Dealing with the sagging middle - of a novel - not a body!
Following on from the two previous blog posts re procrastination and self-doubt I confess these two faults usually hit me around the middle of a novel. I have to remind myself that although things seem to be moving far too slowly it takes me three times longer to type the pages than it will take to read them, so it is not so slow as I think.
Even so I often feel the middle of my novel is in danger of becoming a muddle, or worse still coming to a halt, or sometimes the end is rushing forward too early. So what can we do at such a time? One successful writer I know half- jokingly suggests a rape. Drastic remedies do not always suit the story, or the characters concerned. Their introduction can have far reaching effects, as they do in real life. We might introduce an unexpected flood, a thunderstorm with a lightening strike, a robbery, a fire, a snow storm - so long as it is not in mid-summer of course. Then there are the air, sea and traffic accidents, even an earthquake, depending how drastic the author wants the action to be, and whether the story can deal with far reaching consequences. If it is relatively short term then we can use only the news of the accident and the possibility of a serious injury or death. Later conclude the story with the news being false or exaggerated, so long as it has served the purpose of introducing tension at a point when it was needed to lift the sagging middle of the novel.
Beware the event does not feel contrived, or simply stuck in there as an extra bit of excitement. If it has been introduced out of the blue then consider it carefully in the revised draft and insert a hint or pointer(s). Keep it subtle but enough for the reader to realise later how or why such an event could happen. Make sure it fits or flows seamlessly into the story. In one of my novels I have a beautiful girl who dances everywhere like a fairy but her childlike mind is vacant and her concentration nil. She is fascinated by sunbeams and flickering flames in the fire place. I didn’t know when she appeared in the story that there would be a house fire but her fascination fitted in naturally when she picked up a lighted candle and danced with it. Although nobody was killed at the time the event had far reaching consequences, even affecting characters in the following novel.
I confess that the best ideas sometimes seem to come out of the black box I call my computer and I wonder if I am responsible for them at all. Then again I have procrastinated about writing this blog because my mind was a blank and I had no inspiration. I can only hope it does not seem too contrived.