PDA

View Full Version : Sagging Middles?



BlueLucario
03-09-2008, 08:12 PM
I was reading around and lots of people are making a big deal about something called sagging middles.

Do you know what it is? And what makes it so bad?

(Last question. And that's it :))

Mr Flibble
03-09-2008, 08:17 PM
Where the middle of a book is something to be slogged through just to get to the end and find out whether it was worth it.

It happens when you're reading, which is bad enough. When you're slogging through the middle of your own WIP thinking *argh, I'll never finish this stupid thing, it's trite, it's twee, it's all turned to a big pile of poo!* It's worse. And probably the main reason many people start writing books and don't finish them.

Ken
03-09-2008, 08:34 PM
Sagging Middles wouldn't be so much of an issue if writers quit trying to beef up their word counts to make their books thick enough looking. Many, many novels would read 10x's better as novellas, though of course that would result in their raking in less loot. So writers continue to crank out their prozzzzze.

DWSTXS
03-09-2008, 08:38 PM
It is my opinion that a LOT of novels have sagging middles. We all have great ideas about how to start our story with a bang, and ending it too, offers the same chance to get in a big bang.
To me, you know that you're NOT reading a sagging middle when you start checking how many pages are left in the story because you want it to go on longer.

BlueLucario
03-09-2008, 09:21 PM
So sagging middles is preventable?

dpaterso
03-09-2008, 09:25 PM
Yes it's easily preventable -- keep writing an interesting story. Chuck in an exciting subplot or two.

But you should only worry about this if and when it affects you. Bringing other writers' random problems over here is just another way of delaying your own writing.

-Derek

BlueLucario
03-09-2008, 09:27 PM
I think it is sort of my problem, but i have to check what it is just to be sure

Mr Flibble
03-09-2008, 09:30 PM
You can't have a saggy middle til you have an end though. :D

BlueLucario
03-09-2008, 09:35 PM
You can't have a saggy middle til you have an end though. :D

I do, but I remember asking myself where I'm going with this scene...

Mr Flibble
03-09-2008, 09:35 PM
You can always fix it in the edit. Get it done first, then get it right.

DeleyanLee
03-09-2008, 09:48 PM
Read Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress

Any more questions, read the book again.

Sage
03-09-2008, 10:04 PM
Jim Butcher (author of The Dresden Files) on the Great Swampy Middle:

http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/1865.html

Linda Adams
03-09-2008, 10:08 PM
Try this article: http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/middles.html Vicki Hinze, the author, is a romantic suspense/thriller novelist.

BlueLucario
03-09-2008, 10:13 PM
I think I get it now. You have to at least know where you're going. How to get to the end right?

Sage
03-09-2008, 10:16 PM
Lots of people don't plan what's happening next, and that's a perfectly good way to write a novel. But planning an event to shoot for often makes it easier to get through the middle, especially when it seems to be dragging for you.

SouthernFriedJulie
03-09-2008, 10:48 PM
Thought this thread was about something else.

Carry on.

Rowdymama
03-09-2008, 10:56 PM
How to prevent a sagging middle?

Keep things happening!

In the very beginning you (should have) set up a situation - a problem -that needs to be answered/resolved. You (should have) included the right details that cause the reader to "identify" (become interested in) with the character(s) and what they will do in the situation. The question in the reader's mind is "OMG what will happen to them?" Make the reader care!

Your characters must have goals. Doesn't matter what they are, but you must make your people care passionately about them. If they are flacid or indifferent, the reader will react similarly.

The book is written by setting up situation/problem after situation/ problem as your characters pursue their goals and meet obstacles. Make them care about each one, and the reader will care, too.

The answer is emotion, the way all people connect.

You're welcome. ;)

Danalynn
03-10-2008, 12:14 AM
I like how you worded that, Rowdymama.

:Clap:

Rowdymama
03-10-2008, 05:05 AM
Thank you, Dana, you handsome devil. That is you in the avatar?

Danalynn
03-10-2008, 05:18 AM
LOL! He's HOT, isn't he?! :LilLove:

No, that is William L. Petersen in my avatar.
;)
He plays Gil Grissom on CSI: Las Vegas on CBS.

Isn't he GORGEOUS?!

:D

LOL!

:LilLove:

Here's another great picture of him:
:Sun:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v392/dlbabylove/CSI/GrissomBeard.jpg

BlueLucario
03-10-2008, 07:36 PM
Hehe, Uhhhh. Is this Allowed? Just asking.

BlueLucario
03-10-2008, 07:37 PM
I like how you worded that, Rowdymama.

