Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shy Scene Syndrome

Since my progress update on December 1, I managed to bring my off-stage characters back into the fray and things got moving again. Hurray!

I've now reached the point where most of the story is fleshed out, leaving a number of gaps to go back and fill in. The word count is creeping up, just not as fast as previously, and not as steadily.

Once I have a clear image to anchor a scene to, I usually find the words flow easily. But the scenes I still have to write are proving shy and elusive. I have to tease, drag, plead, or cajole each one out into the open before I can write it. Then it all tumbles out in a rush, only to come to a screeching halt at the next scene.

It feels like one of those awkward conversations, where there's a long silence before one of you makes a start, which sparks a few exchanges then lapses into strained silence once more.

It is slow and frustrating.

I may spend days trying to find a way into a scene. Sometimes it's a question of "what happens next", sometimes I'm stuck on dialogue, or setting. Sometimes it's as simple as realizing I was trying to write it from the wrong point of view, and switching to another character's viewpoint suddenly frees the logjam.

Did I mention, it's frustrating?

Have any of you writers ever hit this kind of roadblock, and how did you get around it?


  1. It sounds frustrating indeed...I hope some of the writers out there have some ideas for you.

  2. I'm well familiar with the strained silences! I sometimes have a scene I've been thinking about for a long time, thinking it's going to be amazing, then when I get to it, it feels flat. Like I didn't do it justice. I think it's important to remember it's a first draft, ie, it will be ROUGH. Edits can work wonders!

  3. Delores, did I say 'frustrating'? :) I don't know if anyone has answers, it will be enough just to know that others know the feeling.

    Nick, I get that, too. That's why this whole novel languished for over 2 years before I picked it up again. Edits can indeed work wonders, but they need something to edit in order to work.

  4. Sometimes it helps to skip the tough scene and just write what happens next. It can free you in amazing ways. And I agree with what Nick said. Edits are where your ideas can really go from the first draft stick figures to the real imaginings you want to convey. Block it out if you have to, then keep writing and when you come back, you'll know what to do.

  5. Sounds like my writing life right now. Writing out of sequence sometimes helps. Having a large block of time to just sit and "get through" the slow writing works too. Maybe even frequent breaks to get your mind specifically off what you're doing and refocus.

    When you find the secret let me know :)


  6. You could always try giving those shy scenes a glass of wine to loosen them up a bit. If that doesn't work, you can drink it yourself. Seriously, don't pressure yourself. It'll come. Hopefully, it won't be three o'clock in the morning when it does, but it'll come.

  7. Shell, that is my usual trick with tough scenes. Now, those are all I've got left!

    Donna, that is probably the best idea. Slow and patient chipping away at it is getting there, bit by bit.

    Glad to hear someone else writes out of sequence too. I was starting to think I was alone.

    Susan, now that's my kind of thinking :)

  8. I feel like that all the time. What I feel helps me, is to make a detailed outline of exactly what needs to happen in the scene, and then just flesh it out.

  9. Phoenix, I'm stuck in the middle ground - I know how the scene needs to move the story forward, but I haven't figured out in enough detail what happens to get me from A to B. Once I get that outline, it usually is easy to flesh it out.

  10. Hi Ian .. I thought you were all set with the outcome - that's what it felt like, when you were doing your resumes a while ago ...

    Does sound frustrating as you work your way round the dilemmas - hope they resolve themselves soon ...

    Cheers Hilary

  11. Hi Hilary, overall outcome, yes, and general flow of the story too. The fine detail of how to get there is the elusive part.

  12. Oh I really know what you mean, there are days when I barely produce a few good phrases and they are so questionable that the following day I erase them altogether. I wish you good luck Ian and thank you for your kind words, kisses :).

  13. I know those days, Unikorna. Luckily things have been going better this week, in fact I just broke the 60k mark this afternoon :)


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