Sunday, April 18, 2010

Firming up that Sagging Middle

There's a lot of sagging going on in my house.

My son is sixteen. And if you have a teenager, you probably know what the term "sagging" means. While we don't allow him to wear his pants too low, it's not uncommon to glimpse the band of his boxers above the "waist" of his jeans. It doesn't help that he has no butt, but that's a whole other issue.

Then there's the sagging of my, um, 40+ body parts. And that's all I'll say about that.

But those aren't the types of sagging I'm talking about today. I want to talk about the Sagging Middle. No, not MY sagging middle, although that is included in the body part thing. I'm talking about my novel. I like to call it The Droop.

If you're on Facebook, you may have seen my status the other day about how I hate my novel and am convinced that no one will ever want to read it! So I was having a moment and needed to vent for a minute. Sue me. Honestly, I've heard many authors express these same feelings at some point during the novel writing process. I do feel that much of my frustration had (still has, actually) to do with the fact that I'm now plodding through the middle of my story, which is by far the most difficult part for many authors.

Personally, I love writing beginnings. I'm pretty good at coming up with the opening pages. I also love wrapping everything up and writing the ending. But that middle...ugh! Unfortunately, the middle is the largest section of story. Which ultimately means I'll be spending the majority of time frustrated. Not cool.

I gathered some advice for firming up that sagging middle. If you're in the same boat, maybe these tips will help.

1. Writing prompts. Ask yourself questions about your story and see where your answers lead.

2. Conflict, conflict, conflict. The more conflict you add, the more interesting your story.

3. Write the ending first. This may help trigger the exact ideas you need to fill the pages in between.

4. Call a friend to brainstorm. Two (or more) creative brains are much better than one.

5. Add another POV. It's amazing how re-energized you can get simply by adding another character's perspective.

6. Take a few days off. Give your brain a break. Read a book, spend time with your kids, watch the entire season of Lost. When you go back to your novel, hopefully you'll be more inspired to start crunching again.

I'm in the process of setting up a brainstorming meeting and even have a couple of one-on-one sessions set up for this week, and I'm optimistic that it will help. Hey, I may not ever see my son's jeans hitched up to his actual waist, and my body parts may never be as perky as they once were, but I can definitely do something about my sagging middle.

So Q4U: What do you do to help combat The Droop?


Mia said...

Your post made me smile this morning :) Middles are actually my favorite to write, because I finally feel like I understand and know the characters and have a 'feel' for the story. Now endings... that's another story :)

I love your tips though, and I think they can apply for anytime you're feeling discouraged or confused about your book. Though I took the 'add conflict' thing a little too far. I had to scale back on the conflict, because it was getting out of hand ;)

Kind of like, my husband died, my dog got ran over by a car, I lost my job, the van broke down, my friend yelled at me, someone hacked my bank account, I got sick.... :)

Lynda S. said...

Good suggestions, Lynda. I have a friend who got her manuscript returned to her with instructions to stop being so "nice" and kill off a few people. Not in character for her, but she did it—helped her sagging story.

Mine? Well, if I could just get over the procrastination hurdle, I might make it past the beginning into the middle to find out what sagging is all about! LOL

Hanne Moon said...

Great advice, Lynda! Like you, I got off the ground running with my beginning, but started sinking up to my armpits in mud about 1/3 of the way through. Writing my ending has helped, but I hadn't thought about the brainstorming thing. Hmmm...maybe I need to make a phone call or three...

Rita's Random Ramblings said...

Great advice, I'm with Lynda on this one, I need to jump over the procrastination hurdle! Hugs, Rita

Lorna G. Poston said...

I hate middles too.

An author friend of mine suggests when stuck, to outline backwards. Start from where you want to be, and outline back to where you are.

K.M. Weiland said...

Beginnings are the tough part for me. After that, the story gets progressively easier. But, when I do get temporarily stymied, your points on conflict and taking some time off are my inevitable cures. Someone once said that if you have writer's block, shoot one of your characters. It'll put your imagination in overgear at any rate!