Solve Writer’s Block and the Sagging Middle of a Novel

sagging middle of a leaning pole with the words

My previous post told how I was stuck in the sagging middle of my novel. I didn’t know how to get back into the rhythm after three months of writing Ekphrasis prose and poetry due the end of December. I’d imagined several ways to begin Chapter 15 and didn’t like any of the options. For the first time, after writing three novels, I had writer’s block.

Ann Winfred came to the rescue. She and I are on-line accountability partners. We have an agreement to write and submit to each other a minimum of five hundred words on our WIPs each week. Her work in progress is When I told her I was struggling, she asked me if I planned to continue with the novel or not and other questions that made me evaluate my goal. In the process, I discovered what I was doing wrong. I had been imagining how to start the chapter. My style is to sit down and write, not to think about what to write. I also had lost contact with my characters. Like an actor, I had to become the protagonist again. The best way to do that was to write.

I sat at my computer and wrote eight hundred seventeen words. Satisfied with the beginning of the chapter, I set it aside. I had an idea of how to eliminate a repetitious boring middle–I’d speed up the action and combine the baby steps to get to the next plot point sooner. I arranged a free day to finish the chapter. As I typed, the protagonist took a different turn, which happens in writing and I was happy with it. Then I discovered that for almost a whole page, I had switched to first person instead of third. Freaky at first, but then I realized I was back to writing in my usual manner, which is to go with the flow of my consciousness and not to think too hard. I changed the I’s to she’s, finished the chapter in record time, and I’m pleased with the new middle. It’s not blocked or sagging any more.

The way to solve writer’s block is to sit down and write. Set a small goal, maybe 300 or 500 words of a draft that maybe used later or might be thrown away, but at least there are words on a page. The next writing time, the result could be longer and better. Trust the muse, the protagonist, your intuition and find an accountability partner.

The way to solve the sagging middle is to sit down and write, bring in more action and tension, amp it up, go to an extreme; you can change it later if needed. Bring in a new challenge, a natural disaster like a hurricane, or make a thief take a treasured item adding to the protagonist’s anguish.

Most important: remember your writing goal and know you CAN do it.


Filed under Writing Tips

10 responses to “Solve Writer’s Block and the Sagging Middle of a Novel

  1. ladywinfred

    Excellent call to arms, Juliana. Get thy butt into a chair and write. The magic will happen when you do. Thank you.


  2. Gary Lea

    The technique I have used in the past (although I’m certainly no expert) is to go back several pages and reread what I already wrote. It gives me kind of a running start and gets me back into my character’s head.


  3. Thanks, Gary, absolutely, going back a whole chapter is good to do. LOL, a running start.


  4. Sally Kimball

    Thank you Julaina for sharing your struggle with writing your story. I’m waiting for a friend to review my current story and haven’t felt the creativity to work on another in progress. I have a tendency to focus on one story at a time and when that stales, my creativity stales! It’s time to find a writing partner to “Kick Butt”, ops did I say that……. LOL


  5. Reblogged this on MorgEn Bailey's Writing Blog and commented:
    On Tuesday, I reblogged Julaina’s sagging middle (novel) post – here’s the follow-up…


  6. It’s funny how – when we’re given a deadline or task – that we find the time to do it. That’s why I love NaNoWriMo; it’s got me writing seven novels.


    • Yes, I have four first drafts from doing NaNoWriMo. The WIP I’m working on now came from NaNo but I’ve changed it significantly since then. Due dates are what works for me. Nice to ‘meet’ you.


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