Gold Find, and the Quandary of the Sagging Middle

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Correction
* I Found Gold
* The Quandary of the Sagging Middle
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” Albert Einstein


Yesterday I wrote that I would report on the Challenge on Sunday. Um, nope. Mental typo. I’ll report each week on Monday until this thing is over.

Sorry for any confusion.

I Found Gold

You all know how relatively thorough and meticulous I am with my filing system. I talked about it in “Organizing Saves Time” and maybe a little more in the post before or after that one.

Well, apparently I’m not quite as organized as I gave myself credit for being. (grin)

I happened across a short story title that sounded familiar: “By His Own Bad Mind.” I thought I remembered writing that story, but I couldn’t be sure until I found it in my files. It was possible someone else had written the story, and I’d only read and remembered the title.

So I searched my short story files. Nothing. I looked under my own name as well as the names of Eric Stringer, Nick Porter, and even that of Ms. François. Finally, desperate, I looked under Gervasio Arrancado. Still nothing.

So I used File Explorer to search Dropbox for it. And I found it. I clicked the “Open file location” link. Duh.

It was in a folder marked Shorts inside the novel folder for Two Old Gringos Waiting for a Train… um, along with 10 other short stories I had written and forgotten about.

I hadn’t even added them to my inventory spreadsheet or to my numbers below. After I corrected that error, I thought how cool it would be to release them as a collection of 11 short stories. I could title it Lost Tales from the Gila Wilderness or some such thing.

Here are the eleven short stories, including one by the same name as the novel:

“A Matter of Survival”
“By His Own Bad Mind”
“Jimmy the Dope”
“Mr. Sloan and the Crone”
“Practical Purposes”
“The Interview”
“The Old 710”
“Two Old Gringos Waiting for a Train”
“Yates Briscoe and the Beauty of Britain”

Hmm. The stories were never published individually because I “lost” them for awhile in that folder for that novel. But why had I never published them as a collection before?

As I contemplated that, I thought I’d refresh my memory about the novel itself. It was about my buddy and me, so it would be a nice trip down memory lane anyway.

But guess what? I had published all of those short stories, just not in a collection… well, not exactly in a collection.

They were all integral parts of the novel, Two Old Gringos Waiting for a Train. Somehow I’d forgotten.

Anyway, the cover I pieced together for that novel is atrocious. So I figure I’ll create a new cover, then release the book again, but with a dual title. Yep, you guessed it:

Lost Tales from the Gila Wilderness
or Two Old Gringos Waiting for a Train

Should be fun. 🙂

The Quandary of the Sagging Middle

well, and some other stuff….

How many times have we seen or heard writers complain that they’ve reached the “sagging middle” of their novel? Or how many times to we see the topic discussed on websites, always with ways to fix it.

The complaint is repeated regularly over at The Kill Zone blog, where all the contributors, by the way, are bestselling thriller or mystery writers. I’m sure it’s repeated equally as often or even more often at thousands of other “instructional” blogs around the internet.

Yet the “sagging middle” is a ridiculous concept that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. My friend Dan Baldwin pointed that out more succinctly than anyone in his recent weekly blog.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Sagging Middle—Perception vs. Reality,” with permission from Dan:

— The infamous “sagging middle” haunts writers who seem to believe that their work suddenly begins to drag. Movement and character development slow down and the writer (and presumably, the reader) is trapped in a morass of wandering paragraphs, chapters and sections.

— The danger is that the reader, sucked into said morass, will put down the book and never return.

— Wait a minute! How is the sagging middle even possible?

— Plotters—those who plot their novels—have no excuse for a sagging middle.

— If the writer has invested so much time and energy into developing the plot and the characters and the plot twists, the middle should not sag. It’s all laid out before s/he writes the first word.

— Any potential sagging should be obvious simply by going over the outline. Any stumbling blocks to story development should be obvious and easy to correct before the actual writing even starts.

— Pansters—those who write “by the seat of their pants”—shouldn’t experience the problem at all.

— Those of us who practice Writing Into the Dark are led by our characters who are continually throwing literary curve balls at us. We’re always surprised by what happens next because we haven’t a clue as to what’s coming next. …

This is absolutely great, Dan. You might consider posting some of this in a comment over on The Kill Zone blog the next time they start weeping about their stories having a sagging middle.

And while we’re on the topic of wondering what’s going on, why do plotters need to revise, much less rewrite? Think about it.

As Dan wrote above, everything—the storyline, plot twists, characters, etc.—is planned to the nth degree, so why is revision necessary?

I can hear some plotters out there saying “Wull, I don’t plan out everything, blah blah blah.”

Yeah? Well why not? If you’re going to the trouble of pre-writing the story in an outline of any sort (guideposts, signposts, phaselines, etc.) why not commit and plan it all out?

But that’s your business, not mine. By all means, if you’re unsure, revise. And then do a thorough rewrite if you want to. Or two or three. Or fifteen.

But that’s another topic, isn’t it? If the thing is all meticulously planned out, why rewrite? And again, if it isn’t planned out and you’re a plodder—oops, I mean a plotter—why isn’t it planned out?

And if you DO choose to rewrite to make everything that much closer to “perfect,” then why do you need to rewrite again? And again? And again? And then polish?

A couple of decades ago, I witnessed the utmost in pre-emptory editorial meddling. The submission guidelines of (the now-defunct, I believe) Rose & Thorn magazine required no fewer than 15 rewrites.

1. How would they know? I never wrote to ask whether they had to actually see all 15 rewrites.

2. I have to wonder too, how many writers did those editors (there were two, both also writers and both acquaintances of mine) force to lie to them?

No matter. I respect myself too much to ever submit anything to any editor who “requires” any rewrites at all, much less a specific number. How insanely control-freakish is that?

But I do have a work-around if I was that much of a mook. If I was desperate enough to submit any of my writing to such an editor in the first place, I would do the 15th rewrite during the first (and only) draft, run a quick spell check, and turn that in.

Because I’m a writer. I’m too busy with the next story to stop and hover and revise and rewrite the same story over and over and over. And frankly, I can’t think of anything more boring than rewriting or “polishing” something when I already know how the story ends.

Rewriting a story 15 times is eerily like making 15 two-foot trips with a wheel barrow full of gravel to move the load 30 feet to where it’s needed on the work site.

And if the editors rejected my story, I’d send it to the next magazine on my list. Life’s far, far, FAR too short to put up with that kind of game-playing bullsnot.

But that’s just me.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Direct Sales” at

See “Do You Have Dirty Links?” at A good reminder of a topic we’ve talked about before.

See “The Latest Writing Scams Authors Need to Watch out For” at

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1400

Writing of Blackwell Ops 9: Cameron Stance
Brought forward………………………… 4087

Day 1…… 1595 words. To date…… 5682
Day 2…… 2101 words. To date…… 7783
Day 3…… 2573 words. To date…… 10356
Day 4…… 1588 words. To date…… 11944
Day 5…… 2135 words. To date…… 14079
Day 6…… 2019 words. To date…… 16098

Fiction for August……………………… 22614
Fiction for 2023………………………… 137161
Fiction since August 1………………… 22614
Nonfiction for August…………………… 18490
Nonfiction for the year……………… 168390
Annual consumable words………… 305551

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 2
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)… 232
Short story collections…………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.