You’ve written zealously for months, your enthusiasm growing as the plot unfolds before your eyes. Characters, once just names on a page, have come to life and appear to be writing the story for you. Each morning you wake up with fresh ideas and churn out yet another thousand words before lunchtime. It’s exhilarating to say the least until, one day, you find it all grinding to a halt. Your manuscript has sagged in the middle!
Days become unproductive, nights sleepless. Is there a solution to this dilemma? The first thing is you don’t give up. Instead you turn on your determination and treat this as a challenge.
To start with think of your manuscript as a three act play.
Act 1 you are busy introducing characters, the settings they inhabit, establishing subplots and conflict.
Act 2 complications arise, your protagonist tries and fails and tries again.
Act 3 you tie up sub-plots and loose ends, your protagonist finally confronts the villain and all is resolved.
If you look at Act 1, you can see there’s lots to be done establishing your characters, settings etc. And again in Act 3, you are bringing it all together and finalising everything. But Act 2 can be difficult because it’s where all the action is. You have to tell your reader, in a plausible way, how your characters are dealing with their conflicts. If you’re writing a murder mystery you have to show the workings of how the crime is being solved. So it’s not uncommon to experience problems. Your conflict might run out of steam or you find it difficult to solve the crime.
Here are a few suggestions to remedy the situation:
Option 1: Someone once said to me that embarking on writing a book is like giving yourself a lot of problems that no one can help you with. That’s true in a sense, but not altogether because I’ve found just talking to someone about plot problem(s), does help make things clearer in my mind. And the strange thing is the person you’re speaking to doesn’t necessarily have to respond. They just have to have the endurance to listen to your ramblings until you’re quite finished. Mothers are the best choice for this task. If that’s not an option then a spouse or sibling is probably the next option. Friends, not so good. You wouldn’t want to do this to a friend!
Option 2: Take stock. Think about your characters and your plot. What’s at stake for your characters? Is there something about them you have overlooked? If your plot has come to a standstill, is there another direction it can go in?
Option 3: Skip over your problem area and write a scene further along. Sometimes what you write might suggest actions for the scene(s) that have been giving you trouble.
Option 4: Make things happen. Create a new conflict/event for your character(s) to be faced with. And think about how your character(s) will logically deal with this new situation. If you’re writing a murder mystery, have another murder take place. This is sure to get things moving again!
Option 5: Write the finale. Even if this eventually changes, it might give you a sense of direction.
What are your suggestions for sagging middles?