Pike's story!

Find out more 



Male/Male romance

Available now! Find out more 


Available now for only $1.99!

Find out more 


Watching is only half the fun...

Available now! - Find out more 



Gibson's story!

Releasing Oct. 20, 2015!

Find out more 



*This does not subscribe you to my blog.





Join the Fearless Romantics Reader Group

Search This Site
Powered by Squarespace
Latest From the Blog
Dig Through the Archives
100+ reading challenge 2010 about me adverbs agent agents ashley march author author blog author branding author intrusion author platform author voice author websites authors award awards backstory bad boy balance berkley heat best writing links beta club beta reader beta readers blog tour blog tours blogfest blogger blogging blogging tips book book covers book deal book marketing book promotion book reviews book title books branding characters comments contest contests crash into you creativity critique critique group critiquing dear author debut author deep point of view deep POV dialogue ebooks editing editors endings e-publishing excerpt face off friday feedback fiction fill-me-in friday first chapter first draft first novel genre genre fiction goals guest blog guest blogging guest post harlequin historical romance hook how to write humor ideas indie publishing inspiration interview joan swan Julie Cross kindle kissing blogfest kristen lamb links literary agent literary fiction love scenes marketing mashup melt into you memorable moments middle grade motivation motley crue movies muse music mystery mystery writing Nelson Literary Agency new years resolutions novels opening chapter opening lines openings overediting panster pantser paranormal pen name perfectionism pitching plotter plotting poll promotion publishing queries query query letter querying question of the day reading reading challenges rejection repost revising revisions romance romance author romantic suspense roni loren rough draft royal street rules RWA RWA nationals sagging middle Sara Megibow save the cat self-editing self-publishing sequels series sex scenes sierra godfrey social media social networking speed writing submissions suspense suzanne johnson teens tempest tiffany reisz time management TMI traditional publishing tumblr twilight twitter update urban fantasy voice WIP wip wednesday women's fiction wordiness work in progress wednesday workshops write tip writer writer toolbox writers writer's block writers' conference writer's toolbox writetip writing writing blogs writing contest writing craft writing goals YA young adult
« Sagging Middles Part Deux: Pick up the Pace | Main | 100+ Reading Challenge »

Fixing Sagging Middles: Multipurpose Scenes


I hope everyone had a great holiday.  Mine was low key since hubby is still recovering from the knee surgery (doing better now), but nice nonetheless.  I did get a good bit of writing done, I'm up to 10k in Constant Craving, so that makes me happy.  Since it is a slated for category length (55k-60k) this puts me on the brink of starting the middle of the story, which can come with its own challenges.  So, I thought for the next two posts, I would talk about avoiding the dreaded sagging middle.


Most of the time when we come up with a story idea we get a vision of two parts of the story--the beginning and how we want it to end.  What tends to be a bit more fuzzy is all that stuff that happens in between--the meat of the story.  If that middle isn't give proper attention, you'll end up with meandering scenes that drag and sag, feeding filler to your reader instead of a juicy burger.

And keep in mind for you trilogy/series writers out there, this applies to that middle book as well.  I have seen really terrific authors suffer from this.  I love the first book, am chomping at the bit for the next one to come out, then I get it and *yawn* NOTHING really happens, it's just a bridge to the third book (which typically returns to the kickass glory of the first one).  So annoying.

So what are some things you can do to avoid the saggy middle?  Be the Ron Popeil of scenes.  For those of you who have never been caught awake at two in the morning watching infomercials, Ron is the guy famous for inventing and  pitching those As Seen on TV products.  And there are a few things we can learn from him...


It slices, it dices, it does your freaking laundry!

  • One thing is to make sure that your scenes have more than one purpose.  If you write an entire scene just to show your reader that your MC is daring, your reader will see through that.
  • Use the 1 + 2 formula for purposing a scene:  The purpose that should ALWAYS be present (1) is that the scene moves your plot forward.  Then on top of that, the scene should serve at least two other purposes.  Here are some ideas from author Alicia Rasley:
Develop character.
Show character interaction. 
Explore setting or culture and values.  
Introduce new character or subplot. 
Forward subplot. 
Increase tension and suspense.  
Increase reader identification. 
Anticipate solution to problem. 
Divert attention from solution (but still show it).  
Show how character reacts to events or causes events. 
Show event from new point of view.  
Foreshadow some climactic event.  
Flashback or tell some mysterious past event that has consequences now. 
Reveal something the protagonist has kept hidden.  
Reveal something crucial to protagonist and/or reader.  
Advance or hinder protagonist's "quest".

