What to Do When that Slump Hits: Fixing the Middle

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We all know the feeling – you’re writing your story, banging out epic fight scenes and plot twists galore, and loving every second of it. Then, you hit that 30k word count and suddenly lose steam. Why is that always the case? Obviously, your story is still important to you, or else you wouldn’t be writing it. So why the sudden slump?

There are a myriad of possible reasons, but below, I’ll outline some of the things I’ve observed of my own writing habits that choke out creativity and make everything way harder than it really needs to be. My hope is that this very non-exhaustive list will help you gain a new perspective of what you’re doing. Maybe you’ll even approach the whole story differently as a result. Or if not, you’ll at least have a new game plan that affords you more flexibility and openness, letting the ideas flow freely.

Maybe your concept sucks.

Harsh, I know – but hear me out. Sometimes – and pantsers especially might be guilty of this – we dive into a story head first without a parachute. Even die-hard pantsers like myself always have at least a vague idea of the direction we want to take and how to get there. So the details might still need to be ironed out, but the general idea is well developed enough to move forward. If you don’t daydream long enough about your idea, the blank page will eat you alive and paralyze your efforts, and the slump begins. My best advice? Step away from the computer and start doodling, journaling, or Pinterest-ing until your story reveals itself to you.

Maybe your characters have a mind of their own.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – far from it, actually. But it can be a problem if you’re not open to hearing new ideas from your characters. The best stories equip characters with minds of their own that allow them to be unapologetically themselves. To succeed in your writing goals, you too must allow your characters to explore the new ideas they have. What are their biggest fears? Motivations? Raisons d’êtré? Abandon your outline, and just try handing them the reigns. You might find your story goes somewhere completely new.

Maybe you’re burnt out.

I’ll be the first to say I’m always extremely guilty of this, but burn out is real. When you’ve been working too hard for too long, your body and mind just kinda stop letting you do the words-putting-into-sentences-doing. When that happens, I like to play music, crochet, leisure read, or watch TV brainlessly for a while. There is so much to watch these days, so indulge a bit and enjoy! Your book will be better for it, and your story slump will be long-gone before you know it.

Maybe your pacing is inconsistent.

Sometimes all it takes to fix this problem is outlining. Think about the broad scope of your story – where you want to take it, and where you are now. Now, how much space do you need to carry out each step in that process? Maybe it’s 20k for your exposition, another 20k for your rising action, then 10k for your climax. Add in a plot twist or two for good measure, which might be an extra 5k each to incorporate. Pacing is what you make of it, and planning ahead could help. That being said, don’t limit your story. Some sections may be longer or shorter than you originally thought, and that’s totally okay too. For extra help adding in plot twists, check out this post: Writing Suspense: Five Pressure Points to Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats.

At the end of the day, you’ll still have your story. Maybe it’s buried under some limitations like the ones listed above, but there’s always a way out of that slump. The trick is to stick with it until it becomes fun again. That feeling when the words start flowing again is like nothing else, so keep working out the kinks until you find your stride. Your readers – and characters – are counting on you.

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