Uneven Writing Quality

Even though I am not going to look at it again until I have heard back from my beta readers, I already know one problem with my wip is uneven prose. The first chapters and the last chapter are colored, curled and styled to a chic finish, whereas middle chapters look like a hair-cut by an ax. Even beta readers tend to gloss more over the middle than the beginning, as they suffer from crit fatigue. Does anyone else have this problem? Any solutions or tips?


Certainly I had chapters in my book that were rough. I think what helps in revisions is to start somewhere in the middle rather than always going from first page to last. Work in overlapping segments from back to front or something like it, just evening out the prose style.

When I was younger and took violin lessons, we'd learn longer, complex pieces from the last measures to the first, adding one measure at a time, working backwards through the piece. Memorizing a sonata is different from writing a novel, I know, but I think it's important to look at the middle sections with fresh eyes when you can.
Susan R. Mills said…
Absolutely! So many discussions on writing are about strong beginnings and endings, but the middle is just as important. The middle of my MS looks more like a dump ground for backstory and too much description. I'm working on it, though. We'll see what happens.
I went back and looked at the manuscript that I've been subbing, that I thought was so wonderful, and the first chapter is great. The second chapter pales in comparison. And that's not good. I'm realizing I need to treat each chapter like it's the first chapter. They all need to sparkle and flow and be as wonderful as the first. It's hard work.
Maybe when reading it over again, you could start with the middle instead of the beginning. That way, you can try to look at the midsection the way you usually look at the beginning.
Dave said…
One revision strategy that I have used is to literally cut out the openings from each chapter (1-3 paragrpahs). Then, I had a reader rate each of the hooks and give a few reasons why. You get to appreciate the hooks that work and then work on the ones that need the most work. I've found that sometimes the best hook is already written, but it's a page or so into a chapter.

It doesn't solve all the sagging middle problems, but it does get at one of the most important aspects of as story.

By the way, you can use the same strategy for chapter endings.

The strategy is fun and keeps you focused on one element of writing at a time. Somehow, that helps keep me from getting lost in the sea of the story.
I liked the Sagging Middles post on the Lit Lab last week. I think it was last week. I think I came to the conclusion that a story's arcs should interweave, and some of those most exciting arcs should weave most tightly in the middle.
glovin said…
I went back and looked at the manuscript that I've been subbing, that I thought was so wonderful, and the first chapter is great.

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