The Soggy Middle Troubleshooting Guide

Soggy Middle Troubleshooting | Jeni ChappelleLast weekend at the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival, I spoke with several writers who have gotten stuck in the middle of their books. They’ve got their plot points and character sheets. They start strong–love their hook, establish their characters and story, and then…nothing. Something feels off, but they can’t really tell what it is—so how can they fix it?

Never fear. Your friendly neighborhood editor is here–with a Soggy Middle Troubleshooting Guide

Process

First, look at your process.

1.      Take a step back

Get away for a few minutes. Think about something else. Meditate. Take a shower. Go for a walk.

2.      Use prompts

Try using prompts to get your creative juices flowing again. Here’s a great list to get you started.

3.      Read the parts you like

Reread your favorite parts that you’ve already written. This can help you shift your mindset from “all I write is crap” to falling back in love with your story.

4.      Skip it and move on

There’s no law that says you have to write your story in order. An author on the panel at the festival said she gets unstuck by writing the next scene she’s excited about and then figures out later how she’s going to get them there.

 

Writing

1.      Characters

Are your characters doing enough? Specifically, is your main character being proactive?

One common reason writers get stuck in the middle is because their characters are kind of wandering around waiting for something to happen or while something happens to them. One of the authors on the panel at the festival said when this happens to her, she puts the character into a situation they would never normally be in and watches to see what happens.

2.      Plot

Is your main plot big enough to fill out a whole 80,000 words?

Your book may need more conflict. A story arc isn’t just a straight line from beginning to end. If the main character has a problem, investigates it, and then resolves it, the plot may be too small. Try adding some little battles, plot twists, reversals, wrong turns, impossible choices, and unintended consequences. It’s the unexpected that makes a story sing.

3.      Emotion and reaction

Are your characters reacting enough to what’s happening around them?

Often when a writer feels blah about the middle of their book, it’s because the characters aren’t reacting emotionally to the events of the plot. They take physical action, but they don’t have a strong enough emotional response. Find ways to add more reaction. The best ways to show emotion are through dialogue and body language.

4.      Still feeling stuck? Get feedback

Don’t waste all your writing time trying to figure it out. Ask a critique partner or writing buddy what feels off. More often than not, they can pinpoint it quickly, and you can get back to writing.

 

So, how do you get unstuck when you get bogged down in the middle of your book? Leave a comment or tweet me @jenichappelle.

Jeni Chappelle

Jeni Chappelle is a freelance editor. She considers herself a hobbit lives in an itty-bitty town a few miles from Charlotte, NC with her family and a menagerie. Jeni is a participating editor in #P2P, #RevPit and #ShoreIndie. You can visit her blog and learn more about her editing at www.jenichappelle.com.

Posted in Writer's Life
7 comments on “The Soggy Middle Troubleshooting Guide
  1. carlisdm says:

    Great article! It came exactly when I needed it; with NaNoWriMo going on I got stucked two days ago and was facing the infamous writer’s block, not knowing where my story was going. But I followed the “Skip it and move it on” advice. Luckily I had some major scenes in my mind that were not supposed to happen yet, but didn’t pay attention to the chronologicality of the story and I jumped to them, and it was actually great, because it made me realize of many plot holes that I will need to go back and fill. It was really productive.Thanks for the advice!

  2. Sue Coletta says:

    Stepping away works great. I often get my best ideas in the shower. I wonder why that is?

  3. Olusola Akinwale says:

    Thanks for your latest article The Soggy Middle Troubleshooting. It is an article every writer should have.

  4. Hi Jeni! Great article. It’s very helpful and informative. When I wrote the first draft of The Fall of Lilith it was all in parts. I wrote most of the fun and exciting scenes first and then put all the puzzles pieces together. I thought it was a strange way of going about my writing process but it worked for me. 😀

  5. Thank you, Jeni, for a great article. Very helpful.
    I was going to reblog it, but can’t see a reblog button. Is there a way to do this?
    Christine
    cicampbellblog.wordpress.com

  6. Maria Rich says:

    I step away, read parts I like, and write another scene. Then again I almost never write in order anyway! I also take a break to read some ‘how to write’ book or blog…. like this one!!! THANKS!

  7. J C Harroway says:

    Another great post, thanks for your insights. I definitely suffer from Saggy Middles!

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