In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.
Can Alexia escape her own clock?
Thank you T.F. Walsh for having me here today!
So you've written this story with an epic beginning, a killer end, but the middle–ugh! No matter what you do, you can't seem to fix the saggy, boring, drawn-out middle.
Here are a few quick tips to whip that middle into a gem.
First we have to diagnose the issue. Often middles suffer from one of these:
Correcting character passivity:
The protagonist needs to be changing and challenged by everything that comes their way. No one wants to read about someone smoothly sailing over their challenges.
A big issue I run across is a character who is merely reacting to everything that's happening rather than actively seeking after their goals. It's fine for a character to react to their world, but when you hit the 50% point of a book, that HAS to change. This is the point at which the character has been pushed and shoved and won't take it no more! From this moment on they must actively go after what they need–whether that be a relationship, independence, power, wealth, revenge, justice, or peace. (And if your character doesn't BREAK, maybe that's the issue?)
Focusing the Plot:
But your character does change and grow and pursues their goals. What is wrong?
Have you looked at the plot? A dynamic plot has a strong beginning, a dramatic turn around at the middle, and a powerful end, but that's not all. The middle of that plot should be contain no less than 3 (and preferably more like 6) plot points that DRIVE us toward a need for resolution. Try creating a plot chart where you actually measure where your action falls. I'm serious here–an actual graph. Estimate the tension for each plot point along the way on a scale from one to ten. (This means you have to clearly identify the turning points in the manuscript–any time something happens that motivates major change.)
Every time you hit a plot point, you're going to go from a negative to a positive motivation, or the reverse. Technically, every chapter should be balance by a negative to positive (or the reverse). This is one way to get to the next issue…
Where did the tension go?
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There was a point at which I started chanting "tension all the time" while writing. There must be a juicy carrot–a mystery or desire hanging in front of the readers face to keep them moving forward. What question do you want readers asking in each chapter? What feeling do you want them to experience at the end of each chapter? Don't leave it to chance. Actually ask yourself these question and answer them–then implement the answer if it doesn't already exist. Keep a mystery/need in front of the characters, and only let your readers relax about once every 60 pages. Keep them worried. Keep them hopeful. Keep them wondering.
In the end, middles only sag if we don't build the proper structure beneath them. Go forth and support! You've got this.
What advice do you give for sagging middles? Have you been able to fix a book from the middle?
Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese.