Prepping for Nano – How to Avoid a Saggy Middle

In my last post I wrote about why the first sentence is so important.

Once I’ve got that done, the next thing I concentrate on isn’t the opening chapter, or the first hook, or character development, it’s the middle. The ‘boring, saggy, middle’ as I used to call it. 

I ALWAYS have a problem with it.

I think it’s a really tricky part of the book to write. Mainly because you’ve done all the fun stuff, you’ve introduced who you’re writing about, got your characters into the sticky situation, sent them on their inner and outer journey and conflict and tension are running through those first pages, and then you run out of steam and hit the middle.

The part of the book where things change. Where everything has to change and if you don’t do some thinking about it beforehand, it can be a complete nightmare.


If you’ve read Save The Cat or any other plotting novel, you’ll probably know that the midpoint is where things have to step up a gear. It’s usually where the stakes are raised, the B story says hello to the A story, and things go in another direction. It’s also where there’s a win or a lose for the characters of some sort.
Some reveal, some plot twist, something to make them all revved up and ready to head on. BUT, there’s also something else.


I’ve been reading Write your Novel from The Middle, and it’s been eye-opening. James Scott writes about the character having a ‘Mirror Moment’ at the midpoint.
It’s within the midpoint scene, where the main character takes a look at themselves and what kind of situation they are in.
They have a moment, and it’s just a moment, where they wonder what kind of person they are, who they are turning in to because of the narrative, and what they are up against.
It’s like a truth-bomb, a realisation of the character of how and why they are transforming and deciding how they feel about it.
And the magic in doing this, in deciding what this moment will be BEFORE you begin writing, is that it completely focuses the story. Knowing the transformation of your main character allows you to state the entire theme of your novel, it lets you and the reader know what this story is really all about.


Once you’ve got this scene in place, decided both the midpoint scene and the transformation your character is going through, you have A LOT to hang the before and after of your story on.
You know a brilliant reveal at the midpoint which will refresh the action AND you know what the character thinks about it all.
Deciding this scene tells you what kind of ending you’re heading toward, it lets you know where your character had to come from in order to have this scene.


After I’ve cracked this scene, I then look at all the other beats that the story needs and begin making notes for each. I’m going to roughly sketch those out over this weekend before Nano starts, so come November 1st, I’ll have my narrative drive, my midpoint and character transformation moment, and rough beats to work through. 

I’m hoping that’s enough to let me write this first vomit-draft fast and quick and have a very basic structure come the end of November.

After Nano, I’m thinking of doing a short little email course on this. Discussing how to start plotting and how to look at structure a bit more in depth than I can do here on these blog posts, and basically how to write a really quick draft in a month.

If you’re interested SIGN UP to my newsletter and you’ll be the first to know when I’ve got it ready to go!

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