Wednesday, November 14, 2018

When the Story Stalls in the Middle by Sandra Merville Hart

There are stories where the words tumble from an author’s imagination onto the page from chapter one to the ending. In my stories, I usually know how it starts and ends with only a hazy idea of how the characters get there. Yes, I’m a pantser.

For those who do not outline but allow the story to unfold with the telling, it may stall in the middle. A character bores you. Ideas dry up. If this happens, here are a few suggestions that have helped me.

If you've pushed yourself to your creative limits, you may simply need a break. Do something completely different for a day or two. Creating is hard work. Rest.

If the ideas don't return after a few days away, alter the story. Add a feisty new character or a trouble maker and see where it leads. Don’t try to control events while in this creative surge. Allow the characters to take the lead until your imagination soars again.

If you find yourself bored with the story, your reader probably will too—and so might the editor. If a character bores you, have them do something unexpected but not against his or her nature. Shake things up.

If you still have writer’s block, return to your research notes. For my historical novels, I often have over a hundred pages of single-spaced notes. Rereading these sparks new ideas when my story sputters to a stop. It also renews my enthusiasm for the writing. I want to bring that historical period alive for my readers and transport them to another time and place. Research is the key for remaining authentic to the time period. If your notes don’t inspire ideas, do more research.

It's also possible that you chose the wrong path for the story. I recently completed a romantic suspense novel. Since I write by the "seat of my pants," I didn't know the killer when I began the novel. When it came time to reveal the killer, I still didn't know. I finally selected someone and began writing. The story halted. No words came. I couldn't figure out what happened next.

When I selected a different killer, the story flowed to the end. Your story may be on the wrong path, too. Save your old version and then change the part of the story where it stalled.

Much of the action happens in the middle of the story. This is where your readers fall in love with your characters and don't want the novel to end. Give this section as much attention as the beginning and the end.

Your readers will love you for it.


Award-winning and Amazon bestselling author Sandra Merville Hart loves to uncover little-known yet fascinating facts about our American history to include in her stories. Her debut Civil War Romance, A Stranger on My Land, was IRCA Finalist 2015. A Rebel in My House,
set during the historic Battle of Gettysburg, won the 2018 Silver Illumination Award and second place in 2018 FHL Readers’ Choice Award. A Musket in My Hands, where two sisters join the Confederate army with the men they love, releases November of 2018. Her novella, Surprised by Love in “From the Lake to the River” released in September of 2018. Trail’s End, in “Smitten Novella Collection: The Cowboys” releases in August of 2019. Find her on her blog,

Sandra Merville Hart’s third Civil War romance, A Musket in My Hands, follows two sisters as they disguise themselves as soldiers and join the men they love in the Confederate army—just in time for the war to grow progressively difficult for Southern soldiers. Tough marches lead them to the Battle of Franklin. How can anyone survive?