A: Saggy middles are one of those hard to avoid things in life. But in our stories? It's the worst! So you might be surprised at my answer. Saggy middles are a symptom of the writer getting off track. To simplify, we have act 1 that sets up the problem, right? We end in Act 3 with the resolution. So we need to get our character from point A to B. Simple? Yeah right. But the point is, you have to keep in mind the whole time whether what you are writing is indeed moving the story forward. Every word on the page should move the story and/or character forward. If it doesn't, as interesting as it may be, it doesn't belong there.
Now I'm not saying that if you do it right, the saggy middle doesn't exist. Perish the thought! We all have to fight it. That's what revision is for (I think that's becoming my mantra). Seriously though, as you do a pass, ask yourself the following three questions about each page:
- Does this move the plot forward?
- Does this help build my character arc?
- Is there tension?
Because there should be tension on every page. If it isn't there, add it. It doesn't have to be the world at stake. Just make sure there's something in the way. That will help force numbers 1 and 2 into action. Make sense?
How do you avoid saggy middles?