When we set out to write our literary masterpieces we swear blind that our book will not contain a mid-novel dull filler chapter. We shake our heads and tell ourselves that every single chapter will be meaningful and propel the story forward so there will be no need for filler chapters or as they are sometimes called ‘literary fluff’.
If only this was the case – sigh!
So we make all these bold claims about not having to turn to using a dull filler chapter and then desperation strikes! It is like the dull filler chapter sits and waits for us in the shadows, getting ready to pounce when we feel vulnerable.
Here are some situations where we find ourselves resorting to using a dull filler chapter:
- Our draft has not met our word count expectations. We stare glumly at the word counter wishing it would magically increase. It doesn’t – so we think of ways we can make it longer – cue glorious idea about adding a random chapter mid-way through to bulk up word count!
- At editing stage we realise that we haven’t told the reader about our main character’s love of flower arranging – a vital ingredient for the end of our novel. Cue wonderful idea of baking in a chapter dedicated to our main character’s obsession with arranging pretty flowers in vases.
- At editing stage we decide that our reader will need to calm down and take a break from the action mid-way through. Cue light bulb moment and the idea of adding in a fun-filled chapter designed to act as a ‘literary pit-stop’ for our emotionally drained reader.
- We are mid-way through our novel and in true pantser style decide to take a magical detour or go off on a wild goose chase for a chapter.
- At editing stage we make the decision that our reader needs to know about our main character’s ancestry. If we are truly honest with ourselves the character’s family tree has nothing to do with the plot but we enjoy making up stuff like this. Cue magical idea of writing a chapter dedicated to the main character’s blood line.
These dull filler chapters are a curse because they rarely improve the literary situation, even though they seem like a great idea at the time.
As a reader I have developed a naughty habit for flicking through filler chapters – eeek! They are one of my reading pet hates.
However as a writer …I am guilty of this terrible curse; adding unnecesscary and plot halting chapters is one of my personal literary strengths. If anyone plans to read my future books, make sure you go for a cup of tea at about 45k words and come back at 50k – you won’t have missed much. Sigh!
So I have been looking at how I can stop falling prey to this curse:
There seems to be only a few solutions:
- Delete! Ask yourself – does this chapter advance the plot? If it doesn’t then get rid of it. Gasp! This is really hard to do but we have to be cruel to be kind. Even if you adored writing reams about your main character’s family tree – if it doesn’t advance the story – press delete!
- Don’t resort to adding a filler chapter. Even if it seems like an easy fix don’t go there! There are other ways to fix your issues. Don’t do what I do and create a dull and random filler chapter for no reason other than to let the reader know that my character likes to wash her hair on a Thursday. Find other ways to convey this throughout the rest of the book.
- Get tough at editing stage. Look at the purpose of each chapter during editing as this will alert you to those dull filler chapters.
Take it easy out there writers!
Have a fabulous day!