A Year To Publication
Avoiding a Saggy Middle in Your Novel
Avoiding a Saggy Middle in Your Novel
by Jennifer Snow
'Yay, no saggy middle issue', the words every author hopes to hear from their editors upon receiving revision notes. But how do we avoid it when we have three hundred pages to fill? Believe me, I feel the pain of that middle section of every book I write, just like everyone else...I've just learned a few techniques to 'get around it'. At every writing conference I attend, I always choose to sit in on the workshops that tackle this issue and the following are various tips I’ve found to be the most helpful.
-Raising stakes- We all do this at the beginning of the book, but sometimes an unexpected twist in the middle that makes the protagonist's goal that much more important can help you get through the middle. Things like a compressed timeline-a deadline that is now even shorter or involving a loved one-someone else who is affected by his or her actions can add a richer element to the plot and keep the story moving forward.
-Throw a Curve Ball- Have your protagonist realize that the goal they've been chasing is the wrong one and have them switch focus. Alternately, you can make the goal harder to attain or remove it entirely-now the character has to go in a different direction.
-Cripple your Hero/Heroine- In every story, the protagonist usually has things they can depend on...things helping them achieve their goal. Take these away. Remove allies-maybe the friend betrays them or leaves them. An ability they rely on could also be taken away. Ex. They are a runner-they break a leg.
-Switch characters- If a particular scene in the middle isn't working-switch out a supporting character. Choose the least likely character that you would have normally put in the scene and watch it take the plot in a direction you'd never have thought of.
-Write shorter, fast-paced scenes in the middle.
-Switch POV. If a scene isn’t moving the storyline along, it is not needed in the story. So if you feel that a scene is necessary in the middle of your plot, but it doesn’t serve a greater purpose in driving the storyline further-a switch in POV might be required.
-Skip over it- I know we've all been told that writing out of order is a bad thing-but it works just fine for me. Often, I know what scenes NEED to happen in the book, the ones that really drive the plot, the ones that excite me-so I write them first. I know the ending always as I begin a book, so usually I write it before the middle and then work backwards. For example-in book two of my Brookhollow series-I needed the heroine to be in her garage (she's a mechanic) toward the last scene of the book in order to make the ending work, so I wrote that scene, then figured out what scenes needed to happen before it to get her there:) Ex-she forgot something...so I needed to figure out what she'd forgotten and how that item got there in the first place...and so on...
So, those are just my suggestions on how to keep the plot moving forward and the words flowing past that dreaded middle section. I’d love to hear any other ideas that work for you. xo Jen
About JenniferJennifer Snow lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and five year old son. She is a member of the Writers Guild of Alberta, the Romance Writers of America, the Canadian Author Association, SheWrites.org and FAVA. She is also a regular columnist on the Working Writers & Bloggers site and The Writer’s Fun Zone. She has published articles in Mslexia Magazine, WestWord Magazine, RWR and Southern Writers Magazine. She has also taught RWA Chapters courses online. Her publishing credits include her six book small town, contemporary romance series published through Harlequin Heartwarming and a new MMA sports romance series published through Penguin Random House Berkley/NAL. Her Brookhollow series books were finalists in the 2014 Golden Quill Contest and the Heart of Denver Aspen Gold Contest and the 2015 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the Still Moments Magazine Reviewer Choice Awards and the Booksellers Best Awards. More information can be found at www.jennifersnowauthor.com
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Gracie had almost convinced herself that she’d put her silly childhood crush on Walker to rest. But the sight of him sleeping in only a pair of boxer briefs makes it clear that some things never change. And as old sparks turn to flames, Gracie is forced to decide between the future she thought she wanted or the man she’s never stopped loving…
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