The middle of any book is the hardest part. Generally you have a fun, exciting beginning and a fast-paced ending and you probably know these when you start writing. It's what happens in the middle that can get convoluted and slow. Here are five things you can do if you find your story sagging and your plot dragging.
1. Let's go back to story structure. How do you prop up your middle? Think of your W plot. Things need to get worse. How do they get worse? Usually by a decision your protagonist has made. This decision can have terrible consequences. Then the next decision makes things even worse.
A great example of things getting worse and worse is the show "Designated Survivor" on Netflix. The tension is thick in this show and it seems that no matter what the new president decides things just keep getting worse. If you can, watch this show and take notes. No, your book doesn't have to be a tightly written as this show or contain that much tension. I start cringing, needing a breath and downtime from the tension. This can actually turn your reader off. So, use your protagonist's decisions against them.
2. Next up is to start a sub plot that is intertwined with the main plot and create mini plot twists. Some people say to introduce a romance - which is fine as long as it works within the main story. Create a side problem for the bad guy. make the protagonist's best friend go off the deep end or convince the protagonist to jump with him. Sub plots that help drive the main plot are good ways to save a sagging middle.
3. Others say to change locations, this can create more drama for your middle. Changing the scenery can add new obstacles for the protagonist. A change in setting and place can change your protagonist's decisions and cause more reasons for their decisions to go wrong.
4. Create uncertainty in the protagonist's goals. A reader will keep turning pages if they are convinced your protagonist's goals will not be met. For my books there's a usually a goal of safety - physical and emotional. Physical safety is the main plot while emotional safety is a great subplot. You need to make it seem as if those goals will never be met. My readers must be convinced that the protagonist will never feel safe.
5. Finally if you've exhausted all options, you can always cut the middle short and go straight to your ending. Usually if I feel stumped about the middle, I will jump right to the end and I find that the ending is always longer than I think it's going to be. Who is in the protagonist's house? How will they be revealed? What decision does the protagonist make that creates the worst possible outcome? Then how do they get out of that?
Sagging middles happen when you struggle to fill the middle of the book. They are slow with less action and decision making. If you keep story structure in mind and create ups and downs you can create a middle that keeps pages turning and provides a satisfying read. While the five examples above can lift a sagging middle, you can use what works best in your story to keep the pages turning.