How To Pump Up The Sagging Middle – Part 1

How can authors avoid a sagging middle. Recently I presented a workshop to authors in various stages of writing, and as we talked, it’s evident that no matter how many novels an author writes, the sagging middle sneaks up every once in a while. The opening can come easy to writers–begin at the point of change, introduce the main character, provide the goal and motivation that makes the goal important, initiate the first conflict so readers know what stands in the main character’s way of reaching the goal.  The end is basically resolving the dire moment when all seems lost, resolving all issues and tying up loose ends. The beginning and ending are three or four chapters. The many other chapters of the novel, the bulk of the bulk of the pages, belong to the middle.

What is a perfect middle?
• Progressing scenes, each showing character change or advancing the plot.
• Point Of View (POV) from which character has the most at stake in each scene.
• Each scene more dramatic until the conclusion.
• Building tension by developing each scene with growing action, emotion, and introspection.

Each writer usually excels in one or two areas but authors must work with all these techniques so reading articles and finding examples is a great learning tool.

Techniques to Avoid the Sagging Middle

No matter how much we learn and know, on occasion, authors will sleep into a slump and need to remember some of the special strategies that can be used to pump up the middle and keep readers hanging on the story with white knuckled enthusiasm.  In Part two of this post, you will learn numerous special techniques to plotting exciting scenes, but the first one that authors are smart to keep always is their minds is using strategic plotting.

Strategic Plotting:
• Strong need/goal that can change or be the demise of the character or his purpose
• Powerful opposition that deepens conflict – opposition can another person, a group, nature or himself.
• Create a compelling situation or duty that binds characters in their struggle
• Develop powerful emotion.
• One problem and two paths to follow that forces a choice
• Backstory used effectively  by presenting pieces of  information slowly and only as needed
• Staying in one POV throughout the scene or the chapter.
• To show the opposite POV or reaction to the past scene use the sequel
• Enhance pacing with a blend of action, dialogue, and introspection .
• As one conflict is solved a greater conflict is born

Besides basic rules of good writing other techniques to pump up the middle depends on the genre and book length. So the next post on this subject will cover ten specific techniques to solve the sagging middle problem.



Leave a comment
  1. Jill W July 3, 2015 at 6:53 am #

    Great to see your post, Gail! Thank you for these helpful tips. I like the idea of showing the opposite POV to a previous scene. Good stuff!


  1. Pumping Up The Sagging Middle Part 2 | Gail Gaymer Martin - August 3, 2015

    […] hope both Part I (Click if you missed it) and Part II of dealing with a sagging middle offers you numerous ways to resolve a disappointing […]

Leave a Reply