Preventing a Sagging Middle

It’s a known fact that one of the most challenging parts of writing a novel is the middle. Most of us have little trouble building momentum in the beginning of our story and then winding down at the end. But, oh, the middle!  How do we keep it from sagging? 

Here are a few tips that may help you as they have helped me: 

1-Up the stakes for your main character. Usually a middle sags because the tension sags. Ask yourself what new problem you can introduce for your character in the middle of your story. This new problem could be in the form of an unexpected turn of events or even a new character. 

2-Introduce a “ticking clock”.  Perhaps your main character learns that she must accomplish something by a certain deadline or else something terrible will happen to her or someone she loves. 

3-Introduce a complication. This could be something in your main character’s past that has been hidden up until this point. 

4-Put the main character in a new location, preferably one she didn’t anticipate. Adding a new dimension to your story almost always causes reader interest to rise.  Perhaps your main character’s boss taps her to go on a business trip on the other side of the world. Depending on her occupation, perhaps she is assigned to handle a secret mission of some sort. 

5-Reveal something from the main character’s past that has serious implications in her life now. This could be virtually anything. Perhaps she discovers she has a half-brother she never knew about. Or perhaps she learns that the man she thought was her father is not her father. 

You can avoid a sagging middle if you plan ahead.  If your interested in more information on doing so, check out Alicia Rasley’s article, Tightening the Sagging Middle.

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One thought on “Preventing a Sagging Middle

  1. Great advice. I told the teens in a workshop this year at the Philly conference: if you’re blocked, kill someone. The shocked looks on their faces! HA!! No! I said. In your story.

    Kill someone important and write your character’s reactions to it. You dont’ have to keep it (although you might,) but it will give you a breath of fresh literary air.

    I think the same thing would help a sagging middle.

    November 20, 2010 at 1:35 PM