:Clap:


Thank you, Dana, you handsome devil. That is you in the avatar?


LOL! He's HOT, isn't he?! :LilLove:

No, that is William L. Petersen in my avatar.
;)
He plays Gil Grissom on CSI: Las Vegas on CBS.

Isn't he GORGEOUS?!

:D

LOL!

:LilLove:

Here's another great picture of him:
:Sun:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v392/dlbabylove/CSI/GrissomBeard.jpg

Is this allowed?

Toothpaste
03-10-2008, 07:41 PM
What do you mean "allowed"?

Mr Flibble
03-10-2008, 07:47 PM
No it's not, unless the men are waaay hotter.

BlueLucario
03-10-2008, 08:17 PM
No these men aren't

If I wanted to see hotness, I'd watch Chewbacca porn. xD

They're going off topic, I don't have a problem with it. But I'm not sure if that's allowed.

CaroGirl
03-10-2008, 08:58 PM
They're going off topic, I don't have a problem with it. But I'm not sure if that's allowed.
Absolutely not. They should all be beheaded instantly.

No these men aren't

If I wanted to see hotness, I'd watch Chewbacca porn. xD
I don't know what that is but it's definitely giving me the heebie-jeebies.

And I don't appreciate you all discussing my sagging middle. Such things are very personal, you know.

Stew21
03-10-2008, 09:28 PM
Blue, regarding the hot men, it was a brief derail. It happens.
Regarding sagging middles, one of the best ways to avoid them is to throw obstacles in the way of the MC reaching the goals you've set out, and in many cases, completely moving the goalposts. Do that in the middle, and it won't sag.

Danalynn
03-10-2008, 10:45 PM
Regarding sagging middles, one of the best ways to avoid them is to throw obstacles in the way of the MC reaching the goals you've set out, and in many cases, completely moving the goalposts. Do that in the middle, and it won't sag.

I agree with this. Throw something at the character and see how she/he works their way through it. Once they do, put something else in their way. You can learn a lot about a character by how they react to things. Gives them a chance to show what they're made of. And if you've done it right, it can be entertaining to watch them squirm. lol!

BlueLucario
03-11-2008, 12:49 AM
unfortunatly I don't know a good example of sagging middles. I just heard stories about it.

BlueLucario
03-11-2008, 12:51 AM
I don't know what that is but it's definitely giving me the heebie-jeebies.
.

http://www.cbswords.com/images/chewbacca800.jpg

DoctorShade
03-11-2008, 02:02 AM
You know what book I think had a sagging middle, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. When I finished it I felt like it wasn't worth the ordeal it put me through. Has anyone else read that one?

BlueLucario
03-11-2008, 02:03 AM
I never read that book, I've heard it was good

Phaeal
03-11-2008, 02:19 AM
To me, you know that you're NOT reading a sagging middle when you start checking how many pages are left in the story because you want it to go on longer.

This is absolutely, perfectly correct! I do this whenever I'm reading a good book.

The trouble is, you don't read your own work like it was someone else's. Not unless you've been away from it a very long time.

How do you prevent the dreaded sagging middle? Well, you'll probably write yourself one in the first draft, especially if you're working without a tight outline. In subsequent drafts, when you have a better idea of exactly what you need to get from beginning to end, keep doing revision crunches until you've got a six pack middle. :tongue

DoctorShade
03-11-2008, 02:29 AM
I never read that book, I've heard it was good

It was pretty good but not excellent

Jersey Chick
03-11-2008, 03:13 AM
Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel might be a worthwhile read - his answer to everything is to make your characters suffer even more. Ramp it up - throw up bigger and badder roadblocks to keep them from acheiving their goal. And suffering! More suffering! :D

Eldritch
03-11-2008, 05:33 PM
Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel might be a worthwhile read - his answer to everything is to make your characters suffer even more. Ramp it up - throw up bigger and badder roadblocks to keep them from acheiving their goal. And suffering! More suffering! :D

This reminds me of what my screenplay-writing teacher told us--"Run your character up a tree. Then throw rocks at him."

inkkognito
03-11-2008, 05:49 PM
This reminds me of what my screenplay-writing teacher told us--"Run your character up a tree. Then throw rocks at him."
Your teacher must have really enjoyed "Flatliners"!

LilliCray
03-11-2008, 06:42 PM
The trouble is, you don't read your own work like it was someone else's. Not unless you've been away from it a very long time.


For me, this translates to "about three minutes." Seriously! I wrote some random piece of drivel, came back to it after my teacher stopped talking, and it was like I was reading some random book for the first time. I have memory issues.

