Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Sagging Middle.

I'm Liz and I haven't written a word in four days.

"Hi, Liz."

Okay, that's not funny. Why can't I get motivated to write? Because I am at the sagging middle of my story. You know the part where you don't know where to go next and you try to fill it up with crap.

When I wrote the proposal for my mystery series, I assumed cozies were 50K words. Since I was once told by a Mills and Boon editor that I write way too much plot for category, I made sure I didn’t make that mistake in what I thought was my category-length mystery.

Imagine my surprise when the contract came back saying they wanted around 80K. Not to worry, I thought. I’m the queen of complicated plots and twists.

Have I told you lately I’m not a pantser? I like things all laid out on paper before I even begin a story. Mind you, they don’t always end up exactly as I’ve outlined, but usually the core synopsis points remain the same. It’s weird because anyone who knows me would say I am definitely a “spur-of-the-moment” kind of girl. Don’t try to pin me down three weeks in advance because something usually comes up and I can’t make it. Instead, call me the day you want to do lunch and I’m there.

So, why am I having such a hard time with the sagging middle? I’ve changed the killer, layered with subplots and still, I need about 5 more chapters before I can solve the mystery and write “The End.”

I’m screwed! I have a July 1st deadline and for some reason, Mr. Lipperman and I are going on three vacations before then.

Are you freakin’ kidding me? Who does this?

Okay, here comes the zinger. Knowing me, I did it on purpose. I'm a card-carrying crisis junkie who does her best work under pressure. Hopefully, this is how the saga will play out this time or – did I mention I was screwed?

These next two weeks are going to be critical for me, as far as the manuscript goes. I may do something I’ve never done before and write the last chapters now, then go back and fill in the others later. I need inspiration.

Thank heavens, Easter is right around the corner. I love those peanut butter and chocolate eggs.

Another dilemma. The chocolate may help me fix my “sagging” middle, but it won’t be pretty on my other "sagging” middle.

What’s a girl to do?

I’d love to hear how you tackle this problem in your writing. If you tell me you don’t have this problem, I will hunt you down and make you eat the marshmallow chicks that I hate so much!!


Lindsay said...

I don't have that problem. And no I'm not going to eat the marshmellow thingies. They're totally gross.
Funny you should blog about 'The Sagging Middle' and not writing for four days. Is that to many fo(u)r's in a row? My blog this week at Nights of Passion is on Motivation. My end point was that maybe a person needs time off from writing. I know I do and maybe the several, ok, four days, you had off were what you needed to get the creative juices-orange, going again.
I pointedly take the weekend off from writing. Plotting the next chapter, scene or whatever not included. I just don't write. It's all done in the brain.
Enjoy your vacations. Just stay away from Tuscany. Hear it's snowing there.

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey. Lindsay, don't tell anyone I posted this early, My day is Monday. Leave it to you to bust me!!

I knew there would be someone who didn't agonize over this the way I do. You are so going to eat the marshmallow chicks when I come to Crime Bake this year.

I'd like to think this was merely a bump in the road for my creative juices - diet cran grape, BTW. Thanks for the encouraging words.

And where's your blog? You might as well plug it here.

Lindsay said...

It is Monday. Here in CT. Well, sort of. When and where is the Crime Bake? Want to make sure I avoid it and any disgusting little white squishie things.
I blog every Tuesday at:
And am thinking, OMG he's thinking, run for the hills, of starting my own blog besides posting at Nights of Passion and commenting here.

Cassy Pickard said...

I'M BAAACK! Thanks everyone for letting me off the hook for my tardy Friday post. My Internet service has JUST returned since Monday night- that's a week ago, folks. Talk about the jitters, my hands started to shake knowing I can't get on. Okay, stop with the "poor Cassy" bit. The first day of being housebound is kinda cool. The no lights, no heat, no water, no food part gets old.

I'm going to post on Friday about the whole deal. Look forward to letting you bust me all you want.

I've been plotting away. There are yellow stickies all over one table. But, yup, the middle row is a little thin. You said it, Liz, beginnings are great, endings are pretty easy---just that middle part that can haunt you at night.

Glad to be back. folks. Thanks for waiting for me.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I think writing the end is a great thing to do. Fool your brain by doing something different. And I truly believe once you write the parts you know (in this case the end) then something will trigger what needs to happen to get from A to B.

You'll be fine, Liz, you're just freaking out cuz you have a "real" deadline this time, instead of just a self-imposed one:-))

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, you outlasted me last night!

Crime Bake is Nov.12-14. It's my first mystery conference and I'm really looking forward to it. I would only bring the pink and yellow squishy things, BTW!!

