Thanks to my fellow TKZ blog mate, Larry Brooks, who provided me with his ebook ‘Stuck in the Middle: Mid-Draft Saves for your Story‘, I thought we should revisit the saggy middle and look specifically at some great questions to ask before addressing the dreaded mid-draft slump.
Larry outlines some key issues that I think all authors should consider when they are mid-way through their draft novel. He poses these as a series of questions that highlight some of the critical issues that can plague a book and which can lead to a slump in the middle. I encourage TKZers to check out the ebook which goes into greater depth that my blog summary, but in the meantime, here are some of the key questions Larry raises (hopefully I’m not misquoting Larry here with my summary version!)
- First off, authors should take a step back and ask themselves whether the premise of the book itself is sufficiently strong to sustain a reader’s interest for an entire book – often times the premise is simply too weak dramatically, either because there isn’t enough of a dramatic arc to the book, or because the key characters don’t have enough to achieve/do for a reader to root for them.
- Second, an author should also check that their core story is sufficiently well defined. Is there a compelling dramatic question being asked and answered in the book? Often the middle sags simply because it doesn’t enhance or advance the overall dramatic arc of the story.
- Do you have sufficient plot points that keep the story moving along, providing sufficient tension to engage the reader throughout the book? Sometimes the middle drifts because the plot points to the story haven’t been spaced or placed appropriately.
As Larry points our the middle chapters of a book should continue to ‘elevate, escalate and surprise’. They should also provide a critical transition between plot points as the key characters move through the overall story arc.
Hopefully, I haven’t misquoted Larry’s key questions to much, but I encourage all writers to step back and consider these kind of issues when diagnosing what isn’t working in their own work. All too often we focus on the mechanics rather that the overarching questions of premise, core story and plot that need to be addressed to ‘fix’ the problem.