I have a chapter outline for the novel series I'm writing, and I have a few 'blank' chapters where I don't know what to write in them. I need to do something quickly, because I've started writing the first book and I am nearly up to my first blank chapter. How do I come up with ideas to fill these chapters?
You are not writing a history, where you are obliged to fill in the details of all the day, months, and years that pass. You are writing a story. You are obliged to write only those incidents that build the arc of the story. If nothing happens that builds the arc of the story for a day, a month, a year, a decade, or a century, then don't write anything about that time. Pick up the story when the events of the story arc resume.
The question is interesting. Your story does not have to be a history, in order to have a "blank chapter" problem. For example, it might be organized in a manner whereby each chapter has a certain structural purpose.
Let's imagine that your book is "The Firble Compound," fiction related to theft of plans for the Firble device. We learn that a Firble has ten components, each with a unique name. You decide that you will write ten chapters, each bearing a theme related to one of the components. In this case, you couldn't eliminate a chapter, just because you couldn't think of what to write there, now could you? Among your millions of readers, thousands of them would notice the deficit, and spread the word all over the Internet. You'd never live it down.
Now, to my answer: I have faced this before. What I did, in the end, was to write a weak chapter. That is, instead of moving in some strong material from better chapters, I left the strong material concentrated in the better chapters. Then I wrote a weak chapter, filling it with what musicians would call a "pastoral" passage. I wrote pleasant descriptive material about the scenery, the weather, and so forth; I sent a few of the characters out to dinner, and had them converse about things unrelated to the story. The chapter's theme was indirectly introduced via a background conversation among the restaurant's waiting staff, who were discussing the news. That way, what the staff said did not have to be accurate, since it was third-hand.
It really depends exactly what your problem is.
One possibility is that your chapter outline is just an initial stab at the story and as it has developed in more detail the 'blank' chapters are simply redundant now as what they were intended to cover has been dealt with already or is no longer relevant.
Alternatively it could be that you have two key scenes or situations planned and you don't know how to get from one to the other perhaps a lot of time passes without much incident or there is a dramatic change of circumstance for a particular character. If you are having trouble getting characters from pone major plot point to another this may be a symptom of some underlying problem with the story or characterization which you need to work out before rather than shoehorning in a linking chapter which doesn't work.
Another possibility is issues with pacing, for example you may have planned a particular rhythm to the story which has ended up slipping out of sync with what you have ended up writing. Say you have major events in chapters 5 and 7 and you want to use chapter 6 to separate them. Obviously a crucial consideration here is what your original logic and process was for setting out the chapters as you did in the first place. Is there some underlying concept to this structure which can't easily be changed or was it just a way to get an initial structure down to get you started ?
I would also suggest that 'thinking of ideas to fill space' is not necessarily a good thing in any kind of art form. Everything which you include should be there to fill some function. For sure there may be particular problems which you need to solve but 'filling space' is rarely a good thing.
Overall some points to consider are :
- What are the logical consequences of actions and events in the previous chapter ?
- Is there any information that the reader needs to be able to make sense of the next chapter ?
- How does the blank chapter fit in with the rest of the story in terms of pacing and character development. For example an interlude between two very dramatic passages may be an opportunity for something a bit more introspective and atmospheric where characters take stock of events. This can also be an opportunity to have more atmospheric and descriptive passages which add to setting and characterization without slowing down more dramatic sections.
Although, as RobtA suggests, a story can resemble a history, a story is really a path from where the character(s) start to where the character(s) finish. If the end of the last completed chapter before the gap is at the same place as the start of the first completed chapter after the gap, you have no gap.
So look at where the character(s) are (both as bodies and as people) at the points in question. You need only worry about whatever differences there are between these two points.