No, I'm not talking about the way we're all feeling between Thanksgiving and New Years. Cookies and pies, candy, turkeys and hams, partypartyparty. I know I always get to feeling a pinch in the waistband... This isn't about food-induced pants spreading, though. This is about the Squishy Middle Syndrome.
Some writers fall prey to it in their books, others in their series. I know I've read some right awful stinker sequels lately. Like "never going to read another book in that series" AWFUL. As far as I'm concerned, publishers really have no excuse for foisting off squishy-middle books on their buying public. Sequels should be as good as the predecessors. Yes, dammit. I did just rattle that saber. They expect way more of our writing when reading submissions.
So how do we avoid becoming victims of Squishy Middle Syndrome?
- Get a good group of trusted peers to critique your work. I know my CPs and beta readers amaze me with their brilliance. You could join a writer community like YALITCHAT where there are many peer critique groups.
- Know what your story is about, not just who. Yes, there really is a difference. Sure, a girl with a sad life meets a boy with strange powers that makes her heart race is nice, but what happens after, and what is the story really telling us? Where's the Hook? Having a hook makes avoiding SMS that much easier.
- Plot. Don't groan and grumble at me. I know lots of people are 'discovery writers' but if you put some thought into figuring out points A, B, and C you're one step closer to avoiding SMS. I used to be a serious Pantser with only minor Plotitudinal tendencies. But the more points in the loose outline I filled in the fewer corners I wrote myself into, and the less middles I had to revise within an inch of what they were.
- Read. Read books that work, that the industry loves (even if you don't), so you know what works in a plot. Then read your own work. Put it aside for a little while, then read it like a reader would.