How to Write: Sagging Middles

How to Write: Sagging Middles

So, how is it going? Have you gotten through the first one thousand words yet? Two thousand? Usually by this time, I know if a book is going to be finished or not (as a reader and as a writer). Some books start out strong and then about act two, something weird happens.

It’s called the middle.

No matter how hard we try, boring, inane activity, and sagging plots will hit us in the middle of a book. We sort of run out of steam, or if you are a pantser, you can’t see where the story is going and it takes a while to allow the characters and story to unfold.

So, what does one do about such a phenomenon? Well, I am glad you asked.
There are a number of things you can add in about this time.

  • a mentor character
  • a inside look at the villain
  • an unexpected death
  • an enemy
  • a twist
  • But you have to know what to do with all this extra stuff to make it fit into the plot. If you are writing a romance, this is where the relationship is looking rocky. If you are writing a mystery, this is where the second death happens – you know the one that solidifies we have a serial killer and so on.

    There is only one word for making the middle soar.


    Tighten up the middle of your book with conflict

    That sounds a little harder than it has to, but adding in suspense and conflict is one of the most difficult things we can do as writers. Sometimes we hate to hurt our characters. We want them to live a lovable life that has no rocky road. The problem with that is, no one wants to read one of those books.

    When a character faces a mountain with a wind storm going on including snow and ice pelting down that’s suspense. When you add in a rock giant throwing boulders at them trying to knock them off the ledge…well, that’s conflict at its best.

    So, here’s the formula for fixing a sagging middle and it is not original at all. I never thought of it and yet I have used it many times.

    “Send your character up a tree, place a man-eating lion at the ground. Put an ogre on the lion’s back and make him throw rocks at the character. Have the character look up to see nowhere to go. Down is death and up is impossible. Now what do you do?”

    Putting your characters in impossible places and getting them out of them is how to write conflict and it is absolutely the best way to fix your muddling middles.

    I hope this little bit has helped. Don’t forget you can get all the posts in one place here. And guess what? Chapter four is up too. Check it out HERE.

    About master

    Kim Smith is the author of the Shannon Wallace Mysteries, and the Mt. Moriah Series- plus, YA fantasy, and Bizarro fiction. All available on Amazon.

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