Heading over to your blog now to check it out.

Liz Lipperman said...

Yeah! she's got Internet. Welcome back, Cassy. I'm with you 100% that then middle is the hardest, but usually it's not this tough on me.

Anyway, I can't wait to hear about your adventure.

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Kari, I hope you're right. I had never thought about the fact that I might be causing all my own angst!!

I'll be writing all day today so hopefully, something will trigger a brainstorm, like you mentioned.


Lindsay said...

Liz,- Like Kari I've got faith in you.
Welcome back Cassy.
Oh, and my blog doesn't go up until later tonight. I think

Anita Clenney said...

Hey Liz. I think maybe we're sisters. If you want me to do something, call me the day of or the hour before. Like you, three days earlier and something will come up. I think I have commitment issues.

Anyway, sagging middles...both kinds :) I have more trouble with the physical one that the written one. But I did just run into that problem with my WIP. I knew where the story was going and there was a lot of good stuff still to come, but I hit a part that just felt empty. I thought about it for a day or so, went ahead and wrote the scene as it was and then it everything fell into place. So now the empty part is my heroine seeing a giant buzzard waiting for its meal to die and then she realizes it's not a mole, it's her ex boyfriend, almost killed by a demon.

I inserted that scene and it tightened up the sagging a bit and one thing led to another. I kept brainstorming and writing what I could and the middle started getting all buff and taut.

I think writing the end would help with your problem. At least it will let you see the story from a different angle and I bet the end will prompt questions and what if's.

Liz Lipperman said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Lindsay.

And Anita, I knew we were sisters the first time I met you!! Ooh, that scene with the vulture sounds really good. I can't wait to read it. When is your deadline? Oh wait, I forgot. You already have the first book written.

I just wanted to report all the good vibes coming from y'all must have worked, I penned 8 new pages today!! I am almost at the 2/3 finished mark. Woot!

Mary Martinez said...

First I need to apologize. I've been to the blog three times today to read it and was interrupted each time.

Once a week we have Papa and Nana night where kids and grandkids come for dinner. And they usually leave about 7pm. But as it stays lighter longer, the house tends to be later also. So they just left about 20 minutes ago--or the last wave that is--at 9pm our time.

Now I'm reading this and I am a complete panster I write until the END go back and fill in any sagging middles after the fact. It works well for me.

My biggest problems is the first sentence. I've had a blank page all day in front of me, read for that hook the one I need to start my new proposal.

I don't outline, but I do have all my characters with a tiny bit of out line, and a blurb of what my story is going to be. That's it, then I let the characters take over.

But for some reason I can't get them through the starting gate.

Maybe I'll continue the why's and the wherefores on my Thursday blogging day!

Lindsay said...

Mary, I'm no genius, I'm a guy after all, but try stepping back from the first sentence. Write the second one first.
With my full that I'm still pitching I rewrote the beginning, Chapters 1-3, 5 times before I realized where the story should begin. I had to stand back and take a deep breath first before I could see the grass through the hay field.
And if that doesn't work, try a Starbucks latte and chocolate. Always works for me.
Good luck

Liz Lipperman said...

Mary, you don't have to apologize. We all know you are taking the time to be a real good friend. I admire you for it.

Lyndsay's advice was spot on. Move away from that first sentence.

Sending good vibes your way. I've had a great writing day.

Lindsay said...

I'm glad somebody had a great writing day, Liz. My was lousy. And I even took my own advise.
Got only 5 paragraphs edited not the 5 pages I wanted.
Maybe I do need some of those yeckie marshmellow thingies.

Liz Lipperman said...

Editing is my favorite thing about writing, Lindsay. I don't know whether I sent this on the blog or not, but someone introduced me to a website that helps you find repeated words when you edit. Paste in yurt entire chapter. You'll be amazed. Apparently, I love "just" and my characters smile a lot.

Have fun with it. Tomorrow is another day. I'm off to bed.

Lindsay said...

Just thanks for the tip. Just using the 'Find' feature in Word works just as well. I just love it. 'That' is a word I just use all the time. It just drives my crazy.
BTW-my blog is up at Nights of Passion. Sent the link earlier.

Cassy Pickard said...

Coming in here late, so I don't know if my comments will be seen or not. Actually, it's not late for me but early on Tuesday. Beautiful here.

I'm with Mary and Liz--there are days that just getting the new story started is a challenge, almost immobilizing. Then again, I get writing along at top speed and come to a screeching halt about page 200. What needs to be on 201?

Great conversation going here, guys. I love being apart of it.