Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sticky, Stickier, Stuck

It happens to every writer. You get stuck on a scene. For some reason you can’t make it work. You type a few lines and then delete. I’m sure I’m not the only who has written the entire scene and then wiped it away and tried to start over. Sometimes I can’t get the mood right or I decide I need to try it from a different POV. Or the scene commits the sin of not moving the story forward.

Sometimes I can work through it by walking away from the keyboard for a little bit. I’ll walk around the block or even just out to get the mail. In the summer I might go outside and pull a few weeds, sweep out the garage or the deck. All mindless activities to let my mind linger on the scene problems and search for a solution.
Sometimes I get up and fix a cup of tea or warm up my coffee. In the evening I might pour a glass of wine and sip it while I stare at the cursor, demanding the words rise to the surface of my thoughts.
Another thing I do is put on some music or even some favorite movie I’ve watched tens of times before. I usually pick something that matches the scene giving me trouble.
When nothing else works I try to power through it. I write a noun, a verb and create a sentence. Then another sentence. Often this works for me more than anything else. I sit there until there are words in the document. If it ends up being terrible, I slash and burn it in the editing process.
What do you do when stuck on scene? Is there a particular type of scene that gives you more trouble than others?


  1. All the time. I take walks and carry a small note pad and pen with me. Ideas always come to me on a walk. SOmetimes you just have to (ahem) walk away from your work for a while to get the answer you need.

  2. I guess because I outline and then run through a scene so many times in my head just prior to writing that I rarely get that stuck. (A little slow maybe.) I do make adjustments after the first draft is complete, which might mean really changing a scene, but the first time through, I just write, even if it feels off.

  3. Oh, I get that. And I love the suggestions you gave to help us through it. I talk to myself and close my eyes and walk through the scene.

  4. I've been working on my shortened Syonpsis and have got stuck at less three times in the end I left it worked on something else before came back to it. I find it help sometimes to record the scene and then play it back. By listening to it you can hear how it sounds to someone else this may help you to see the scene from a different angle.

  5. I tried some rum and coke and it surprisingly worked. I wrote less than normal, but at least something got down.

  6. Stepping away from the story definitely lends perspective. For some reason, as soon as I step on the treadmill, words flow into my head, and sometimes scenes will work themselves out there. (Yes, reading the notes I write later present a problem!)
    It's why it's handy to have another story started, so you can switch focus for awhile.

  7. Sounds like everyone has experience finding the way to get past a sticking point.
    I haven't tried the rum and coke yet, Chris.
    Another thing I do in the summer that I long for at this time of year is go for a swim(same as other exercising but it doesn't feel as much like exercise).

  8. Ernest Hemingway suggested to write one true sentence ... on anything. Then, another. And one after that until the page was full.

    He then read the page of what he had felt to be utterly true statements and saw that many of them spoke to what he was missing in his current story or novel.

    Oddly enough, it works for me. Have to love our unconscious muse, Roland

  9. Susan - You've pretty much nailed everything I do right on the head. Great post!

  10. That sounds so interesting, Roland. I'll remember that trick if my other unstickers don't work.
    RaShelle, you know what they say about great minds...

  11. Last January I think I wrote and deleted the same scene pretty near every day. It was driving me nuts. When I finally realized I needed to delete the previous scene and start from there it all snapped into place. Finally. :)