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Breaking through the wall

512px-Wall_climbing_plantWhat do you do when you hit a wall in your writing?

I’m under a tight—self-imposed—deadline to get Blind Justice to my editor and I was absolutely stuck on how to approach the climactic scene. I only work with loose outlines and don’t usually have a solid idea for the ending until I’m more than halfway through the book.

That held true with this one. I had some thematic ideas and snippets of scenes that I knew I wanted in there, but not the whole showdown. I know for a fact that if I stop writing to think, nothing comes. I’ve talked about it before. But what to do in this case?

I finally decided to create a new document outside of my Draft folder (that’s Scrivener-speak for opening a blank page in my project that won’t be included when I print) and call it “Showdown ramble.” Then I proceeded to type out all of the questions I had about what the characters wanted, what they could or should do, and so on.

At first it was a list of unanswered questions, but as I wrote I started coming up with ideas for how to answer them. I also asked questions like the following:

– What if X wasn’t the villain? Who would it be?
– What if the final showdown takes place somewhere besides Z? (I had a location picked out, but it changed based on this exercise.)
– What other places might have significance to the involved characters that would work for this scene? (This is how I found the new location and it surprised me.)

The words started flowing and after an hour I had 750 words of questions, some answers, and some new ideas, as well as a pretty good idea of what needs to happen.

So, I’m back on track and working on the climactic scene this week. Yay!

What do you do when you hit a wall in your writing?

Image credit: By Wilfredor (Own work) (CC0), via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Reply

    Hi Gwen, I’ve done the same thing…but now that I’m taking your Scrivener class–and loving it, by the way–I’ll be doing my RAMBLING outside of the Draft Folder. Sweet! Thanks for the great idea. 🙂

    • Reply

      TaxDetective: Good ideas. For a short term block I often find relief with a run, a nap, a shower, or a drive. But after I’ve spent a few days avoiding the scene I know it’s time for another tactic. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Reply

    Lovely post, Gwen. I find the best time to get through plot difficulties is during traffic. It makes the traffic easier to bear and somehow in the mindless vacuum of slow moving cars, the plot ideas come easily.

    Can’t wait for Blind Justice!

    • Reply

      Diana: Traffic can be great. I actually like things where my brain is distracted but calm. Like yoga or Kung Fu. I also used to enjoy my long quiet drive from Montgomery to Birmingham for RWA chapter meetings when I lived there. I did a lot of plotting during those quiet moments. Thanks!

  3. Reply

    Well, I wouldn’t have had an answer for you day before yesterday! But yesterday, an author I admire posted a gorgeous photo on Twitter, and I went to the FB site it was from to see what else was there. “Earth Pics”–GORGEOUS photos from around the world. I shared a dozen or so on my own page… But there was one–a sunset shot of a bridge in Prague with fog rolling in that was all color and shadows that just spoke to me. I kept saying, “Prague? Prague isn’t going to work… My story is no where NEAR Europe… WHY would my characters be on a bridge at sunset in Prague?? Even if it is really romantic… …” And my heroine said, “Prague? I can’t be in PRAGUE!” and the scene was off and running. 🙂

    It made me realize I’ve been trying to FOCUS myself on my writing, and not “wasting my time” on things like Pinterest, and maybe what I really need to be doing is “refilling the well” and let myself do things like browse Pinterest for things that catch my eye when the writing isn’t flowing.

    I love your question idea as well. Great topic!!

    • Reply

      That’s a great point, Rowan. Honestly, I think anything that gets our mind to wander can help. As long as we don’t wander too long. 😉 Thanks!

  4. Reply

    Usually I have the ending of the story already figured out. My “wall” is oftentimes somewhere in the main body whereby I’ve erred with either a follow up action or description of someone/something that occurred previous in the story. And I hate it when it might mean the cutting of whole paragraphs (never mind sentences) after racking my gray matter, in order to remedy the problem. Thanx for the post, Gwen. Peace.

    • Reply

      loujenhaxmyor: I often get stuck in the middle too. It’s almost always because I’ve taken a wrong turn in the story. Can’t tell you how many years it took me to realize that. It’s so hard to back up and–sob–cut whole scenes, but the book is always better for it in the end. 😉 Thanks!

  5. Reply

    When I hit a wall, I’ll put it aside for a while and work on something else, or plan B is often making a list of questions and possible solutions, as you did. Questions are wonderful. They open so many possibilities.

    • Reply

      Gwen: Switching gears is a great idea. If I can work on edits for another book, or write a blog post, I will. As long as it doesn’t become creative procrastination. 😉 Questions ARE wonderful. Now to remember next time… Thanks for stopping by!

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