When you first start writing, there’s an excitement that keeps your fingers flying. Everything is new and you’re eager to get your characters onto the pages to begin their journey. By the same token, when you reach the end of the story, the resolution is in sight, and you’ve labored with your characters for days, weeks, months, and you can’t wait to write, “The End.” But, somewhere in the middle, things start to lag. Not just the words and creative juices, but there is also a lot of self-doubt going on, too, questioning about whether the story is truly worth writing, and if you’ve done it justice.
It’s the saggy middle curse!
I’m going to share with you some of my own tips on how to deal with a saggy middle—and get over that hump!
- Every scene should have a goal of moving the story forward—even if that scene is to push the character’s further away from their goals. Re-evaluate your stalling scene to see if it is holding its weight.
- Conflict! When you’re finding the words are lagging, add in more conflict. Could be a minor bump or a major one, but it will get the words and excitement flowing again—also will pick up the pacing. Up the conflict that is already within the book.
- Increasing tension goes right along with the conflict, but make sure your characters are wound up tight! No time for relaxing until the end!
- If you feel your story is lagging, often times pacing can be the issue, its draggy, slow. Dialogue is a great way to pick up the pace of the story.
- A reveal—give us something interesting.
- Up the stakes. Make it really personal to those characters and watch the emotions fly.
- Go back to the beginning. Somewhere around the halfway mark, I tend to go back and read the first few chapters. It helps me to realize where I’m going and get me reinvested.
- Ask a crit partner to read a few chapters to see if you’re on the “write” track.
- Somewhere in the middle of your story, your character is going to realize something—it’s going to be a revelation that begins to change them—the arch in that story arc. Let’s see it!
- Introduce a new character.
- Kill a character off.
- Add a plot twist.
- If you’re writing romance, sensual tension along with conflict and emotional turmoil are awesome ways to keep those pages turning!
- Surprise your reader—and your characters! Take us in a direction we did NOT think the story was going.
- As for self-doubt—Tell that little devil to shut the front door! (And this is why I go back and read the beginning and get advice from crit partners—I either feel better in the end, or figure out a way to fix the issues!) Self-doubt is unfortunately a hard-core disease we all suffer from at some point during a manuscript. But, seriously, IGNORE it. Figure out a way to slap that biatch!
- Take a short break—and I don’t mean longer than a day or two! Sometimes you need to step back and let the story marinate in your mind before you can dig back in. Don’t take too long of a break or you’ll end up forgetting important info.
- Plot it out—break your story down chapter by chapter so you have a map to follow. When you start heading in the wrong direction, or feel lost, break out that map and get your butt back on the road.
- Cut the crap—if you’re bored with what you’re writing, chances are your reader will be too. Cut it, and move on.
- Don’t complicate things. Has your story grown into the massive, tangled, viney, thorny mess that surrounds Sleeping Beauty’s castle? Sometimes we have too many plot turns. Take a step back and evaluate. Does it work? Or should you eliminate some? Maybe your story is too, simple—ramp it up!
Take a moment to evaluate your story, and get those words flowing again! Don’t let the beginning and end be the only places your story is exciting and page-flipping-worthy. Readers want to be excited and on the edge of their seat through the book.
Check out my new release!
Laird Jamie Montgomery is a warrior with a mission. When he travels to the northern Highlands on the orders of William Wallace, temptation in the form of an alluring lass, could be his undoing.
Lady Lorna Sutherland can’t resist the charms of one irresistible Highlander. Though she’s been forbidden, she breaks every rule for the pleasure of his intoxicating embrace.
When their love is discovered, Jamie is tossed from Sutherland lands under threat of death. But danger can’t keep the two of them apart. No matter what perils may try to separate them—Lorna and Jamie swear they’ll find a way to be together.
A SHORT EXCERPT…
(Take note, this is from the prologue and the hero is young lad of fourteen in this scene…)
The laird and his men raised their swords in the air, roaring out their battle cries. Jamie raised his sword to do the same, but a flash of gold behind a large lichen-covered boulder caught his attention. He eased his knees on his mount’s middle.
What was that?
Another flash of gold — was that blonde hair?
Jamie turned to his father, intent to point it out, but his sire was several horse-lengths ahead and ready to engage the outlaws, leaving it up to Jamie to investigate.
After all, if there was another threat lying in wait, was it not up to someone in the group to seek them out? The rest of the warriors were intent on the outlaws which left Jamie to discover the identity of the thief.
He veered his horse to the right, galloping toward the boulder. A wee lass darted out, lifting her skirts and running full force in the opposite direction. Jamie loosened his knees on his horse and slowed. That was not what he’d expected. At all. Jamie expected a warrior, not a tiny little girl whose legs were no match for his mount. As he neared, despite his slowed pace, he feared he’d trample the little imp.
He leapt from his horse and chased after her on foot. The lass kept turning around, seeing him chasing her. The look of horror on her face nearly broke his heart. Och, but he was no one to fear. But how would she know that? She probably thought he was after her like the outlaws had been after the man, woman and lad.
“’Tis all right!” he called. “I will nay harm ye!”
But she kept on running, and then was suddenly flying through the air, landing flat on her face.
Jamie ran toward her, dropping to his knees as he reached her side as she pushed herself up.
Her back shook with cries he was sure she tried hard to keep silent. He gathered her up onto his knees and she pressed her face to his leine shirt, wiping away tears, dirt and snot as she sobbed.
“Momma,” she said. “Da!”
“Hush, now,” Jamie crooned, unsure of what else he could say. She must have just watched her parents and brother get cut to the ground. Och, what an awful sight for any child to witness. Jamie shivered at a loss for words.
“Blaney!” she wailed, gripping onto his shirt and yanking. “They hurt!”
Jamie dried her tears with the cuff of his sleeve. “Your family?” he asked.
She nodded, her lower lip trembling, green-blue eyes wide with fear and glistening with tears. His chest swelled with emotion for the little imp and he gripped her tighter.
“Do ye know who the men were?”
“Bad people,” she mumbled.
Jamie nodded. “What’s your name?”
She chewed her lip as if trying to figure out if she should tell him. “Lorna. What are ye called?”
“Jamie.” He flashed her what he hoped wasn’t a strained smile. “How old are ye, Lorna?”
“Four.” She held up three of her fingers, then second guessed herself and held up four. “I’m four. How old are ye?”
“Ye’re four, too?” she asked, her mouth dropping wide as she forgot the horror of the last few minutes of her life for a moment.
“Fourteen. ’Tis four plus ten.”
“I want to be fourteen, too.” She swiped at the mangled mop of blonde hair around her face, making more of a mess than anything else.
“Then we’d best get ye home. Have ye any other family?”
“A whole big one.”
“Dunrobin,” she said. “My da is laird.”
“Laird Sutherland?” Jamie asked, trying to keep the surprise from his face. Did his father understand just how deep and unsettling this attack had been? A laird had been murdered. Was it an ambush? Was there more to it than just a band of outlaws?
There would be no meeting, if the laird who’d called the meeting was dead.
“I’ll take ye home,” Jamie said, putting the girl on her feet and standing.
“Will ye carry me?” she said, her lip trembling again. She’d lost a shoe and her yellow gown was stained and torn. “I’m scared.”
“Aye. I’ll carry ye.”
“Are ye my hero?” she asked.
Jamie rolled his eyes and picked her up. “I’m no hero, lass.”
“Hmm… Ye seem like a hero to me.”