Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Elusive Scene/Chapter

So, you're writing along, you have the plot all figured out, you're deep into your novel and each time you come to the end of a chapter, you know what comes next. But at some point, somewhere along the way, you come to a stumbling block. You aren't quite sure what comes right after the scene or the chapter you just wrote. There has to be a bridge here, placing all your characters either in the right place where they should be, or frame of mind, or you have to introduce a scene--and you know how that scene will go, but this one section just isn't coming.

Don't panic!

Some like to call this "writer's block". Okay. We'll call it that. But I'm stubborn. I refuse to call it that. I don't get writer's block. You don't either. Trust me. You don't.

With me so far? Stay with me. Breath in . . . breath out. It will be okay.

I don't know that I've ever gotten through a whole book without having a moment where this happens. I'm somewhere between scenes or chapters, and I need something to happen. It doesn't have to be a huge something, but somehow there has to be a bridge of how we got from one section of the book to the next. A lot of times it may be just before the big climax--because you know what your climax will be.

There have been articles written on this aspect of writing--which we are not calling "writer's block"--and there are particular tips that, if you don't know them, I can pass them along.

First. You do not panic. Okay, you've gotten to that particular point. I do think you need to just sit back and breath. Go for a walk, bake something; do something that doesn't involve the writing muscle.

If for some reason you still don't know what you can put in this one section, just go ahead and write whatever it is you know comes next. Just do it. Keep writing. Write all the way to the end. No one is going to tattle on you. No one is going to berate you--and don't you dare do that to yourself!

A lot of things can happen in our lives to just make the writing so difficult, we don't need to bop ourselves on the head to make things worse. The one thing I don't like to do--any more--is give myself a daily page goal. Unless you are realistic about it. I know I have written (and I mean hand-written) 20 or more pages in one solid day of writing. That was back when I used pen/pencil and paper. Now, I've no idea how many pages I can write, mainly because I go back over and re-write it. That's how I am. I can't help myself to do the re-writes because I know what I've written was rough, and I know I can do better. Anyway, it's okay to have a goal, just don't berate yourself if you can't make it. You will make up for it when the writing goes easier another day.

This scene I didn't write for Vampire's Trill, had gone forgotten for probably a month, because I'd been wasting my time trying to hone it down to a word count of 120,000 words for the eBook publisher, who I no longer am going with. That I needed to pare it down, meant that a whole chapter and new character had to go.

Ah, but wait, I went with the POD, and no longer did I have the word count problem. I could re-introduce this chapter (which I always ALWAYS!!! save. Never, never delete your scenes, you never know where, if and when you may want to use them, save them in a separate document).

So, I'm going along, repairing the manuscript and reading through for clarity and so forth and come back to this hole in my book. Remember, about a month had gone by. I've got my new character Jacob,who is an incubus, who followed Sabrina (protag.), from his world into hers. She doesn't know how to get rid of him. And she really needs to because Jacob would really cause me--the writer--a bit of a problem with the way the climax has to be. I spent the week just mulling over various ideas. I don't put anything down, except very brief notes to myself of how this might work, or what she could do. She could call her next door neighbor who is a witch, and ask her to open up a portal and send him back. But that would involve a whole frigging chapter, and I just didn't want to do that.

And then lightning strikes. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. This is the moment where you have this "oh, duh, this would be so easy, why didn't I think of this before?" sort of moment.

So, yes. I wrote it. It consisted of mostly dialogue, and I don't believe even took a whole page. And by golly, I was able to get her from that strange moment (no, I'm not telling what happened to Jacob, but the issue was solved), to the next moment where Sabrina gets a phone call, and she knows it's urgent--because she's clairvoyant--and I've already got the whole climax written, and the ending is written, but I may have to go through and see if it needs a little tweaking, etc. But I didn't let that elusive scene bug me. In fact I nearly forgot all about it. Almost like putting it into a "time-out" because it was so naughty, and I wouldn't let it bother me. I merely knew, because of experience, that the time would come and I would be able to write it.

We writers are on a continuum of thought. I like to call it a continuum because it is. You will realize after a few years of writing that the ideas will come, and you barely have to sweat it out. The only time I sweat it out is when the words come too fast and I can't keep up on the typing pad of my computer. And that's a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say.

Happy writing!


  1. I had scene issues in my first novel and I am still pondering what I want to do about it. Ugh. But, knowing that first novel may never see the light of day, I put it off.

  2. Good choice. And don't beat yourself up. Everyone has "first novels" that never see light of day. Believe me. I've got about 30 of them, half written mostly. It's good practice, is what I'd call it.


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