I tend to write full tilt until WHOOSH, about 100 pages in I run out of steam. Even though I know this about myself, I panic a little when I find I’ve lost my pace. Here are five things I use to firm up my mushy middles.
1) Read the directions: Usually what’s happened is I’ve strayed from my synopsis because I followed a nagging new character, or idea. These tangents don’t always pan out the way I think they will. Sometimes they bring in great new action, but just as often they lead the story off into a ditch. My solution is to reread the synopsis for the umpteenth time to help me get back on track.
2) Ignore the directions: Sometimes the synopsis needs a kick in the butt—right in the middle of the story. That’s when straying from the original plan works. And that’s when the mushy middle gets back its shape, and sometimes it’s a new, hot shape. I like it when it happens that way.
3) Listen: I have a few trusted readers. We meet once a month and critique each other’s work. The one rule we all agree on is to tell the truth. If my story sags I’ll hear about, believe me!
4) Look to the experts: Open to the middle of a similar book, but make sure it’s a good book, and see what the author is doing to keep it un-mushy. What’s happening? Is it full of action, a new plot point, a new twist?
5) Workout: If my middle is so mushy I can’t get over it I like to take a break and go for a walk, a ski, a jog.