Writing Through It: When A Scene Doesn’t Come Together

Any writer will tell you that the process of writing can be equal parts exciting and frustrating. When you’re writing your own story, you’ll encounter moments where everything feels seamless. The words come easily to compose the right dialogue between two people, or a breathtaking confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist. And then you’ll have those days where writing a necessary, but hard to construct scene, will feel like a slog to get to the end of it.

I mentioned last month how I’m getting so very close to wrapping up the draft of my first YA fantasy novel. Being so intimately tied to your story for years and knowing deep down that all your diligent efforts to get everything down on the page is near at hand, well, it’s an incredible feeling. But it’s in this knowing that makes the road to the finish line seem longer and almost out of reach.

I can probably count a handful of times I’ll run into a scene in my story and I’ll have a clear picture in my mind of how I want this to unfold, but getting to the actual writing of it becomes surprisingly difficult. Maybe the scene has one character with one long monologue and you’re finding creative ways to break it up, or it could be setup to lead into the exciting action that’s about to happen to your main character. Whatever the purpose is of the scene, writing it can be laborious and suck the fun out of the process of telling a story.

Writing tricky scenes is like scaling the side of a mountain—it’s not easy and the journey to the summit can feel so far away. Hitting those humps make you wish you’re back in that state where what you’re writing comes together. Your fingers are rapidly flying across the keyboard, a sense of urgency driving you to capture this stroke of inspiration and everything just flows. The words keep coming in what may seem like a faucet that can’t be turned off. But when it stops, you start to wonder why writing this part of your story suddenly feels like the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life.

When I encounter those obstacles in my writing, the only thing I can do is write my way through it. What else can I do? The scene won’t write itself even if I wish it could. I’ve made decisions to stop writing when I don’t feel inspired or I’m having a bad writing day. What I’ve learned from doing that is the writing doesn’t get done. In my experience, the story will get shelved for years until maybe you recommit yourself to doing what you set out to do—finish your story.

Throughout writing my novel I have embraced the power of writing in spite of how bad it is. I used to be obsessed with writing everything perfectly and cohesively, maybe even going back to edit what I previously wrote, without making any reasonable progress with it. This actually hindered than helped me, and you realize the first draft is meant to be bad. Revisions will be a huge part of your process. A story is easier to edit and rewrite when everything is already written down. Once you accept that what you write now won’t be all that good, you’re free to give yourself a break and write whatever comes to mind. Don’t think about how this scene doesn’t make sense or it’s not the magnum opus you envisioned. Just get it down and worry about those details later.

Writers will have good days and bad days. No matter what day you’re having, just grit your teeth and write it out until you get back into that state of flow once again.


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