What to do when you are stuck or a scene in your book just doesn’t “work”

I am always on the lookout for topics to write about on my blog. Recently, I was working on my latest work in progress (tentatively titled Blood Bond).

Now part of my process of writing is not to just plow through the first draft and then come back and cut/fix all sorts of problems that might crop up from writing with just a rough outline/idea of a story. I write and edit at the same time. So after I write a few chapter, my husband reads and comments on my WIP. I then typically go back and tighten/expand/fix sections while I am continuing to write the rest of my initial draft.

My husband is forever asking for character motivation (Why would she do that?) and so as I write, I typically am trying to guess what comments he is going to make and address them in advance.

About a week or so ago, I wrote a scene. I often spend the time while my son is at soccer practice or when waiting for my kids to get out of school re-reading scenes. I read this one and it wasn’t quite right. So I changed the order of events. Nope. Still not flowing. I expanded a section. Nope. Not right. I rewrote part of it and dang it, I was still not happy with the beginning of the scene.

bang-head-against-brick-wallThis is when I decided that I would write about what to do when you just can’t seem to get the scene to flow “just right”. Because sometimes the more you work on it, it just doesn’t get any better.

So here are some tips for when you reach the point where you are stuck and can’t seem to get pass the scene you are working on.

1.) Step Back – Take a break. Go for a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie or even just listen to some music. Basically take some time to free your mind up. Now this break could be 30 minutes or it could be a day or two but don’t step away for too long. There is no use losing all your writing momentum.

2.) Keep Writing – Instead of finishing the scene you are working on, go on to the next one and resolve that you will return to the troubling scene later.

3.) Reread/revisit other areas – It might be time to go back a chapter or two and read what you already have written. Reading what is working might just be enough to get you through the problem area.

4.) Examine for an underlying problem – Maybe you have hit this roadblock because of deeper issues in your novel. Or maybe we are trying to force the action to be what we want rather than let our characters live out their own lives.

5.) Let someone else read it – Perhaps the problem is not as glaring or as big as you think. Give it to a friend or a writers’ group member whose opinion you respect and see if they spot the problem or if they possibly can spark an idea on how to fix it.

Just realize that all writers will at sometime be stuck on a scene and that you will get pass this. My solution to my own problem was to keep writing. I finished out the next few scenes and then went back to my problematic scene and corrected it.

5 tips for developing good writing habits

pen-and-notebookThere is only one way to become a better writer, and that is with lots of practice.

Establishing good writing habits have several benefits: it allows you to write regularly, and it improves your writing (through practice).

Below is a list of essential writing habits that can benefit your writing skills. Try incorporating one of these into your routine to improve your writing.

1.) Establish a writing schedule – Whether you write for three hours a day or just ten minutes, a daily writing habit is crucial to improving your writing. It is better to write fifteen minutes a day than to binge for six hours over the weekend. If you can incorporate the daily writing schedule with your longer weekend sessions, then all the better. Much like an athlete, you need daily practice to improve.

2.) Don’t forget to read – You can learn a lot about writing by reading what others have done. You can learn what not to do or what you don’t like as well as pick up ideas for things that did work out well. Pay attention to sentence structure, word choice and how the material flows. Check to see how (or if) the author successfully draws you into the story.

3.) Finish what you start – All too often writers begin something, and then a newer, better idea (or even just life) comes along, and they abandon what they were working on. Shiny, new ideas are always tempting. Don’t give in! Unless you are absolutely stuck on your project, wrap up your current project before moving on. (That doesn’t mean you can’t jot down your idea in a notebook so you can expand on it later. It just means don’t get distracted by the new project.)

4.) Write now, edit later – It is important to just write and not judge what you have written down. (At least not at first.) Even experienced writers don’t crank out perfect first drafts. Set a timer and just write.  And accept that much of what you write in your first draft may not make it into the book. The important thing here is to write. You can worry about word choices and sentence structure later.

5.) Know your craft – As a writer you need to understand thinks like grammar, spelling and punctuation as well as the importance of editing and polishing your work before you show it around. Make sure you learn the rules and then be sure to edit, edit, edit. Consult grammar and style guides if necessary and learn to properly format your documents. You can learn a lot by revising or rewriting what you already wrote.

Improving your writing is hard work. Maintaining a consistent writing schedule is hard especially with so many distractions vying for your attention. But the only way to improve is to practice, practice, practice.