No More Sagging Middles (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

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The “No More Sagging Middles” workshop was presented by Beth Cornelison.  She discusses something I’m sure we have all struggled with: how to keep your middles action-packed so your readers will keep turning the page!

Goal, motivation and conflict are introduced in the first few chapters of your story.  The rest of the book deals with wrapping up the conflicts presented so your character’s goals and motivations are resolved.

Here are just a few of the many tips given to make sure the middle of your novel is just as interesting as the beginning and the end:

  • Each and Every Scene Should Have a Goal

Make sure your characters aren’t just wandering around, taking up space.  Each scene should have a specific place within the story.  It should advance the plot in some way.  Each scene should have a goal, whether external or internal.  It doesn’t have to be the main goal, but it should work toward that.  Say, for example, your character’s main goal is to find a killer.  The scene goal may simply be to visit a bar to get some information that you hope will lead to your killer.  Your character won’t always get her goals; sometimes it’s better when she doesn’t!  Conflict is what keeps your readers turning the page.

  • Reveal Backstory Piece by Piece

The biggest mistake is to give the reader too much backstory up front.  Only give it as it is needed.  This allows your reader to get to know your character, and allows you to maintain a few ‘secrets’ about your characters that your reader can uncover.

  • Subplots

Subplots are great tools for adding meat to your story.  But they shouldn’t be just filler.  They should expand on your story themes or story arc, or reveal more about your character.

  • End Each Scene and Chapter with a Hook

Give your reader something to keep reading for.  If your scene ends satisfactorily, that might get your reader to put down the book.  Once your reader puts down your book without any questions about what’s going to happen next, you risk them never picking it up again.

So what do you think?  What are some other tricks to make sure your readers keep reading to the end of your story?

I will be continuing the RWA 2010 Blog Series throughout the month of October.  Below is a list of upcoming blogs in this series. 

  10/6 – Paranormals 10/8 – Romance That Snaps, Sizzles, and Pops
10/11 – A to Zs of Alpha Heroes 10/13 – Building Theme

10/15 – Doin’ It with Dialogue

10/18 – Humor, Heat, and Hooks 10/20 – Turn the Page! Writing Techniques 10/22 – Five Ingredients for Crafting a Big Book



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