Sunday, September 25, 2011


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Last week I got stuck in a scene.

It's not a thing that happens very often, which is good because it's frustrating. I'm not the world's fastest writer, but I do like to end the day with some sense of accomplishment, and that's hard to do when I'm constantly writing the same page—and sometimes the same sentenceover and over and over, deleting the whole thing and starting again...

What happened last week wasn't writer's block. I was still writing. It just wasn't getting me anywhere. It felt like I'd driven out onto the ice with the wrong sort of tires and was sitting there spinning my wheels.

Stubbornness kept me from jumping ahead to a new scene that might have been easier, partly because I don't like admitting defeat and partly because I knew it was only a matter of finding the right words, the right phrase, the right bit of dialogue...finding that one patch of grit that would give my wheels traction.

Experience has taught me the important thing for me to do is keep the car in drive. It's only by sitting there day after day at the keyboard and typing that I come unstuck, even if in the meantime I have to create and delete several pages of story.

Most of the time my subconscious is simply not happy with how I'm approaching the scene, or it's busily working on some other problem (I rather suspect that, most times, it's the latter, since when I get stuck I invariably end up getting lots of new ideas for a scene that happens later...) (sigh).

It's good to know the effort isn't wasted.

But I still confess I felt relieved when yesterday I finally wrote a sentence that felt right, and then another, and the whole entire story seemed to shift and creak and start to roll ahead again.

I'm curious to know if any other writers here get stuck, and if so, how they deal with it? And readers, have you ever come across a point in any book where you believe the writer got bogged down? I always wonder, as a writer, if those spinning wheels leave marks behind...

Come back Thursday, to read Julie's next post.


  1. I do get stuck like you describe from time to time. If I do, I won't spend much more than an hour fighting with a scene. I'll jot down whatever I do know about the scene (a list of plot turns, snips of dialogue, a character's motivation), however much or little that is, then move on and start another. It may just be me, but if I let a day go by that's little more than frustration and wheel-spinning, despite having sat here for hours trying, it starts to grow too big in my mind and it's harder to come back to work the next day. I need to make this as easy on myself as possible. And I know that eventually my subconscious will let me know how that skipped scene should go.

  2. I walk, or swim or take a long drive or have a bath or sleep on it....

    I think it depends on what stage I'm at in the writing process...first draft i tend to stall and let my subconscious work it out as I'm not good at jumping ahead although i am learning that sometimes writing in a few sentences of précis of what 'needs' to happen then moving works.

    If I'm stuck when editing or rewriting i still apply the above but I don't let myself wander off from the scene until it on the page...


  3. It's so frustrating when that happens! I do the same as Lori though and hope my mind will figure it out while I'm doing something else. Usually, if I leave it for a few days (or weeks), the words will flow better next time I look at that scene. I do hope it doesn't show afterwards to readers!

  4. Yes, I do get stuck. Invariably it's because I've taken a wrong step two or three scenes back. The subconscious knows it's wrong, but the conscious hasn't caught up yet...

    The routes to getting going again are legion *g*. Glad it got moving again for you! :)

    Anna Louise Lucia

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Sorry it took me a while to reply :-(

    It's nice to know I'm not the only one with the getting stuck problem.