Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sagging Middle Woes

And no I'm not talking about my spare tire though I probably do need to make dieting top priority on my New Year's resolution list. Ugh.
I'm talking about the middle of the story that usually has writers pulling their teeth, their hair and anything else worth pulling. I'm a pantser, a term fondly applied to writers who pen manuscripts by the seat of their pants with little to no structured planning. Yep, that's me.

I'm working on a book now that has my muse screaming in frustration, but I know why. This is the first book I've done where I've written the sagging middle before the lead-up that follows the beginning. In essence, I wrote the beginning with no trouble. And then I rewrote the beginning. And then I rewrote the beginning again. I've rewritten the beginning five times now. But I'm happy with the fifth attempt. However, in doing this, I jumped into the sagging middle and floundered.

To make the story flow better, I just kept adding meat and cheese, sandwiching in scenes that happen before the middle. When I finally got it all put together, I realized I'd written that middle section first. Doing so kept this part far from sagging. I think the flavors all mesh now and I've written the perfect hamburger. I just need to put the ending bun on top and I'll be finished. Dinner served.Yay! (oh wait, what happened to that diet I just talked about?)

So what do I do to keep the middle from falling flat? First, I try to include foreshadowing and hooks throughout the beginning that have to be addressed along the way. Second, when I put my characters into situations where they have to react, I try to figure out more than one direction for them to go. I try to throw out the first solution because if I thought of it right off the bat, it will probably be the solution readers are expecting. I want to give them the unexpected if possible. Third, I try to keep those pages full of action. If it sags too much, kill a character. Ha ha. And if you can't kill 'em, put your hero or heroine into yet another impossible situation. But in all honesty, to sustain a story from beginning to end without the sagging middle, a writer has to have well developed characters with internal and external conflicts that drive the story forward. Without goal, motivation and conflict, it's hard to have a story at all.

I have 47,000 words written and am pretty much done with the middle. I'm now at the crucial black moment. This will be a difficult section to draft. My story takes place at the beginning of a hurricane and while I want to keep the facts as true to the real event as possible, I don't want folks to die. Unfortunately, folks did die in this tragic hurricane. I'm currently doing a ton of research on Indianola, TX, a ghost town that was once a city to rival that of Galveston. At the time my story takes place, the port town boasted a population of about 5000.


A.R. Norris said...

I like your approach to overcoming the dreaded middle. I'm the plotter, but might try a similar, if not exactly the same, technique with my outlined scenes. I can always use more writing tips and tricks for the toolbox.

Ciara Gold said...

Oh, I hear ya. I'm going to my first writer's workship in eons. I need a refresher to take my writing to the next level. It's one hosted by Mary Buckham and I've heard nothing but good things.