Four Tips to Survive the Marathon of the Middle
The first of my many novel writing tips will discuss surviving a dreaded marathon of the middle. For novel writers, this is going to be a tough task early on, especially as you take my advice on omitting needless words and backstory.
Some of you may ferociously self-edit, as Jerry Jenkins loves to state, and find yourself with a novella or even a novelette after such a hardcore edit.
How am I going to write a full-length novel, you might ask.
Okay, sit down, breathe, and admire your handiwork. Your story is great and now you have an opportunity to improve your masterpiece.
The following are four tips to help you survive the Marathon of the Middle.
Tip One: Use an Outline
Okay, I’m going to admit my own hypocrisy. I deviate from my outline. I love writing by the seat of my pants.
BUT! We all need to at least write a synopsis even if we’re not natural outliners.
Because when we write ourselves into a corner, we’re going to require a writer’s safety net.
A novel outline can save us from staring at a blank screen with a blank mind.
That’s why you need an outline.
If anything, scribble ideas for your work on a sheet of paper or Word document so when you get stuck halfway through writing a novel (this will happen) you have a nice fall back plan.
If you haven’t done so, get started on writing your outline today before you do anything else.
Tip Two: Create a Subplot
In Northern Knights, I took a page from J.K. Rowling and inserted the sport shotball into my work, much like Rowling used Quidditch.
In a novel that would’ve been novella length, I surpassed 77,000 words with such a subplot that many of my initial readers loved to the point they wanted to start a pickup game!
Maybe after high school football ends in a few weeks.
Anyway, opening a subplot can do wonders for your work. If you can relate such a subplot to the main plot, you’re really cooking.
Think of your main character’s hobbies and interests (I hope you thought of these!) and you have a potential subplot in the making.
Love triangles? Sibling rivalry? The list for subplots is endless.
Tip Three: Insert Conflict
When writing my second full-length, Swords of Destiny, inserting conflict worked wonders.
Any time you feel your novel is slowing down, hand it a nice shot of conflict. For instance, Swords of Destiny is about a modern-day war with fantasy-based elements, so an unexpected surprise attack or battle scene kept my novel going.
Maybe your characters just ran from the bad guys, or thought they did? Maybe they thought they were safe in their new hiding place?
Surprise your characters, surprise yourself with intuition, and surprise your readers. Oh, and the latter may love the surprise so much they may use a free book promotion technique called word-of-mouth. I heard it works well.
This technique is at its hottest in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, action, suspense, and thriller genres, but can also be inserted into any genre you like.
Since genre fiction sells better than any other type of work, you have the potential to break through the novella length by utilizing action scenes and conflict to their finest if you’re a genre writer.
Tip Four: When in Doubt, Think Action
Keep the plot moving. This means describing characters in action rather than using ‘he said’ ‘she said’ dialogue tags.
As an added bonus, your reader will be able to picture your characters in action while speaking.
Think of your favorite TV shows and movies and write about how they move and interact during dialogue. You can even watch your favorite TV show or movie with a notepad in hand if you really want to get into the action.
Read over what you wrote and it’ll give you real life insight on how you best construct scenes when writing your own dialogue with action.
For instance, Cain closed his eyes and exhaled before turning to Lira, his jaw twitching. “What?”
Lira indicated the others. “Micah, Blaze, Asha, Jed, and I want to do something drastic.”
Cain narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. “Like?”
Lira paced ahead. “We want to change the name of the Santos Knights.”
The above reads better than this:
“What?” Cain said.
“Micah, Blaze, Asha, Jed, and I want to do something drastic,” Lira said.”
“We want to change the name of the Santos Knights.”
There’s nothing wrong with the second dialogue scenario but the reader isn’t getting in on the action like they would in the first example.
Whenever you sit down to write ask yourself how you can utilize action in favor of dialogue tags so the reader can form a clearer picture in their mind.
You’ll be surprised how much better your work reads when you’ve crafted such action-packed scenes, even if the action is minor.
You’re A Survivor!
If you follow these tips you’ll have survived the Marathon of the Middle. And I mean that, because when writing a novel, the marathon is tough and not everyone emerges standing firm.
Utilize the above novel writing tips to your advantage if you’re stuck in the middle and are about to hit the dreaded wall, as marathon runners term when one has run out of gas.
Writing a full-length novel by creating more action-packed scenes along with a solid outline, tension, and compelling subplot will keep the reader engaged.
It’s a much better alternative than using needless words, adverbs, and hedging verbs (almost smiled, waved half-heartedly) to fill a specific word count quota.
Not only will your writing shine, but it’ll shine so bright you’ll separate yourself from the endlessly growing crowd of new authors. We all want a piece of the pie in attaining a readership and action plus a roadmap is the most direct way to go.
I’d like to thank everyone for coming across My Freedom Flame. Please come back soon for more novel writing tips, influences behind my latest works, and how you can better manage your time to finally write the dream novel you’ve always wanted to write.