But I digress. (Ooh! That's a fun word!) I'd think that sagging middles are more a matter of opinion than anything else. For example, Ender's Game. I absolutely loved it; I don't think it had a sagging middle. Other people have different opinions. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight is another example; I love it, too, but it does have a bit of a sagging middle.

I'm sure all my stuff has sagging middles. What's up with that?!

(Excuse me for a moment... I think I'm going to go murder my inner critic now. Please don't report me to the authorities. I'll give you a cookie.)

BlueLucario
03-13-2008, 12:26 AM
I found a sagging middle. It's in book 2 of the Bourne Identity book. It's filled with infodumps, unnatural dialogue. And it's difficult to tell who's talking.

Also I may have found a sag in one or two of the harry potter books.

Rowdymama
03-13-2008, 01:01 AM
Well, with 700+ pages to fill, it's no wonder Rowling sagged at the middle. I have never thought much of her writing, which seems to prove that adolescents are MUCH easier to please than adults, though this will no doubt raise a howl of protest.

Stephen King also writes lengthy books full of padding, but somehow he doesn't seem to sag in the middle. I do prefer his shorter books, like Misery, and I think he should be encouraged to cut out all the useless stuff.

Bufty
03-13-2008, 01:43 AM
Not really -just an amused shrug.


Well, with 700+ pages to fill, it's no wonder Rowling sagged at the middle. I have never thought much of her writing, which seems to prove that adolescents are MUCH easier to please than adults, though this will no doubt raise a howl of protest.

Stephen King also writes lengthy books full of padding, but somehow he doesn't seem to sag in the middle. I do prefer his shorter books, like Misery, and I think he should be encouraged to cut out all the useless stuff.

davids
03-13-2008, 01:56 AM
i hear the girdle is making a come back-oh happy days!

DoctorShade
03-13-2008, 03:06 AM
For me, this translates to "about three minutes." Seriously! I wrote some random piece of drivel, came back to it after my teacher stopped talking, and it was like I was reading some random book for the first time. I have memory issues.

But I digress. (Ooh! That's a fun word!) I'd think that sagging middles are more a matter of opinion than anything else. For example, Ender's Game. I absolutely loved it; I don't think it had a sagging middle. Other people have different opinions. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight is another example; I love it, too, but it does have a bit of a sagging middle.

I'm sure all my stuff has sagging middles. What's up with that?!

(Excuse me for a moment... I think I'm going to go murder my inner critic now. Please don't report me to the authorities. I'll give you a cookie.)

You're probably right, sagging middles is a matter of opinon. If the author is droning on an on about something or lingering on a scene or a situation much too long some people are loving it as they read and can't get enough because the begining of the book already cemented their intrest while others might not have been dazzeled by the begining and so the long winded middle would be painstaking. (I hope people don't judge me by my spelling in the fourm, I have become a slave of my spell checker and dictionary.com and the spell checker here isn't working for me)

Marian Perera
03-13-2008, 03:20 AM
For example, Ender's Game. I absolutely loved it; I don't think it had a sagging middle.

For me, it sagged after Ender's last engagement in the Battle Room. Each fight just kept getting more and more difficult and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how he'd win - and more importantly, how they'd try to break him next time. Once he defeated two armies at once, he'd won - it was as though that part of the story was over. It took me a little while to adjust to the rest of it, and I still enjoy reading the book, but the buggers never seemed as real or as exciting as the armies in the Battle Room.

DoctorShade
03-13-2008, 03:35 AM
For me, it sagged after Ender's last engagement in the Battle Room. Each fight just kept getting more and more difficult and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how he'd win - and more importantly, how they'd try to break him next time. Once he defeated two armies at once, he'd won - it was as though that part of the story was over. It took me a little while to adjust to the rest of it, and I still enjoy reading the book, but the buggers never seemed as real or as exciting as the armies in the Battle Room.

Yeah I feel the same way except I had a harder time adjusting to the rapid changes you described, overall the book didn't have that intresting a concept to me. It felt like a knock off of a Star Trek Movie (I'm a big Star Trek fan so I expect a lot from books involving space, for better or worse I am heavly influenced even in my own writing my Star Trek) [I abuse parenthesis when I post, lol]

RJK
03-13-2008, 07:16 PM
Somewhere in Uncle Jim's thread, they talk about sagging middles. The short answer is; If the writer is bored while writing it, the reader will be bored reading it.
There comes a time in the middle of your novel when you just wish you could just get to the end. Your writing reflects that attitude and the result is poor prose. It's best to shake the attitude before continuing, or do some heavy editing later.
If you're not excited about your story, how do you expect your readers to be?

