Sagging Middles

15 Jan

It’s that time of year when it’s hard to find a parking spot at the local gym. The holidays are a time of indulgence and we all pay the price. Everyone, it seems, is, like me, looking at a sagging middle and trying to tighten up.      Exerxcise equipment

As I’m peddling away on an exercise bike, it gives me time to think of the same difficulty in writing a book. For me, the story idea, the naming of characters, their descriptions, the settings, the twists are all so much fun to think of as I begin the process of writing a novel. I start off with a bang, playing with the ideas, setting up the characters for the journey they will take, etc. Then the hard, hard work starts. And by the time I get to the middle? I’m sagging.

I realize tension is the key to keeping the reader involved. The same is true for the writer. How to keep the tension up and the story moving forward isn’t easy.

One of the things I’m working on is scene structure. How to make sure it moves the story forward and keeps the tension by knowing what the protagonist and antagonist want, what their plans are for getting it, how are they changed by the conflict and outcome. Pretty basic, huh? But it’s not as easy as it seems.

What are some of the things you do to help a sagging middle?


Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Idaho


14 responses to “Sagging Middles

  1. marsharwest

    January 15, 2013 at 7:57 AM

    Judith, I took a class once that suggested a way to do this. Though I have not perfected the method it makes sense. Set up questions/decisions your character has to make. Each one should have escalating consequences. It’s not like they’re choosing between a good and a bad, but between two bads. Do you let the dog die, or do you let the cat die? Do you take the great job offer and move off and leave your ailing mother? Or do you stay in the dead end job and look after her? That kind of thing.
    I haven’t begun a new book since taking the class, so haven’t gotten to apply it to a whole ms. What do you think of this idea?

    • Judith Keim

      January 15, 2013 at 2:59 PM

      I love it Marsha…you’re right! In order to keep tension and pace you have to have unanswered questions…Good thoughts! thanks!

  2. Janis McCurry

    January 15, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    The mantra I use throughout the book is “How does this scene move the plot forward?” Hopefully, it keeps me on an even keel with no sag…but of course, the jury’s out on that one.

    • Judith Keim

      January 15, 2013 at 3:00 PM

      It’s so good that you have a mantra like that, Janis. I get lost in my own story sometimes…Thanks!

  3. maryvine

    January 15, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    The only answer I have is putting action and humor between the hero and heroine.

    • Judith Keim

      January 15, 2013 at 3:01 PM

      Love it.. a action and humor do a lot to keep up the interest! Thanks!

  4. Peggy Staggs

    January 15, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    I do the “How does this scene move the plot forward?” and I slip in a dark moment that foreshadows the black moment. AND hope it works.

    • Judith Keim

      January 15, 2013 at 3:02 PM

      Yes, Peggy! Mysteries do need dark moments. Can’t wait to read them!

  5. stephanieberget

    January 15, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    This is a question that wakes me up at night. I like Marsha’s ideas. Great post.

    • Judith Keim

      January 15, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      I do my best plotting in the early morning before I get out of bed. I lie there thinking of loose ends and what happens next and the what ifs… and yes, I wonder if I’m sagging…LOL

  6. Jennifer

    January 15, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    I’m still trying to get to the middle 🙂

  7. Judith Keim

    January 15, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Jennifer, I know you will! Good luck in moving forward!!

  8. Lynn Mapp

    January 16, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    I think of the middle as being part of the long, hard climb to the cliff they are going to be pushed off, fall off, jump off… You get the idea.

  9. Judith Keim

    January 16, 2013 at 10:20 PM

    I do, Lynn! It’s one of the most difficult parts of writing the story….and yes, it’s all leading to more crises!


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