Editing Tip #121 – Sucking up Those Saggy Middles

How do you know for sure if the middle of your manuscript is sagging? I mean, it’s absolutely brilliant when you write it, several of your colleagues have beta read it and gave mostly praise, so you’re good to go – right?

Not necessarily.

Recently, 1 out of 4 beta readers of mine said my new book had a saggy middle. Now, I’ve given the advice in the past, that the majority tend to know what they’re talking about and it’s important to pick and choose what feedback you’re going accept before modifying your story.

But here’s the thing: She was right.

How do I know?

Well, first off, she’s a great writer in my genre and she studied creative writing and publishing in University … recently. So her head is in the game when it comes to plot structure, character arc, setting, etc.

Second off, I carefully considered her points and then proceed to graph out my plots – something I usually do but didn’t with this book because I didn’t have time (it was a NaNoWriMo project). Sure, I had a chapter by chapter break down in chunks of words and paragraphs to tell me what happens and when, but I didn’t have a clear picture of it. So I drew one. 12 pages long – about the same length as my chapter breakdown except with fewer words.

This time I focused on the main plot, sub-plot, and through strands.

And I saw it.

I had a saggy middle where my main plot grew stagnant while I let my sub-plot take up too much time in the grand scheme of things.

So I gave myself a few days to mull, a few nights of brain-scramble before falling asleep, and I realized that a particular character I introduced in one scene really didn’t move the plot forward, just reinforced what we already knew. BORING.

I always knew I wanted this character to come back in either book 2 or book 3 of the series, so why not actually give him a significance purpose in book 1?

And that got my brain in gear.

I’ve managed to not only give this character clear purpose in the scene but he aids in furthering the main plot even during the two dominant sub-plot scenes. This allowed me to keep most of what I had in those sub-plot moments but add just enough spice to build the tension on another level.

My advice to you:

Even if you meticulously plot before you write, go back to your original outline and see if you actually achieved what you set out to do. Follow those threads like a blood hound and be honest with yourself when you ask, “Is my middle sagging?”

Happy Editing!

Plot Graph Sample 001

Page 4 of 12 – *s indicate degree of refining needed for those points 😉


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