So you can read my books

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Humans aren't the only ones who suffer from sagging middles.

Novels do, too.

It's accompanied by that leaden feeling that weighs you down with the mocking question :

"What were you thinking of when you thought you could write a book?"

When you hear that voice, I want you to answer, "DUH!"



H ..... HEROES


I.) Disaster. When your novel's middle sags, you certainly know that word. It's what you feel you are writing!

II.) Escalating Disasters ...

A.) are what make up the backbone of the best novels.

B.) without them, you're just writing a news snippet for CNN.

C.) Each disaster must lead logically from the last one to make a coherent whole.

D.) But to interest an agent, then the publisher, and finally the reader ...
you must have a destination in mind for your hero from the very beginning.

III.) If your novel's middle is sagging then ...

A.) Like with humans, the discipline of exercise is missing.

B.) The disciplined exercise of steadily working towards a pre-conceived ending, step by logical step.

C.) Without that compass to guide you, your novel will meander all over the place, subject to the whims of your imagination.


I.) The trouble with a novel that its very structure invites sagging in the middle.

II.) Your novel's middle will more than likely take up fully half of your pages.

A.) After that many pages, things start to look alike.

B.) The fix : underlying that middle with a tremendous disaster, rocking your hero and his world to its foundations.

C.) Shaking things up like that will awaken your readers from the sameness doze they may have fallen into :

Think Obi wan Kenobi sacrificing himself so that Luke may escape. To all appearances, Darth Vader looks unbeatable.

D.) This enormous disaster shores up your novel's middle, firming it up and preventing sagging.


I.) A memorable character that leaps off the page and into your reader's imagination is the keystone to the success of your novel.

A.) Think Hannibal Lector.

What? Hannibal a hero? Of sorts. He chose his victims quite carefully. Don't agree? Think Dexter. Same principle. We pull for Dexter, for he has chosen an acceptable outlet for his murderous impulses.

B.) UNDERLYING comes into play again with your hero :

Your hero was not born yesterday. He/she has a past. It will determine his or her actions. You had better know your hero's backstory.

C.) In fact, your hero's backstory may very well provide the world-shaking disasters that braces your novel's middle.

D.) You see how DISASTER - UNDERLYING - HEROES all interweave with one another? It is a support device that wraps around your novel's middle, keeping it firm.

E.) A fully developed hero with a past, flaws, hopes, failures will make him seem real, sucking your reader into identifying with him, rooting for him, and thrilling with him when he succeeds.

F.) Without a backstory, your reader will not understand your hero -- and more than likely, neither will you. And that slippery slope ends with a sagging middle and confused muddle of an ending.

G.) Backstory is an iceberg ;

1.) The part that is important to you as a writer is the 9/10 of it that the reader cannot see.

2.) The part you must tell your reader is the tiny 1/10 above the water line.

3.) Sensory and data overload is one of the hallmarks of a sagging middle.

H.) What determines the backstory you reveal to your reader?

1.) Core truths.

2.) They determine your hero's motivations, acting as a rudder in the flow of events in your novel.

3.) They often conflict.

You know why Miss America wants "World Peace?" She wants to impress those fuddy-duddy judges and win the war of the beauty pageant!
Stated values often clash with the real ones, motivating your hero.

II.) A dynamic hero, like say Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark, shored up those times when he he wasn't in that armor -- those moments could very well have sagged -- but because of his impish, rogue attitude, those moments were some of the best of the film, IRON MAN.

*) I hope you've found something of value in this little post. Happy New Year, Roland!


  1. "Writing In The Crosshairs" has been included in this weeks A Sunday Drive. I hope this helps to attract even more new visitors here.

  2. Hi Roland, I got caught up by your comment "sagging in the middle", and "the discipline of exercise"...sigh...But seriously, I like the iceberg analogy - Your post has helped me re-think, and I think I'll aim to get a bit more focus on my blog this year. Thanks :)
    Happy New Year from very warm Melbourne!

  3. Being old - a sagging middle comes as a requirement! LOL!

    Oh but my stories must be young fit gorgeous things and I must make them so! :-)

    Happy New Year to you Roland!! Take care

  4. ...what better way to launch another year into flight, than to begin one's day while "Writing in the Crosshairs."

    Well done, Roland. Even the best of storytellers are at times guilty of penning plots that tend to run in place. Those are the stories that often find themselves collecting dust for the next millenia.

    Wishing you only the best as always, my friend ;)


  5. A wealth of knowledge as always.
    Maybe that's why my books are so short - less middle.
    Someone once told me the secret to a great book was a great beginning, a great ending, and as little in between as possible.

  6. Jerry :
    Thank you so very much for posting me on your Sunday Drive for blogs to visit. It was truly kind of you!

    Sue :
    Sagging in the middle. Sigh. With all the rich foods this holiday season, I foresee added sit-ups to my mornings, too! LOL. May Melbourne treat you great this New Year!!

    Kitty :
    We're not old just seasoned!! May this New Year be OUR year for making it with our publishing dreams! Roland

    Elliot :
    A great way to start the New Year is to start it with a greeting from a good friend like you. Our New Year will be a great one. You'll see! Roland

    Alex :
    Ernest Hemingway would certainly agree with you. A young girl on a train with Charles Dickens on one of his American tours said she liked his books but skipped the boring parts. "Not the short boring parts, sir, just the very long boring parts."

    It made his afternoon. He was a great-hearted man, Roland

  7. Excellent advice, especially as I delve back into writing this week. BTW, I am reading The Legend of Victor Standish right now. Love it!!!!