Writing is an ebb and flow of energy-boosted ideas. Sometimes the flow is in rhythm with ideas and the writer can pour their thoughts onto the page with inspired ease. Other times, even if the energy level is low, the ideas can still be strong enough to keep the writer going, regardless of exhaustion or depletion. These times tend to lend themselves to three-in-the-morning explorations and other odd behaviors but still, writing happens.
It’s the ebbs that cause worry. Those times when writing ideas trickle to a stop. I suppose this could be considered a time of writer’s block, but what if it’s just the complication of getting through a sticky scene? What if the motivated writer has energy and ideas galore, yet everything written glares back with evil red eyes, uncooperative, and confusing on the page?
I call this sticky scene writing! And I am experiencing it RIGHT NOW!
So, I’ve done a little research. Since this blog is my journey as a writer, and this is the path I am currently on, I feel obligated to share my frustrations and discoveries.
I have posted several websites below for readers to investigate on their own. They vary from the listing of parts required to create a strong scene, to tips for writers when they feel stuck, to support getting through difficult scenes to write. Why? Well, because we are all in different places, and there can be many reasons for feeling trapped in the middle of our drafts.
For me, I went back to the drawing board. What does every scene need? According to Savannah Gilbo, author, editor, and book coach, her article, How to Write Well-Structured Scenes in Your Story, https://www.savannahgilbo.com/blog/scene-structure, highlight five Commandments (originally from Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid). These five commandments outline the required parts every scene should have.
- Inciting Incident
- Turning Point
- Crisis Moment
I’m not going into depth with each part, as I have provided the link and they are clearly explained in the original source, but just seeing this list makes me think of a completed manuscript. When I imagine each scene in my book as a mini story, it helps me focus on the what’s most important. Ideally, each complete scene will push all my intertwining moments in the same direction—to the end. Everything builds spirally (in my head), swirling its way to the conclusion.
In her article, How to Write Compelling Scenes, https://www.well-storied.com/blog/how-to-structure-compelling-scenes, author, Kristen Kieffer, writes about the elements of scenes in a more wholistic approach. I like the idea of combining them with the five commandments suggested above.
- Strong sense of place and setting
- Grounded character
- Intriguing hook
- Emotional weight
- Movement and pacing
Again, these are outlined in the attached article. These six elements feel more like the threads woven inside each scene part (the five commandments from above) to be woven again inside each scene. Then, each completed scene can link its way into chapters and in the end, a finished book. In my opinion both these lists work smoothly together.
Even after revisiting what every scene needs, I was still struggling to jumble all my thoughts and ideas onto the page. I wove between too many ideas and not enough to patch the obvious holes. But I continued my research and found some tips to supposedly unstick the stuck! Janice Hardy, from Fiction University and author, suggests the following in her article, Five Tips for When You’re Stuck in a Scene, http://blog.janicehardy.com/2019/05/5-tips-for-when-youre-stuck-in-scene.html:
- Leave empty brackets on the page to come back to later…keep writing.
- Think about what the other people are doing in the scene.
- How could the goals of the antagonist fit in?
- Ask, why is the scene in the story?
- Look at the next turning point, how does this scene connect?
These suggestions give leeway to not only think about the parts in each scene, but everything happening around them. That might be enough to trigger a new direction, or at least rekindle the energy needed to keep going.
Finally, the article I read from Standoutbooks.com, Tips To Solve The Problem Of That Scene You’re Stuck On, https://www.standoutbooks.com/solve-stuck-on-scene/, had some interesting activities a writer could try. I recommend reading it through, as the advice was curious and new. Suggestions ranged from exposing a secret, to creating a midpoint plot twist, to changing the outcome of how each scene ends. For example, if your character was going to say yes to something, what might happen if they said no? Or vise versa. Basically, looking at each scene from different perspectives can unlock creative flow.
Inspiration, deadlines, time, and every day life can aid or hinder our ability to write. Sticky scenes seem to evolve for any number of reasons. Hopefully, some of these tips will be helpful. I am in the same boat and will be focusing on each of them until I feel my ebb and flow unite once more.
Happy Writing (because at least you’re writing),
Celaine Charles, February 28, 2021
P.S. If any of my readers have ideas to resolve sticky scenes, please share!
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