How to avoid a sagging middle in your novel

How to avoid a sagging middle in your novel

You’re getting in to your characters and your story is forming itself by the chapter. You’re now at the middle of your novel and things seem to be dying out.

THIS IS THE WORST FEELING.

This can happen both to pantsers and plotters so no one is exempted. I’ve recently come upon this issue many times and it has caused me to put aside many manuscripts. In my current WIP, I hit this snag again and decided that I needed to do something about it ——– hence RESEARCH!!!!

Funny enough, I hate research when it comes to my law essays but with my manuscripts, it is a life saviour and I crave it and thrive in it.

1. Raise uncertainty about your character’s goals — in the beginning of your novel, you’ve made the focus on introducing us to your characters and their GOAL. The middle can focus on the first steps they take to reach their goal. You can either start them off as getting the hang of it and then throw in something to mess it up or vice versa.

If it is a romance novel, it may be when they actually go out or a scene to make them come into contact with the other person in a way they didn’t realise was possible. If it’s a friends to lovers situation, then it would be when one of them realises they have feelings for the other. Just throw in something that’ll keep us on our toes and interested.

2. Increase plot complications and character obstacles — this is the time to begin throwing in all the obstacles for their race. The hurdles and tyres and climbing walls should appear on the track. It could be subtle misunderstandings that lead to bigger problems or the discovery of a secret that makes them begin to question everything.

The ‘sagging’ middle is sometimes caused by insufficient development towards a climax. We need the grounds to shake and for the earth to quake (not literally haha) but we need something to throw us off balance.

3. Create sublpots that add interest to your main story arc — this one is something I do in all my writing. The middle is the best time to make the story more interesting. Subplots can give characters the knowledge or skill they need to achieve an aim, taking them one step closer to their goal. The same way interesting side characters makes a story richer, subplots do the same thing. Take your main characters on an unexpected adventure (maybe even with a side character) that helps give them clarity or a part-solution to their problem.

4. Stay focused on your character’s end goals — this is the most important one. When a middle is ‘sagging’, it is often that the direction and purpose is disappearing. One thing I would suggest is to go back and read the beginning to remember the GOAL. The whole point of the novel. At this point, you could create an alternate route to a different goal. This point only works if you are trying to teach your characters a lesson (maybe about happiness over work or something like that). But this is the time to refocus you and your charaters’ views on the goal despite whatever direction you decide to take the story in.

Hope this was helpful.

Now, I am going to apply these to my WIP, so I’ll speak to you later šŸ™‚

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