BlueLucario
03-14-2008, 07:58 PM
For me, it sagged after Ender's last engagement in the Battle Room. Each fight just kept getting more and more difficult and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how he'd win - and more importantly, how they'd try to break him next time. Once he defeated two armies at once, he'd won - it was as though that part of the story was over. It took me a little while to adjust to the rest of it, and I still enjoy reading the book, but the buggers never seemed as real or as exciting as the armies in the Battle Room.


AAAH! Spoiler! *Hides* And I was thinking of getting the book too! Lol!! :)


I think I may have that problem. Sometimes when I write, I feel like I'm not going anywhere with this story. I feel like I'm not doing this right, My storytelling skills are terrible. I don't know how to get to the ending. I think what's wrong with me, I should have came up with a goal for my character, a legitimate goal. But after writing seven chapters, she has no goal. It's frustrating sometimes when I write. I wrote in first person, even more frustrating to write. (Those articles weren't kidding about beginners staying away from it.) And I tend to linger on to a scene too long, I have to end this and move on the more important scene.

Elements in my story seemed like deus ex machina, when its original purpose is to forshadow the story and put all the puzzle pieces together, which is one of the reasons why I admired J.K Rowling's effort. She did such a great job connecting nearly all of her books. It's like everything you read plays an important part at the end. It's like she planned all of this from the start. Everything in her story foreshadows. I never read an author this clever before.

I thought of writing a new book. A prequel to this story. Because my book will have so many flashbacks, it's going to confuse the reader. I feel that it's better to write about the character's past. But others are urging me to finish the first book, even if I'm writing two books at the same time.

Bufty
03-14-2008, 08:17 PM
It was all carefully planned, Blue. Indeed, a concluding chapter (whether it was actually the last chapter or not is unclear to me) was written very early on and kept in her safe for years before she was ready to use it in the final book in the series.

There is nothing especially 'clever' about planning ahead and foreshadowing events. It's a perfectly normal procedure for authors.


Rowling...It's like she planned all of this from the start. .

BlueLucario
03-14-2008, 11:53 PM
I'm not talking about the foreshadowing. I'm talking about how she puts everything together like a puzzle piece.

By the way, according to some research, I saw that when many authors reach a middle, the already have come up with a new book idea, and they start writing their new book while (most likely) working on their current WIPs. Some writers say it's a bad idea. But is common when authors reach sagging middles?

Bufty
03-15-2008, 12:00 AM
We are talking about exactly the same thing, my dear. Just different words, that's all. Trust me.:Hug2:


I'm not talking about the foreshadowing. I'm talking about how she puts everything together like a puzzle piece.

Marian Perera
03-15-2008, 12:29 AM
By the way, according to some research, I saw that when many authors reach a middle, the already have come up with a new book idea, and they start writing their new book while (most likely) working on their current WIPs.

I think this is probably not a good idea for someone who hasn't completed their first book yet.

Just sayin'.

BlueLucario
03-15-2008, 01:14 AM
I think this is probably not a good idea for someone who hasn't completed their first book yet.

Just sayin'.

Why not? (Just hearing your opinion.)

Sorry Bufty, I can't help it if I read posts and take it concretely.

Marian Perera
03-15-2008, 02:19 AM
Why not? (Just hearing your opinion.)

I don't have the energy to explain, Blue. At least not today. So let's leave it at that - my opinion - and you do what you think best for yourself.

BlueLucario
03-15-2008, 02:32 AM
True, it's your opinion. but lots of people have been saying the same thing you said. But if you don't have the energy to explain, it's alright.

Mr Flibble
03-15-2008, 02:42 AM
Starting another MS would just distract you from ypur WIP at the moment Blue.

Finishing and MS is a big achievement ( no matter the quality). Why? Because so many people start, and never finish.

Prove to yourself you have what it takes ot finish one, THEN maybe go that route. Or you could distract yourself to oblivion.

IceCreamEmpress
03-15-2008, 03:03 AM
True, it's your opinion. but lots of people have been saying the same thing you said. But if you don't have the energy to explain, it's alright.

I am not Queen of Swords, but I think that most people need to learn how to write the through-lines on a complete book before they are solid enough in that skill to be able to juggle more than one book at a time.

The middle of a book is the hardest part to write, in my opinion. A lot of people who think they want to be writers give up when they get to the middle and then start something new; then they give up when they get to the middle of that, and so on, and so on.

BlueLucario
03-15-2008, 03:15 AM
The middle of a book is the hardest part to write, in my opinion. A lot of people who think they want to be writers give up when they get to the middle and then start something new; then they give up when they get to the middle of that, and so on, and so on.

