Jet Lag in the Novel

I’m back in Oregon. I had a great time visiting family in Arizona, but I’m glad to be home. As I work through the “jet lag” of travel (I have a condition that makes me prone to fatigue and muscle pain) I’m also thinking of how jet lag might apply to writing a novel.

Writing Tip for Today: The most common place to feel jet lag is when you hit the middle of a novel-in-progress. The standard advice is to tighten the sagging middle. I’ve found an effective way to do this is to story board.

  • List the main action/purpose of each scene you’ve written on a 3×5 card or a computer spreadsheet. You can even simply make a list.
  • Color code or otherwise identify (I use colored highlighter pens) to mark the major plot points, subplots or other pertinent developments.
  • Lay out the cards in chronological order. Some people use different-colored sticky notes on a wall or simply list the scenes in a way you could easily manipulate.
  • Take aim on the middle. How many scenes are there? Most novels have the most scenes occur in Act Two, but make sure you don’t leave the main action or theme for too long. For instance, a heating up romantic subplot is great, but it could easily usurp the book’s main story arc.
  • Yer Out! Decide on three least important scenes and take them out of the lineup. Now look again at your story board. Do you miss these scenes? Could a simple bit of narration replace them?
  • Or, Move Up. Conversely, is the major plot idea unfolding in this middle area? If so, consider moving the onset of the development much earlier in the book.
  • A good rule on whether to keep or chuck a scene: Is the dialogue/action worthy of acting out (scene)? Or is it more getting from here to there or other things which might be summarized?

Try This! As you try out the ideas above, if you decide to make changes to the manuscript, copy and paste the entire file into a new document. That way if you like the changes you can rename the file with a date (I use exclamation points to put the file at the top of the list) so you don’t get mixed up. If you decide you’d rather stick with what you already have, you can easily return to the original document.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

1 comment on “Jet Lag in the Novel

  1. Love this list. My WIP is sagging in the middle (I might add so am I!) and as scary as it is, I will give this a try. It’s never fun to throw out our precious words is it?

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