7 Ways to Get Past the Saggy Middle of Your Story – Novel writing tips
Writing through the “saggy middle” can be difficult. Here are 7 ways to break past your inner critic and write better, faster middles!
I’m smack dab in the middle of drafting my latest novel. The 50% mark of a manuscript is always the point where I tend to sloooow down.
The words don’t come as easily. I can’t envision the scenes as well, and to be honest, the middle isn’t as fun as the beginning.
Have you experienced this saggy middle feeling? Seth Godin wrote a book called The Dip. In it, he says anything worth achieving, whether it be a novel, running a marathon, starting a business, has a dip where most people quit.
The most strong-willed—those who are most successful—persevere and keep going until they make it out of the dip. Writing a book is tough. No wonder so many people say they want to write one, but never actually do.
So how do you and I keep going? Check out these 7 tips.
1. Skip to a later chapter.
Is there a particular scene that excites you? Maybe your ending is so thrilling, it’s begging to be written, now! Don’t feel as though you have to write in sequential order. Write what intrigues you first and connect the scenes to get there.
2. Mind map your next five scenes.
Sometimes we need to get the creativity muscles in our brain working differently. Our brains thrive on variety. Rather than typing out beats, try drawing a mind map which will get your brain thinking in new ways and perhaps rev up your energy. More about mind maps here.
3. Brainstorm a list of 10 unexpected plot twists.
What would happen to your characters? Let your imagination loose…the crazier the better. Sometimes we get bored with drafting because the scenes we’re writing aren’t very exciting. Try injecting a surprise that your reader won’t expect. Remember, scenes benefit from conflict. Always.
I walk on my treadmill as I dictate. Getting my blood circulation moving, helps me get words out faster. Even if you don’t have a treadmill, you could dictate while taking a walk, or as Christopher Downing suggests in his book, Fool-Proof Dictation, pace the floor as you write. He also recommends keeping your hands busy (squeezing a ball or using a fidget spinner). The mindless activity takes your mind off of your ability to perform and quiets that pesky inner critic.
5. Interview your characters.
If you’re bored with a scene, you may have lost a grip on your character’s motivations. Well-written characters have goals they want to achieve. In the best stories, those goals are in direct conflict with each other. Writing out a question-and-answer session with your main characters can help you reset their driving ambitions and clarify where they need to go next.
6. What happens next?
This is a simple question I learned from Dean Wesley Smith. When you’re stuck and the words don’t seem to flow, ask, “What would happen next?” Imagine yourself as the character in that situation. Once you write the next thing, repeat. Before you know it, you have many words written.
7. Leave it to chance.
If you’re really stuck, it may help to seek external inspiration. I’ve used tarot cards to reveal a character’s fortune. Random plot generators can also be helpful. Find them through a Google search. Or write a list of 20 possible things that could happen and throw a die to land on one.
I hope these simple tips and tricks help you keep going. You can make it through the saggy middle! 🙂 Remember, it’s always better to finish what you start.