We need to talk about your sagging middle ...

Alright, we need to talk. It's about your sagging middle. You heard that right - Sagging MiddleYouz got one. 

What?! No, I'm not talking about the middle aged spread kinda sagging middle, I'm talking about the sagging middle in your manuscript and how to get rid of it.  

I've been reading a lot of young adult books lately (because I think my next manuscript might be one, then again, maybe not). And one overwhelming observation is that all of them have sagging middles. 

They start out strong. Then I stop reading, right at the middle. What's the cause of the sagging middle? I've found a few things.

Top ten reasons why your middle is sagging! 

I stop caring about the character, usually because the emotional stakes aren't high enough for the character;

The protag meanders through the plot - the protag needs to want something (ya, I went there bloggowers, but I had to);

The character is just dragged through the plot and isn't actively involved in finding a solution (plot driven instead of character driven); 

Another character shows up (usually a guy if the protag is a girl) to lead the character to a solution (the protag needs to solve his/her own problem);

Howz about a little inner conflict!? Lot's of inner dialogue (which makes me toggle between 'shudddd-up already' and 'say it out loud because it would create some outer conflict which might move the plot forward'); 

Howz about some emotional growth of the character? 

Too fricken many characters that aren't integral to the plot! A character needs a reason to be there - if the character doesn't move the plot forward or help/hinder the protag from getting what she wants, then remove them.   

There's no ticking clock (i.e., there is no deadline for the protag to get what she wants, solve her problem, save the world);

The book doesn't suck me in, in fact for some of the books I've had to force myself to finish reading them because I wasn't drawn back to them; and finally, 

Sub plots that could have rocked the narrative but fell flat. 

Whew, good to get that off my middle. 

So before you ask yourself: "does this rewrite make my butt look big?" Beware of the sagging middle, it can kill a manuscript faster than you can say "would you like a deus ex machina with that!?"     


Anonymous said…
Woot! Some good advice to revise by, Jan. I am going to be working on my NaNoWriMESS over the next few weeks, so this will be some good old advice to read and read again. Thanks!

p.s. Snoopy rocks, man!
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Deb, glad to be of service. Love the 'nanowrimess!' very funny!
Anonymous said…
Hiya Jan-O

Super fabulous post. Hope I get to use those tips sooner than later.

Jan Markley said…
Thanks Jocosa - good to see you visiting the blog!