Writer’s Blog

How to Stop Your Novel From Sagging.

It’s easier than you think!

Beth van der Pol
Sep 28 · 4 min read

I always found it challenging to come up with the middle to any of my stories. I would know the beginning, and I would see the ending, but getting characters from A-B was tricky.

I knew everything about how my character needed to develop by the end of the book. I knew what they had to go through to complete the story. I just wasn’t very creative when it came to putting them into the correct situations and allowing them to do the actual growing.

This is a frequent issue of mine, I’m a notorious underwriter, meaning that I tend to finish a book too early, this often results in an unsatisfying finish and having to beef up edits to make my storyline work.

One way that I combat this unfortunate writing dilemma is by considering what I would like to happen to any given character in a story.

Who do I want them to have a conflict with, who do I want romance with? Where would I like them to visit? What catastrophes can occur throughout the book in whichever locations I’ve chosen?

These events can be written in retrospectively, after the completion of a first draft (although that is much trickier), they can also be thought of before the writing process begins.

How to fill in the blanks.

As I said, I often already have a beginning and an end when it comes to plotting but some people start with characters or scenes and build their plot around those.

Whatever you start with I’m happy to report that this method can be used by any type of writer. It’s a great method to build up an idea or figure out what you may want to happen in your book.

I start with a giant cardboard rectangle that I keep in my room for outlining. I also use a collection of sticky notes. These are incredibly useful, and while you can use this method on other materials, I find that these items allow the most flexibility.

I use a system which creates a rough outline without any pressure. I take my stack of sticky-notes and consider what I might like to happen during the story. Each idea that pops into my head (good or bad) I write down on a sticky note and put it into a fresh pile.

You can get all fancy with different colour systems, but I don’t bother. Jenna Moreci uses this outlining system with the addition of coloured pens for various events, emotions etc. You can check out her video to see how she does it! She uses this method as a jumping-off point for her outline, but I use it as the whole plot. To each their own!

Once I’ve written down as many events as I can think of (the more, the better) I grab my cardboard and I begin to place the events wherever they can fit. If you can’t find a natural place for an idea, discard that sticky note and move on.

After you’ve found a spot for all of the things you want to happen in your novel, you can begin making your rough outline more permanent. If you’re a pantser, you might want to leave this phase a bit looser, not adding too many sub-events to your full plot. If you’re a hard-hitting outliner feel free to go nuts!

If I don’t have a direction for my plot, I often give up on books or underwrite my novels. Having my rough outline laid out as a reference point can inspire me to write on days when I don’t feel like it. It’s nice to know the reason why I’m writing and where my characters will end up. It’s also a good motivator to push through to a scene that I really want to explore!

As I mentioned, earlier, this technique can also be used to backfill events into a first draft. It’s harder, but if you need to fix your book, it is possible to do it this way.

Backfilling your first draft.

Fill out sticky notes for the events that already take place in your book and see if you can add any new ideas in-between the existing circumstances.

The reason this is harder to do is if you have any character-defining moments, they need to be in the right place. Otherwise, you could end up with a strong character in chapter 3, who is weak again in chapter 9. There are natural fluctuations in a character’s progression arc, but it needs to be believable.

You can always discard some points if they aren’t writing well or if they don’t fit the story as much as you thought they would. That’s the beauty of sticky notes. They can be easily removed!

Ultimately you’ll never know what your book is missing unless you try to fill in the blanks, so I recommend giving this plotting technique a go!

It’s great for detailed outliners and pansters alike. You can build your outline with ridiculous amounts of details, or you can keep a super basic skeleton. Whatever method you choose, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!

Writer’s Blog

A publication dedicated to fighting writer’s block and enabling writers.

Beth van der Pol

Written by

Author, writer and general young unprofessional!

Writer’s Blog

A publication dedicated to fighting writer’s block and enabling writers.

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