Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Muddled in the Middle

 by Charlotte Hinger

Boy, do I ever identify with Donis's problem. I'm totally bogged down in the middle of my latest mystery. I think this happened when I abandoned this book to finish up my historical novel.

Yet, somewhere in the middle of the journey, many writers find themselves knee-deep in the mire, struggling to move forward. The dreaded "sagging middle" can be a formidable obstacle, but fear not, for there are ways to navigate through this literary quagmire.

  1. Like Donis, I'm a pantser. I outline a chapter after I've written it. Those of us who write mystery can always introduce a New Element: my favorite is another body. Stagnation often results from a lack of fresh ideas or conflict. This not only keeps the reader engaged but also reignites my own enthusiasm for the story.

There are other ways, of course. Here are some ways that might work for our dear readers:
  1. Raise the Stakes: Assess the stakes in your story. Are they high enough to keep both your characters and readers invested? If not, consider amping up the tension or introducing new challenges. A sense of urgency can propel your narrative forward and keep the middle from sagging.

  2. Explore Character Development: Take advantage of the middle to delve deeper into your characters' backgrounds, motivations, and internal conflicts. Use this time to reveal layers of complexity, making your characters more relatable and dynamic. Strong character development can compensate for a slower plot pace.

  3. Create Milestones: Break the middle section of your manuscript into smaller, manageable milestones. Celebrate each accomplishment, whether it's resolving a minor conflict or reaching a significant turning point. This approach not only provides a sense of progression but also makes the writing process more enjoyable.

  4. Consider Subplots: Introduce subplots that complement the main narrative. These can add depth to your story, creating a multifaceted reading experience. Just be cautious not to overwhelm the reader with too many distractions—subplots should enhance, not detract from, the central story arc.

  5. Take a Break:

  6. Sometimes, the best way to overcome a creative roadblock is to step away briefly. Allow yourself some time to recharge and gain fresh perspective. This break can be instrumental in identifying what's causing the stagnation and how to address it.

Remember, getting bogged down in the middle is a common challenge, and every writer faces it at some point. The key is muddle through..


Anna Chapman said...

Such a useful post, Charlotte, and beneficial not only for fiction writers. Even in my narrative nonfiction WIP, I can take note of these pointers and use them effectively while staying true to the data. Thanks.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Thanks, Anna. Right now I'm deeply aware that if I don't get back to work I will never dig myself out. I've had too many interruptions lately.