Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Sagging Middle

This morning I am going to speak to a high school Creative Writing class. One of the things I will cover is the "sagging middle." Not only is the sagging middle something that happens to us as we get older, but it is a often a pitfall to anyone who tries to write a work of any length.

Most writers have a dynamic beginning and ending but have a hard time keeping the middle of their book interesting. How many of us find ourselves reading the beginning and end of a book, and skipping middle chapters?

I first heard the term "sagging middle" in reference to writing at a writing workshop in North Carolina. Some advice I got at this workshop to avoid the "sagging middle" is to:
1) make sure every chapter in the book moves the story towards the end
2) have friends and editors who read the book note where they take a break from reading

Hint #1 cuts out unnecessary scenes and characters that make a book boring or confusing. This has been one of the most helpful pieces of advice I have ever received as a writer.
I compare hint #2 to watching a movie, and having to go to the restroom. When a movie is good and intense, you hate to have to get up and leave to go to the restroom. No matter how much Diet Coke you have drank, you wait till that lull when you feel like you will not be missing anything.

A good story is the same way. Readers do not want to put it down when there is a great deal of excitement, which is how most of the story should be. If someone notes taking a break, it might mean the story needs a little punching up in that part.

These are the hints I will share today. Hope they are helpful!        

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