The Sagging Middle in Novels

open book and penSagging middles in writing novels can be a mess. Often everything gets thrown into the middle while the plot goes around in circles. New characters or too many characters flounder, back story info dumps create road blocks, tension disappears, dialogue goes on and on by characters who are in their heads instead of taking action, and readers put the book down.

How to fix it? Try thinking of your middle in three parts, beginning, middle, and end. In the beginning of the middle, increase tension, create more conflict. Be sure there are hooks to keep the reader reading. In the middle of the middle, take out info dumps, sub-plots that aren’t needed, minor characters that are distracting and don’t support the plot, and take out dialogue that is unnecessary. The end of the middle should be close to the dark moment. Tension is at a high point, up the stakes for the main character, make the odds seem impossible, include a shock, a surprise, or twist. Check all the events and relationships to be sure the cause and effect chain makes sense and builds to the climax. Above all, avoid aimlessness. Good luck.


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For over twenty-five years, I've taught elementary grades, high school, and county special education classes. Now I am a field supervisor for teachers working toward their teaching credentials. I also teach writing classes in Dublin and Pleasanton, California. I have won 5 awards in short story contests, My stories are published in The California Writers Club Literary Review, and several anthologies including four times in Las Positas College collections. I have several book projects, but the two that have my immediate attention are HADA'S FOG, which is women's fiction, LILLI, a YA novel, and NORMAN IN THE PICTURE, a paranormal mystery. I have published an anthology WRITTEN ACROSS THE GENRES that includes writings from members of my writing classes and other writers. It's available on Amazon and Kindle.

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