Slogging Through the Muddle in the Middle of Your Manuscript

Two hikers in river-CroppedHaving problems getting from Point B to Point C in your novel? You’re not alone. Why do so many plots bog down in the middle of the story? Here are a few reasons:

Problem: You’ve lost sight of your character’s goal.
Solution: Revisit your character’s goal and make sure your focus is on that and you’re still headed in the right direction.

Problem: You gave away the whole story in the first third of the book.
Solution: Break up backstory, feed it in slowly to add interest and drama.

Problem: Your story line is too simplistic.
Solution: Add a subplot. Possible subplots are:

  • Problematic or developing relationships with secondary characters.
  • Conflicting or distracting journeys or quests of secondary characters.
  • Complications that have nothing to do with the main plot but affect the characters.
  • Other things I can’t think of right now.

Problem: You don’t have enough obstacles, or obstacles are not big enough.
Solution: Add or enlarge obstacles. Possible obstacles and complications are:

  • A ticking clock. Something terrible is happening as time goes by, or something horrible will happen soon.
  • A relationship with a secondary character.
  • A conflicting goal of a secondary character.
  • Everyday disasters—sickness, injury, death, heavy traffic, car wrecks, loss of cell phone coverage, power failure, etc.
  • Weather or extreme acts of nature—tsunamis, tornadoes, hail, lightning, blizzards, wildfires.

Problem: You’re trying to force a plot to fit an outline that doesn’t work.
Solution: Get someone else to read your work and make suggestions. Often writers find certain characters are trying to take over the lead role. Maybe you should let them.


  • Think about the motivations and goals of all the characters in your book.
  • Keep track of where all your characters are and what they are thinking during the course of the story.
  • Write scenes you know you want for the last part of the book. These will probably spark ideas on how to get there.
  • Read the article on this website under #Writetip on How to Write a Pitch. Write your own. If you’ve already written one, read it again and focus on what it says–did you stray from the path of what your novel is supposed to be about?
  • Ask for suggestions from your readers. Even if you don’t want to follow their advice, their ideas may jog your brain out of the rut.

Good luck! A working writer can slog through the bog and come out the other end with a great story.



Slogging Through the Muddle in the Middle of Your Manuscript — 1 Comment

  1. Oh the muddle of the middle! Love the title, and you make some great points. I think that it’s easy in the middle to lose sight of the conflict, and as you suggest you maybe need to include a missing subplot. But I particularly liked the point about the backstory. How much to tell and when? Drip feeding it in is a skill that really needs to be honed and it’s easy to do a bunch of telling without maintaining an interest. Thanks for the post, and sorry I’m late to the comment party!

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