It sounds rather pointless to me. If they quit when they reach the middle, (maybe because they run out of ideas) they write a new book, setting themselves up for the same problem they had when they wrote the first one.

Marian Perera
03-15-2008, 03:26 AM
It sounds rather pointless to me. If they quit when they reach the middle, (maybe because they run out of ideas) they write a new book, setting themselves up for the same problem they had when they wrote the first one.

Post # 47 :


I thought of writing a new book. A prequel to this story. Because my book will have so many flashbacks, it's going to confuse the reader. I feel that it's better to write about the character's past.

dpaterso
03-15-2008, 03:36 AM
Trivial side thought, I remember reading the original Ender's Game in Analog, 'way back in... good grief, August 1977? (I had to look it up.) One of the best short stories of its time, the memory of which has stuck with me to this day. Its success prompted OSC to expand the story into a novel. I wonder if this contributes in any way to the "sagging" feeling some readers have experienced?

-Derek

IceCreamEmpress
03-15-2008, 03:41 AM
It sounds rather pointless to me. If they quit when they reach the middle, (maybe because they run out of ideas) they write a new book, setting themselves up for the same problem they had when they wrote the first one.

Yep. That's why people should have experience in finishing one book at a time before they start juggling more than one book project.

The Otter
03-15-2008, 04:06 AM
I'm someone who's always working on three or four things at a time. That's just how I function. If I start to become bored or overwhelmed with one project, I'll set it aside and pick up something I haven't touched for awhile. Obviously you can't just keep starting new projects indefinitely, or you'll never finish anything, but sometimes it's good to set a story aside for awhile and look at it with fresh eyes.

BlueLucario
03-15-2008, 04:15 AM
Post # 47 :
I'm contradicting myself aren't I?

Marian Perera
03-15-2008, 04:26 AM
That's why I sometimes let other people answer your questions, Blue.

This morning you wanted to write a prequel. Now you say it might be better to finish your first book. Maybe tomorrow you'll want to do something different. I find that tiring to watch and no fun to help with, so I declined to comment further. But it's entirely your choice as to what you do.

BlueLucario
03-15-2008, 04:48 AM
No, I'm just parroting what's being said and adding a commentary. I am still having thoughts about writing a prequel, because I feel that the original story is going nowhere. But according to others, it's better if I just finish my current story, even if I struggle.

Linda Adams
03-15-2008, 04:53 AM
Why not? (Just hearing your opinion.)

Sorry Bufty, I can't help it if I read posts and take it concretely.

If you go the route of trying to do multiple projects, you could end up with a lot of finished products and no finished stories.


Sometimes when I write, I feel like I'm not going anywhere with this story. I feel like I'm not doing this right, My storytelling skills are terrible. I don't know how to get to the ending.

If you start a second story while you're working on the first one, it'll be terribly tempting to work on the second one when you run into a snag like this--instead of trying to figure out how to solve the problem. Then, when you hit a snag in the second one (possibly doing the same things in the first one), an idea will pop up for a new book--and suddenly you have a lot of unfinished projects.

Finish the book. Don't worry about how it sounds. One of the hardest things about writing a book is making the story work, and the only way to solve that is to plod through it, word by word if necessary.

Marian Perera
03-15-2008, 04:55 AM
No, I'm just parroting what's being said and adding a commentary.

Well, if you make a habit out of parroting what others say no matter whether they contradict your previous words or not, then you give the impression of being inconsistent. In case you're wondering, that's not good. In case you're going to ask why, just take my word for it - that's not good.

Mel
03-15-2008, 05:05 AM
Blue, everyone struggles in some area of writing. You just have to plow through it. Or, maybe you need to do something else, like go back to the beginning of your story and start making notes on what's already occurred. Could be sort of a loose outline, but it might give you some ideas of where the novel is heading. If that doesn't appeal to you, the jump ahead and don't worry about filling in the empty parts until its finished.

On the other hand, if you want to write the prequel then do that. No one can tell you what to do. You'll have to decide for yourself. But, what if you find you end up having the same problems with the prequel that you're having now? Maybe you do need a map to work with and will have to seriously think about outlining before you begin projects.

Another thing I think that has been suggested is to write some short stories. Come back to the novel after you've done a few, or more.

BlueLucario
03-16-2008, 07:57 PM
By the way can you tell me what a linear writer is?

Linda Adams
03-16-2008, 09:33 PM
By the way can you tell me what a linear writer is?

Somone who writes beginning to end in order. A non-linear writer might write the ending first and then write other scenes out of order.