I've never been good at plotting things out before hand, because with most of my stories, I'm more of a discovery writer (Discovery in what goes wrong, I usually have an idea where I'm going). That being said, I think finding the heart of the story and infusing a more "proper" frame would yield less sporadic results (and fewer rewrites). Any recommendations for pantsers to more thoughtfully plot??? Favorite methods? I'll read another book ;)[/quote]
I'm a pantser. I see my opening. I see my ending. My ending always circles back to my opening, but the meaning it circles back to is now changed because of what my protagonist learned on her journey. I write toward that ending, which gives me my destination. As I head there, I see scenes. I will often skip a few spaces, make a hashtag, write down pertinent details I see so I don't forget. When it comes time to write that scene, I've got notes sitting there to work with, and I simply expand.
Pantsers are people that write by the seat of their pants, as opposed to plotters, which make detailed outlines before they write. Neither are wrong. But since you are concerned about sagging middles, Brittany--yeah, that's a thing--why not do a mini outline? Like I said, make a template of the 7 Point Plot. Number your three try/fails. Fill in your grand climax. Then go back and look at those three attempts, how each attempt and failure will connect the dots that lead you to the grand climax. Having some idea of what they are can help you develop a stronger middle. Each is like a necessary puzzle piece to complete the whole.
Another thing to think on is character arcs. There are two, an internal emotional arc, and an external plot arc. I would also place under the numbered try/fails: 1. What are my character's choices/reactions to the problem thrown at them (external)?, and, 2. How does my character feel about the choice they just made (internal)? You see, so many stories are externally plot driven. But the stories you really remember and think deeply about are the ones that have strong emotional curves. Delving into those potent emotions--like pride, greed, shame, remorse, fury, desire, humiliation---create powerful middles because we get to feel the emotions the protagonist is experiencing, emotions we ourselves deal with in our own lives. These are complex things, hard to understand, but a writer that can shed some illumination on them can touch the hearts of their readers and even help them work through their own feelings better.
In the Hero's Journey, there is something called the Dark Night. This is actually just before the climax. Your hero has failed so miserably in the choices they made to solve the problem, they can feel they learned nothing. They can feel an utter and total failure. They are on the cusp of surrendering, giving up, resolved to live in shame for the rest of their life. It's a great point to explore dark emotions and add emotional depth to a tale. So after that third try/fail, I'd also write down DARK NIGHT on my template. And then I'd develop a scene that explores that moment, and the emotions the protagonist finds herself trying to cope with. It should be crushing. PEOPLE WILL DIE! AND IT'S ALL HER FAULT! You get the idea.
And then there's an epiphany, and they mount up with the wings of eagles, lift their magic sword and slay that fire breathing problem.
All the beast,