Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Saggy Truth


First, don't forget to check out the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post for the week by Zoe Courtman on "What keeps you writing?" Last week Danyelle Leafty posted and check out earlier posts by myself, and Laura Diamond!





So on to today's post. The saggy, wiggly, under-toned issue that writers know is there but don't like to look at: The Middle Plot Sag.



Do you know what I mean? Say you've been writing like fiend. You think you've got that hooky first chapter. You know the novel ends well. And then, well, there's the middle part. Somewhere between your first big reveal, and the exciting build up to the end, it's there.

Sure, there are plot points that must be hit to make them connect. But maybe it's lacking that certain something? Perhaps the dialogue isn't as crisp, or the scenes are limp like day-old basil you forgot to put in a glass of water. You know. Smushy.

This is one of the harder things I've had to deal with. And the truth? Sucking it in only hides the problem. The actual anatomy has to change sometimes. More muscle, less fat, more tone. When you read it, it has to hit you back. Not just jiggle helplessly.

Have you dealt with the Saggy Truth?

26 comments:

Solvang Sherrie said...

Figuring out the most interesting way to get from the beginning to the end is always a challenge. For me it usually means figuring out a lot of backstory that never makes it into the novel but motivates my characters to act.

lbdiamond said...

I try to keep the action going...easier said than done sometimes, LOL!

Great post!

Mayowa said...

I usually try to kill someone off or having something wild happen in the middle...sorta like a mini climax before the big one at the end.

Not sure if i ever really get it to work though.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Great post - and exactly the terrain I find myself wading through these days. I agree with Laura - keep the action going. I realized lack of it was what made my middle sag, so I had to take out some scenes and swap others around to keep pacing going. I realized I don't have to put EVERYTHING into the story, just the bits that make it move.

Sandy Shin said...

That's such an apt analogy! The middle is always the hardest part to get through (especially since there's SO MUCH of it and so many ways things can unfold). I'm definitely keeping this in mind when revising.

P.S. Love your new blog layout! Gorgeous.

Amparo Ortiz said...

This is probably when I pull my hair out the most (my scalp hasn't forgiven me yet...). It's pretty frustrating, but you have to keep yourself motivated through whole process.

How, you ask?

I. Have. No. Idea.

But I do know that it always pays off in the end ;)

Cynthia Reese said...

What?? No pill to swallow to cure this horrid malady? If you do invent one, you'll be set for life!

Gail said...

I can relate....struggling with the middle plot right now!

MissV said...

ARGH! I'm stuck in the middle doldrums right now. The pace is about to hit warp speed, but gotta take care of some in-between business first.

It's okay

It'll be better in the rewrite!

Talli Roland said...

The middle is the worst! Usually I try to add more to the subplot, but something you're right: the whole structure does need to change.

Crimey said...

I had the saggy middle issue in the first novel I completed. In my current WIP, I've broken the book into the three sections and each chapter I focus on upping the drama/action/stakes/conflict. So far it's moving along well.

Alexis said...

I don't write Novels but Poetry is similar and it is easiest for me to write the beginning and end, too.
So, when you've got a squishy middle, do crunches! ;)

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Great post. As for the saggy middle of my MS, I found the only way to deal with it was remove the waffle. I found I'd wrote so much description my punchy bits were hidden in squidy description. I'm still trimming but I'll get there. That baby is gonna be toned. :)

Shelley Sly said...

Hey, sorry I'm really behind on reading blog posts, but I just wanted to thank you so much for giving me an award! You're so sweet! Hope you've had a good week so far. :)

Kirsten Lesko said...

I don't have trouble in the middle (at least I don't think I don't - we'll see what the pros say!). For me the hard part is the end. The falling action is saggy BY DEFINITION and I have the hardest time making it pop.

VR Barkowski said...

It's really crazy, but my middle and end rock. I have a saggy beginning. No one ever talks about a saggy beginning... In my ms, there is so much personal history that has to be established for the story to make sense, it simply doesn't have the energy of the rest of the book.

Jaydee Morgan said...

The middle is my least favorite to write - if I'm going to get stuck anywhere, it's here. I might even settle for "saggy", at least then, I'd have something to work with.

Elle Strauss said...

Middles are love/hate for me. No getting around it though, can't have a middle-less book. (or would it just be a shorter book with a very small middle?)

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post. I'm actually worried about my middle - I think a big action scene that happens in the middle needs to maybe move to the end. But that woudln't work really well in other ways. So hard to know what to do.

Kirk said...

Interesting - I've been told by my beta readers that the middle is the best part of the book!! Dang it, back to the opening chapters.

B.E. Sanderson said...

When it happens to me, it's a job for Total ReWrite! (It's sounds like more fun than it actually is, but I'm trying to think positive.)

Theresa Milstein said...

I don't have much luck with basil in water. It sags on me quicker, I think.

A possible saggy middle is why critique groups or beta readers are essential. They can let us know where our manuscripts need more muscle.

Ee Leen Lee said...

no flashbacks at this point- it'll only drag the narrative flow

Creepy Query Girl said...

thats one of the reasons I like to take time away from my ms before editing. Its when you do the really fast read-through that you get a clear picture of the novel as a whole and often ideas will come to me to make that 'sagging' place jump to life if need be.

Medeia Sharif said...

For my wip, I was staring at the outline forever knowing that something was missing (the middle was sagging). I added a villain and voila. Adding that character and the conflict she creates helped enormously.

cipherqueen said...

Villians are good...
conflict is good...
If the middle is killing me, I look at both ends and think about how much of the middle I actually need. What MUST happen for the ending to make sense? I embellish from there.

Heh, but I've also done the total Rewrite route- and it actually isn't that bad, when you get down to it. Exploring motivations is also a fun thing to do in that time. ;D

 
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