But wait there's more!

  • Just when your reader things can't get any more complicated for your characters, throw in more conflict.  
  • Every scene should have some type of conflict.  It may be as subtle as a character warring with their internal conflict in their head or as blatant as two characters dueling with swords.  But it must be there.
  • And don't forget that each scene should have it's own beginning, middle, and end.  You should be able to extract any scene in your book, look at it in isolation and be able to identify the players and the conflict in that particular scene.

And your reader gets all that for only $19.99!  Sorry, that has nothing to do with anything, just wanted to say it.  :)  Alright, I'll cover more tomorrow, but hopefully that gets your gears turning a bit.


Have you struggled with keeping your middle tight?  If so, what have you done to get that sucker into shape?  Have you read books where the middle or a book in the series sags? 

**Today's Theme Song**
"The Middle" - Jimmy Eats World
(player in sidebar, take a listen)


Reader Comments (17)

This post is perfectly timed for me, as I am smack in the middle of my WIP.

One thing I am learning is that the middle is a great place for subplot and development of minor characters, but that it is so important to make it relevant to the meat of the story in some way.

Also, I moved my mc location wise, which is a great tool for introducing new characters. It also forces me to delve into how my mc reacts in an unfamiliar environment.

Great tips, Roni!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Tidd Murphy

Crap! I knew I was missing something! *frantically takes down notes*

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTina Lynn

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I will have to print this post and refer to it often. The sagging middle is my current project and you've given loads of great ideas for making it shimmer with tension.

Stop on by my blog to pick up your thank you gift!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlaurel

Hey! Just stopping by to say hi! I am not writing a book but still enjoy reading your posts! I am looking forward to Wonderlust!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristiejolu

I'm in the middle as we speak. What a cloudy place to be. I'm entrusting a bit of this fog to the characters to clear up for me. We'll see...

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTamika:

I'm struggling with a scene in my middle right now. It's a scene that has to happen to further the plot, but it was a little, oh shall we say, BORING! My solution to this problem was to layer it with another scene. I also managed to cut out about 1,000 words, which I needed to do. I actually like writing the middle scenes. It's like a puzzle.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan R. Mills

Thanks for this, Roni. I think the crafting of scenes isn't discussed enough and this post is hugely useful. I've never heard of the 1+2 formula, but I love it.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSierra Godfrey

Wonderful post! Middles can be so tricky, because--just as you stated--most of the time we come up with a beginning and an end... The middle parts are much harder to come by!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSara ♥

Your timing is perfect. I'm stuck on a scene in the middle of my book now, and these tips are very helpful. Thank you!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Amber, yes a change in location definitely can stir up things for a character.

Tina, lol

Christie, thanks for taking the time to read and comment even though you're not writing anything :)

Susan, welcome back to bloggy land! And that's a good way to look at it, like a puzzle.

Sierra, you've probably never heard of the formula because I made it up, lol. I read that you should have a scene do three things including forwarding plot, so I figured a formula would be an easier way to explain it. :)

Sara, I know, aren't middles tough?

Melissa, glad you found it helpful. :)

Tamika, it will be interesting to see where your characters lead you.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoni @ FictionGroupie

Oops, forgot Laurel, sorry! Thanks for the award and I'm glad the post was timely for you. :)

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoni @ FictionGroupie

One thing I've heard of that works is to make scene cards as you go through. Make a card for each scene and list the purposes of that scene. If scenes have only one purpose or many serve the same purpose, you know they need to be worked with.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

I'm starting to write book 2 in a trilogy, you made great points. I need to keep this in mind. Thanks!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEva O'Dell

A brilliant post but the truth is I think I do alright with my middles but I suppose I'll know better once I get an editor.
You have a great week and every happiness in the new year.

Very informative post. Lots to think about with my writing. Thank you.

Happy New Year!" rel="nofollow">Word Designer

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWord Designer

Glad you got so much done over the holiday. Good for you. Wonderful post. I think making sure that your character has a goal in every scene gives purpose, and whether said character achieves the goal or not keeps the story moving forward.

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawnB

Great post, as always.:) I am revising and looking at these very issues.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenniferWalkup

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>