Thursday, August 4, 2011

Firming up that Sagging Middle

Reposted from April, 2010

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?


Chris Jager - Baker Book House-fiction buyer said...

Good Morning,
I can relate to some of the different droops you are talking about except the writng one. So can't really comment on what I do to get over it.
One quick comment, be careful of adding to much conflict. It can begin to drag or be to confusing to the reader. Remember if you add another point of conflict you must also wrap that part up at the end of the book.

Suzanne said...

Had to laugh at your comment about 16 year old boys. I have one whose pants sag too. Somehow, I don't think he'd allow me to take a picture of that and use it for the chapter on sagging middles I wrote for my book, Write This Way: Take Your Writing to a New Level, though. LOL

More seriously, I beef up a sagging middle a variety of ways:
- add a subplot

- increase tension (ask "What is the worse thing that could happen?" Then make it happen)

- add additional obstacles like a difficult boss or neighbor, financial troubles, a parent or child who hates the hero or heroine, etc.

I've got a couple of articles with about this some examples on my blog, Write This Way:

Thank you for sharing about this, Lynda, and helping to get the creative juices flowing to fix up sagging middles.

Lynda Schab said...

So true, Chris, about too much conflict. I tend to confuse easily (but I'm not ditzy...really!), so I don't like TOO much going on, but definitely enough to keep me interested.

Great thoughts, Suzanne. Thanks for pointing us to your blog. :-)

quietspirit said...

I remember those days. 16 was a long time ago but he still had trouble with 'the sag' even last winter. It must be a generational thing.
My hard part is the end. When I tried to write novel or novellas, I couldn't find a way to end the stories believably.
So that's why I am going a different way with my writing.

PS. I still have trouble ending some of my pieces.

Maeve Frazier said...

Your blog in general, and this post in particular, are a great inspiration. Thank you for sharing such valuable advice.