With Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approaching, many are worried about gaining weight and getting the dreaded sagging middle. Today, I’d like to talk about ways to avoid the sagging middle in our novels by putting our books on a strict diet of these elements:
Pace. If you story has slowed down significantly, your reader may grow bored and set aside your novel. Remember how you opened your story with a fast pace? Well, that pace you set was a promise to your reader that it would never sag below that open. Sure, you have moments that will need to take more time to develop, but pace is closely tied with tension. You don’t want to confuse flying through the entire story with pace. You just want to keep your reader engaged through tension.
Tension can be created through the gun in the room, the knife in the pocket, the ever present threat that you know is there, but hasn’t been resolved. When should you use it? Check your story’s arc.
Arc. Does your middle have conflict? Is there adventure? Captivating scenes? If not, add them. Use tension as a catalyst to lead into the grand adventure, which then creates a new problem or builds toward the ultimate climax. You want to always go forward in your plot. If a scene is stagnant, cut it out of your book! Check out this post on plot structure for further tips!
After you take a look at these major elements, zoom into your dialogue.
Dialogue. No one likes to hear someone talk for hours on end. Get your red pen out and get to slashing! You want dialogue that moves your plot forward, keeps up with the tension and leads to the arc. If there is unnecessary dialogue, cut it. You never want to bore your reader and if you are bored editing your dialogue, chances are your reader is already asleep.
I recently shaved off a potential sagging middle by using these exercises, so I hope these help you as well!
Happy Writing and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
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