What to do when your novel starts to feel stagnant


Because novels take so long to perfect and take up so much space in our minds, the story can start to feel stagnant after a while. Maybe you have less faith in your manuscript than you did at the start. Here are some tips for adding some oomph to your wip:

1. Make one of your primary/secondary characters an undercover villain

  • I recently decided to do this with my wip and I honestly think that it has elevated the plot so much.
  • This will help to complicate the conflict in the novel, as well as the relationships between the characters
  • A plot twist (especially one that is introduced during the climax) can be a great way to take your work to the next level.
  • Leaving little Easter eggs throughout the novel, but still being subtle will have the reader engaged, and will help get you excited about your project again.
  • This is merely a suggestion. Any well-written plot twist can apply.

2. Introduce a romantic subplot

  • If your wip doesn’t have a romantic subplot, I would suggest adding one if it suits the type of novel and if you feel that you’d want to write a bit of romance.
  • A romantic subplot adds an extra layer of tension, anticipation and immersion to a novel. Oftentimes, it will be this story line that keeps the reader hooked.
  • If you already have a romantic subplot (or perhaps you’re writing a romance novel), but it seems a bit flat, try building up the tension for longer. Premature gratification may leave readers unexcited for the rest of the book. You could also try to add more external conflict or have your couple face a struggle that is unique to them.

3. Employ additional styles of writing

  • Add diary entries, letters, newspaper articles, stream-of-consciousness passages or even a scene that consists solely of dialogue. Add a small passage at the end of every chapter from the villain’s point of view. Go crazy.
  • Interesting forms of writing can be used to convey deeper aspects of your novel and can add extra intensity. These additions could be used to give the reader clues as to an approaching plot twist or can be used to convey the history/social environment of your world. It can also provide insight into characters’ thoughts and feelings.
  • If you would like me to do a post based on these types of texts and how you can use them in creative writing, comment on this post.

4. Write in the present tense

  • Most novels are written in the past tense and this can work very well. However, if your manuscript starts to feel stagnant, it might be time to switch to present tense. I know that rewriting what you have in a different tense sounds like hell, but it could mean the difference between a good novel and a great one.
  • Present tense creates a sense of immediacy. The stakes seem higher, the conflict more immersive and the characters closer to the reader. This is because it doesn’t feel like the reader is being told a story that happened in a far-removed time, but rather like the reader is seeing everything as it happens.
  • This is especially good for thrillers, apocalyptic works, action, horror or any other genre that is fast-paced and full of tension.

5. Complicate your main character’s background

  • I recently decided to turn my protagonist into an ex-cage fighter and it has really brought back my excitement for working on this project.
  • By adding depth to your character’s back story, you add layers to their personality. This will make the way they interact with other characters more interesting, as well as open up new plot avenues.
  • This is especially useful when you feel that your main character is not developed/complex enough. 
  • So, bring in interesting family relationships, past occupations, secret hobbies, bad relationships, problems with the law, encounters with life-changing individuals etc. It will make your main character all the more engaging.

That’s all I have for now. I hope this is helpful. If you would like a Part 2, please comment. If you have any questions regarding reviving a stagnant manuscript (or any other aspect of creative writing), please do not hesitate to ask. My ask box and DMs are always open for fellow writers!

Reblog if you found any of this useful!

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