My Guests, Writing

Dealing With the Sagging Middle – Guest Post by Rachel Brimble, Author of A Man Like Him

I’m delighted to welcome back author Rachel Brimble, with a new peek at her new Harlequin Superromance, A Man Like Him.

A Man Like Him, a contemporary romance by Rachel Brimble I am nearing the halfway mark of my latest work in progress and while for some writers that will be something to celebrate, for me it is the opposite. Why? Because it means the dreaded ‘sagging middle’ is right around the corner. Thus bringing my writing/plotting/creativity to a grinding halt and causing me to bang my head up and down on my desk all day, every day until I see light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Now most of you would have heard of this ‘sagging middle’ phrase and know what it means, others won’t. Let me explain.

It is the part of my story writing that I hate the most and occurs every single time, with every single book. I am a blend of two kinds of writer. I am half plotter and half pantser. I always have a two to three page synopsis written as well as character sketches for my hero and heroine before I start writing. However, from page one to the end I continually write the first draft without stopping or editing. The hard work comes in drafts two and three.

The problem is no matter how much detail I feel I’ve put into the synopsis, no matter how much I have written it with my ‘sagging middle’ weakness in mind, there it always is. Bam, like a grinning little cartoon devil poised to poke me in the behind with his shiny trident as soon as I am about halfway through.

So the question is, how do I deal with it? The only way I know how. Keep writing. I dread going to my desk for these days. Have zero enthusiasm or belief in myself or my work. I sit my backside in the chair anyway. These days writing is like pulling teeth but I force myself to write at least a thousand rubbish words a day. The beauty of it is when I feel the sun reappearing as I climb out of the middle and start heading for the home run, I read back what I wrote through those torturous days and I can be guaranteed to keep at least half of it. Result!

So what about you writers out there? Do you suffer with the same weakness as me? Yes? What’s your trick for beating this particular devil?

Or are you a reader? Have you noticed a ‘sagging middle’ in books? Maybe you see them more often than editors do, lol! I love to hear from you.

Rachel’s latest release is book two in an ongoing series with Harlequin Superromance. A Man Like Him is available to buy right now! Here is the blurb and links:

A Man Like Him

Changing her life…again

After two years in hiding, Angela Taylor knows her independence is worth it. As long as she can escape her past, she has everything under control. Until a flash flood hits the park where she works, and hot Chris Forrester shows up the exact moment she needs a hero.

Chris proves he can save lives-and weaken a girl’s knees. But how can she make him understand that she’s off-limits, that getting close to her will endanger his life? Her happiness or his safety: it shouldn’t even be a choice.

Because when you love someone, you protect them, no matter the cost. At least, that’s what Angela keeps telling herself…. (US):

Barnes & Noble:

Amazon UK:

Finding Justice: Finding Justice, a contemporary romance by Rachel Brimble

Old friends, new secrets

Sergeant Cat Forrester lives by her own set of rules. When her childhood friend is murdered, Cat’s world is thrown into chaos. Especially because Jay Garrett—a man from her past—is a suspect, and he needs her help to prove he’s innocent. After all they once shared, how can she say no?

The attraction flares between them, and getting involved with a suspect is a huge risk. But the more time Cat spends with Jay, the stronger the tug on her heart. He is the same caring, irresistible man she remembers. Yet she can’t let her emotions interfere with the case—solving it is top priority. And as she digs deeper, she discovers Jay has secrets that may jeopardize any possible future together. (US):

Barnes & Noble:

Rachel Brimble, author of the contemporary romance, A Man Like HimBio: Rachel lives with her husband and two young daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK.  After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. In 2012, she sold two books to Harlequin Superromance and a further three in 2013. She also writes Victorian romance for Kensington–her debut was released in April 2013, with book two coming in Feb 2014.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family and beloved black Lab, Max. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England…although she hopes a dream visit to Canada might just change her mind!

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

You can find Rachel at: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

11 thoughts on “Dealing With the Sagging Middle – Guest Post by Rachel Brimble, Author of A Man Like Him”

  1. GREAT post, Rachel. With the exception of not stopping to edit along the way, my writing process is the same. I can’t leave a chapter without editing the devil out of it, and yet despite my rough, 2-3 page synopsis and character sketches, about midway through the story, I feel trapped. My writing seems to stagnate and I can’t go on. Sadly, my only fix is to put that ms. aside and move on to another story. Then again, at the moment, I have no deadlines to meet so it works for me. Somewhat. lol!

    As a reader, I have noticed sagging middles in other books. That’s the part of the book where I skim over the pages until the story grabs my attention again. Once in awhile, I’ll miss something crucial. Most of the time, I realize the author could have cut those pages.

    Now, if I could only finish a book by writing to the end without leaving the ms and going back, I might read it from a reader’s prospective and realize I can always cut out the part that sags. Easier said than done, I guess.

    1. Hi Lilly, how are you??

      Doesn’t it just amaze you how the sagging middle comes again and again, no matter how much experience you gain? I’ve tried plotting, chapter plans but still the work in progress just grinds to a horrible halt. I’ve absolutely no idea why. Arrghh!!

      I spend much of my reading time, studying how my favorite authors keep up the momentum…I’m still learning, lol!

      Rachel x

  2. Hi, Rachel! I’ve dealt with it by becoming a dedicated plotter. I plot out every story in a scene-by-scene outine before I even write the opening sentence. This way, I never get stuck and have a story line that makes sense right from the beginning. Saves me in the revision stage, too, since there’s little work left to do at that point.

    1. Hi Susan!

      Yep, I’ve tried this and for my next Victorian novel with Kensington, I’ve made myself go into more detail in the chapter plan than I ever had before. I’m praying this time it carries me through. I’ve only had to send an outline to my editor so far, so watch this space for how I get on when I start writing… 😦

      Rachel x

  3. Excellent post, Rachel. Your words enlightened me to my own sagging everything right now. I know the story needs more conflict, and once I figure out how to inject some, I’ll make progress.

    One effective tool I’ve used to avoid sagging is the Save the Cat method, developed by Blake Snyder. It’s an outline developed for screenwriting that also works for novels. Unfortunately, I’ve lent my copy out – and will have to get another, soon!

    Thanks for your comments and best wishes on continued success.

    1. Hi, Ashantay!

      Oooh, you’ve got me searching the net now, lol! I haven’t heard of that method – have i missed something? Going to track it down right now.

      Thanks for being here 🙂

      Rachel x

  4. I hate the sagging middle!!! I need to learn to jump past it and keep writing though. I often let it hold me up and I’ll pull out the trusty notebook and pen and doodle while I try and pull myself out of the “sagging middle” slump. I need a new routine, ha! The blurb to your new Super Romance sounds great!

    1. Hi Niecey, I know it shouldn’t but it does make me feel better to know I’m not alone! The only way to get through it is to write through it – that’s my theory anyway :/

      Rachel x

  5. I ‘m fascinated by Susan’s meticulous advance plotting. I know just what Rachel means about the sagging middle but I find the only way to deal with it is to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

    1. For me, it’s the only way, Madeleine! Wish there was a fail-safe solution to it – my current work in progress is driving me insane 😦

      Thanks for commenting!

      Rachel x

  6. You certainly slapped me upside the head. I get an idea and go 100 MPH for about 50 pages then sit and wonder what to do next. I have a couple of manuscripts at the point. Power through, what a concept. I hate housework, but I don’t stop halfway thru. Maybe I should put my maid’s outfit on and power thru the writing too. Nice post.

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