The dreaded middle slump is real. If your story starts sagging after chapter 15 there is only one thing to do: Escalate.
10 ways to increase tension in your book
Increase the stakes of the goal
“Sir, we located the bomb and it's worse than we feared. It's under the embassy. If it goes off it will cause another war.”
Have the first plan fall through
The town council refused to grant a zoning variance for Lacey to open a coffee shop in her grandparents’ old house. Now she was back to square one.
Make your character less capable of completing the plan
Jack examine the bullet hole and swore. There was no way he could swim to shore safely now.
Shorten the deadline
The kidnappers demanded the money in just 3 hours after they noticed the TV coverage.
Make the goal important to the character on another level.
Shelia realized Paul wasn’t just the best basketball coach her school had ever had, he was also the first attractive man who wasn’t intimated by a female principal. She had to talk him out of leaving.
Add a step that has to be done before the rest of the plan
We found a potion that will help, but it requires wolfsbane picked on the new moon. And there won't be a new moon for 11 more days.
Make the goal important to more people
The photo of the partially paralyzed lion cub went viral. People around the world held their breath for the surgery results.
Discover new complications
Because of the hurricane, all the south-bound lanes on the highway were converted to north-bound evacuation routes. Keisha hoped she would get to the capital in time using the twisty back roads.
Make the character care even more about the goal
Nicole and her friend Tamara were hoping to finally get into theater camp. They just found out that Tamara is moving soon. Now the 2 friends really, really want to spend their last summer together at theater camp.
Add a brand new conflict*
Mark frowned down at the ship’s log. There was something wrong here. He jumped at the boom of a cannon. “Pirates!”
*This isn't technically escalating, but it can help increase your tension. Just make sure each conflict you introduce is escalated at least once. A series of easily solved problems isn't very thrilling.