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We All Get Them Eventually: Sagging Middles

It’s funny how life imitates art.

Yes, I’m talking about sagging middles today. Why is it that middles are more susceptible to the gravitational pull of the earth? You’d think, tucked neatly between things, they would be able to retain their composure and firmness, but in fact, they use the beginning and end as a support so they can just let it all go and hang limply between without putting in any real effort.

As in life (my middle may be a bit more saggy than when I was 20) this is true with our writing.

Beginnings are fun, right? All that newness, introducing characters and getting to know them, the hints at plots and building everything up in interesting ways. FUN.

Endings, well, here is the chance to tie everything together in a way that makes readers go HOLY CRAP! Awesome! Things are resolved, we get to see the characters we’ve fallen in love with achieve something, and we walk away feeling satisfied. **

So why are the middles so hard?

Because this is where everything happens to get us from the beginning to the end. (Duh right, so why is it so hard?) This is where the stakes build, but maybe not in as an exciting manner as at the end. This is where we get to know the characters. What they think. Why they act the way they do. Their hopes dreams, habits, ticks, failures. If a novel was a cake, this would be the icing between layers. (And how boring would a cake be without all those delicious layers, right?)

I usually have to have some kind of rough outline, or my middles drag on the ground. How about you? How do you get past the dreaded sagging middle? (sit-ups aside)

** Yes there are those books that have less than stellar endings and you walk away shaking your head and mumbling like an insane person, but for the sake of this post, we’ll pretend they all end in a satisfactory manner. ;)
Lee Bross

Lee lives her happily ever after on the coast of Maine where she has written Tangled Webs, her historical YA debut, and fantasy YA books Fates and Chaos under pen name Lanie Bross. She also writes contemporary books for New Adult under the name L.E. Bross, debuting with Right Where You Are.

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  1. The best advice I ever received was from Nancy Kress's Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. She described the middle as random threads that tie together to knot at the climax. Write the middle with the climax in mind, remembering the conflicts that need to explode at the climax. When she wrote that, suddenly, the world of writing seemed to make so much more sense. I was enlightened.

  2. Because I started out as a screenwriter, I'm all too familiar with the dreaded "second act". I think knowing what your turning points are helps.

  3. That is a really good question I'm currently working on said middle of my book now and as such questioning myself and what I have outlined. Have to give good meat and story but also don't want to drag on and's a hard thing and I haven't yet found an answer.

  4. I've been trying to avoid the sagging middle by making sure there's conflict on EVERY page, cutting anything that isn't necessary and compelling, and making a conscious effort to raise the stakes in every scene...and the elliptical is nice too.

  5. I think mine isn't a sagging middle so much as it's a beer gut. Revise, revise!


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Item Reviewed: We All Get Them Eventually: Sagging Middles Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lee Bross