deals with homicidal mermaids, the colonial suppression of women, and a present-day alcoholic funeral director trying to make sense of it all. Her writing has been featured in Motif Magazine and Stone Crowns Magazine. By day she teaches art at an all-girls Quaker school and at night she tries to be creative while avoiding too many sweets. You can read more about Ms. Rigney on her website:


  1. I never outline my novels–ever. As I write the situations and the characters guide me as to where they will go next. Even if I wrote an outline, I wouldn’t follow it anyway, and how can I tell at the beginning of a novel where the characters will be in the middle or the end. The writing process should be the only outline you ever need.

    • Heather Rigney on

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I hope it was helpful and wish you the best in overcoming your stumbling block. May it be a tiny speed bump on your road to writing success. Best, Heather

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