Novel editing: How to fix a boring chapter

I try to keep each weekly blog post relevant to my own writing journey. This week, I struggled through the heart crushing moment of realising one of your chapters is BORING. It’s tough to admit. I tried playing it down at first, but eventually I held up my hands. Because if the writer thinks it’s dull, imagine how uninteresting it’ll be for the reader. It took a lot of work, but I’m happy with it now. If you’ve stumbled across a boring scene in your work, here’s some tips to fix it.

Figure out what it’s lacking
Read through the chapter, and take notes. Figuring out what it’s lacking. Ask yourself questions, such as Is there a sense of place? Can I see the characters? and Does this chapter move the story forward? Perhaps the setting is too vague to create an atmosphere. Perhaps the characters are simply there to converse, with no clever hints into who they are and what they want. Perhaps it lacks emotion, drama or tension.

Crank up the tension
Leading on from above, if your chapter is boring it’s likely it lacks tension. Whatever your genre, conflict is the common ground fuelling each story. So crank up the tension. Consider ways to put your characters into tricky circumstances, throw them into danger, take away the one thing holding them together. Their journey should be littered with difficulties, and it is these struggles that’ll keep readers interested.

Seek feedback
Sometimes, you’re simply too close to the story. Perhaps it’s not boring at all, you’ve just read it too many times. Or you’ve tried to pinpoint want it’s lacking and you can’t. A fresh perspective can really help you highlight what’s gone wrong. Speak to a beta reader or critique partner, and ask for their honesty. It’s helpful to ask somebody who won’t be bias, and who understands being a writer, as well as a reader. You might not like their response, but remember they are only trying to help.

Scrap it
This one is a little harsher, but sometimes, it has to be done. If it’s boring, and it’s not moving the story forward, get rid. If you can’t bear to delete those words forever, copy them into their own document, save it, and then leave it alone. Killing our darlings is never easy, but sometimes, it has to be done.

How do you react to boring moments in your work? Share your thoughts below.

Until then,
Keep writing,

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27 thoughts on “Novel editing: How to fix a boring chapter”

  1. I sometimes struggle with this. Especially when I am writing a scene and I am bored writing it. I know for sure if I am bored just writing it, the reader is going to be bored reading it!
    So I just try to add in conflict where I can, which helps.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good suggestions. I bet scrapping 10 pages or so is hard for a novelist. As a reader, not every chapter is the same. Jodi Picoult wrote a powerful, but hard read called “Small great things.” She used first person view, alternating by chapter, of the three main characters, one of whom was a white supremacist. My wife and I both struggled to read the chapters with the latter character, not because they were poorly written, but his views were so heinous. Yet, they were a key part of the story. My guess is Picoult had a hard time writing those.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Getting to know the protagonist’s and antagonist’s desires, flaws, motivations. Knowing what makes them tick helps me increase involvement and interest. What do I not like about the protagonist? What do I like about the antagonist?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some chapters are a real grind to edit, and yet at the end of the process I’m always amazed at the transformation.
    I’m sure your chapter will shine at the end of the revision. You’re a talented writer, Meelie. I have faith in you. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. With much success, I recently published the first chapter of a book I’ve written on my blog and asked for feedback. It’s being done over nine weeks (with the last section being published this week). Not only has the feedback been excellent and helpful, but it’s also turned the opening chapter into something far better than what I’d originally written. Never be afraid of asking for feedback. Good or bad, it’s worth it and does help.

    Liked by 1 person

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