How I get past Difficult Scenes

Sometimes a scene and I just aren’t getting on. I had one such scene with Pedibastet and Chapter Eight of 2014 version of The Royal Gift. Here are some of the ways I tackle a scene I’m struggling with for any reason.


Last Updated: 5/3/16

1. Hot Chocolate

The Hot Chocolate method is designed to get me away from the computer, or the pen and paper. Ideally there should be no music playing either. After making the hot chocolate, I settle into whichever seat in the house is my favourite (and yes, beds do count as long as you don’t get in them). I then mull over the scene but I don’t force it – if my mind wants to wander away from that scene, it’s allowed to do so. Eventually the hot chocolate is finished and I return to writing. This tip doesn’t use coffee because if you’re fretting, the caffeine won’t make it better.

Reasons this works for me:
  • It gets me away from the mechanics of writing.
  • It allows me time to visualise the scene unfolding.
  • I can figure out why a character is doing something.
  • I’m not editing what I’m thinking, whereas I might be editing whilst writing, and hating every sentence before it’s written.
  • If my mind wanders a lot, it’s clearly time for a break.

2. Music Overload

This one also involves moving away from the computer or trusty pen and paper. I grab my noise reduction headphones and relocate somewhere where it (hopefully) won’t matter if I can’t hear anything but the MP3 attached to the headphones. The music I choose is usually from a playlist made to help me visualise when I’m writing, or when I’m visualising away from the computer and paper.

Reasons this works for me:
  • I focus on imagining the scene as it happens.

3. Write by Hand

I used to always write the first draft by hand of my stories. Nowadays it depends on the book, but I have read somewhere that writing encourages our more creative side of the brain to engage with the task, whereas a computer doesn’t encourage it as much. The bonus to writing by hand is that when you type it up later, the typed version is a new, usually better version.

Reasons this works for me:
  • Software doesn’t try to auto-correct because my spelling is in British English, not American English, so my flow isn’t broken.
  • Software doesn’t try to style my writing without my doing it.
  • I generally find the outcome is better than anything I was struggling with on the computer.
  • I visualise the scene better when not in front of the computer.

4. Read (all Day)

If there’s a book I’ve been meaning to read, I grab it and spend the rest of the day reading it, effectively switching off my writer-thoughts until I go back to writing or thinking on my books for the day (of course, this requires the book I’m reading to keep my complete attention). I also turn off all electrical devices that aren’t required for the smooth running of my home – mobiles, tablets, the Chrome book, the desktop, the television/Xbox, the home telephone, internet etc.

Reasons this works for me:
  • I get out of the pattern of struggling on the problematic scene.
  • I spend time catching up on my reading, which often keeps me creatively charged and ready to take on my antagonists with my protagonists’ help.
  • Distractions have been defeated.

5. The Gym

I love my gym, but I don’t go enough to stop myself telling myself off at the end of the week. When I get there, my mind completely switches off so I focus on each round I take on the equipment.

Reasons this works for me:
  • I stop thinking hard.
  • I walk there, which can help jog an idea.
  • The increase of activity is believed to fuel creativity due to the biological benefits for working out (increased oxygen etc).

6. Question Everything

The scene or characters could be causing the issue. So I move away from the computer and consider the question of why. Why is a character doing something? Why are they dealing with or reacting to the situation/scene that way? Why is this scene in the book – is it really required? Why don’t they do something else? Why don’t they consider it? Why do they dismiss it if they do?

Reasons this helps:
  • There may have been a flaw.
  • It encourages a better understanding of the scene’s importance, and why the characters are behaving as they are.


7. I talk aloud, as if briefing one of my characters

If I’m stuck, sometimes I find just vocalising can bring new ideas. By pretending to talk to one of your characters, it can make you fall out of any thinking habits and step into your talking habits, which are usually different.

Way this helps:
  • I start considering ideas that pop into my head once I’m settled into talking to an imaginary character.
  • Depending on which character you’re pretending to debrief, you could end up with different solutions for what to write next.


8. Stopping for the Day

This is the worse-case scenerio, when switching to another scene or a book doesn’t work. I do other things instead, such as catching up on household chores, working on improving the Draebox brand, online services and client experience, making dinner, socialising, even a bit of Netflix. The important part of this is twofold: I get busy being distracted from the writing and I make sure to go to bed early.

Why this works too:
  • Sometimes I’m just mentally tired from all the things I have been doing.
  • Sometimes the difficulty is caused by a lack of good sleep which has led up to a sleep debt.
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