17. Avoiding a Saggy Middle

Welcome to my blog on Avoiding a Saggy Middle.

The Snowflake Method will give you the details on how to record your outline, plot, characters, scenes and narrator’s point of view (POV).

So many times books start with the eager enthusiasm. An author begins with a brilliant idea but can’t sustain the action, suspense or excitement. The middle chapters become a muddle of over explanation, misplaced emotion and implausible twists. The ending can either be redeemed or rewritten. But, like in Bake Off, it’s avoiding the saggy bottom or the saggy middle that’s important. You must keep the heat on right until the very end.

So, if you’re using the Snowflake method, you’ll need three disasters and an ending.
Each disaster takes a quarter of the book to develop and the ending takes the last quarter.

In Golden Icon the novel opens with my protagonist practising for her audition in the role of Tosca. It’s a dream, her hope and ambition. BUT my first disaster is that Josephine is emotionally blackmailed. This conflicts with her audition and her dream of a comeback.

Once in Ireland, she is faced with the second disaster. She’s blackmailed into going to Munich. Josephine has a secret.

The third disaster occurs when the Golden Icon is stolen from her.

The last quarter of the book is the revelation. The first disaster can be external forces. At each stage after that, when Josephine attempts to fix everything, the situation gets worse. The narrative arc will stop your story from having a saggy middle.


The gradual build up of things going wrong and spiralling out of Josephine’s control leaves the reader asking, what else can happen?
And, more importantly, ‘How is Josephine going to fix this?’

Having your protagonist fighting against the odds and becoming increasingly powerless creates tension until the climax. This should be built up in gradual stages during the first three quarters of the book and in the final quarter, Josephine or your hero / heroine resolves all and the ends are tied up.

In the early planning stages of the book you don’t need to have all the answers. Just a rough guide, one sentence for each disaster, so that when you begin your writing you have a purpose and direction. It doesn’t matter if anything changes – the disaster, character or plot – everything can be rewritten. I’ve always gone on my gut instinct of what I would like to read, and how I would like to feel and what I would see happening – then I switch it. I like to surprise even myself.

Using this method you’ll avoid a saggy middle piece of mediocre writing where you don’t know where to take your characters. You’ll keep the reader hooked and entertained and you’ll feel a huge sense of satisfaction.

REMEMBER: Setting a structure from the beginning is only a guideline. Don’t be afraid to rewrite scenes. A guideline may save you countless hours of rambling writing and set a solid structure to your novel.

Next Blog Post: Writing about What You Don’t Know.


Snowflake method
How to write a characters Arc
How to write the novel Arc

Janet Pywell

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