Last weekend, I ran into a fellow writer and asked him how his new book was going. He said it was hard. Very hard. I said mine was too, and he replied, “If they’re good, they’re all hard. Can you imagine what you’d have if you could say, ‘It was easy, I just wrote it?’ ”
When it’s hard, here are some things I’ve found that help me move through the muck:
Trying the scene in a different point of view. (Of course, this only works if you write in the third person.) Figuring out who has the most at stake in the scene and shifting to their POV can give a scene more energy and drive.
Cutting the last few lines or even paragraphs of a scene or chapter. How often have I said this to critique partners, and how often have they said this to me? “The scene really ends here.”
Revisiting the protagonist’s character arc. What will challenge her to go where she needs to go next psychologically?
Revisiting the protagonist’s story goal. Is the main plot sufficiently driven by what she wants and what’s getting in the way of it, or have I gotten sidetracked? The fertility of my garden of subplots is astounding, and some of the things that sprout in it are weeds.
Examining the protagonist/antagonist relationships. I usually have multiple oppositional characters in the way of my main character’s goal, presenting conflicts that push her to change and mature. As with subplots, I have to examine these characters and make sure I haven’t cast too many.
Doing an intense writing workout. For example, cranking out a 2,000 word short story in a single sitting. I’d already plotted it while running. I knew the instigating event, the protagonist, the antagonist, the secondary characters who complicate things, the settings, the themes, the ending, and the twists. Was it a brilliant story? No. But it shot me clean through a plot and made me review skills for structuring and tightening a story. I knew intuitively what to skip such as the transitions that were easily implied and the descriptions that a reader would have already imagined. And I have the satisfaction of having finished something. Now, back to the book in progress.
I haven’t been totally stuck, by the way. I have two new releases this month: Small Awakenings, a book of reflective essays, and a boxed set of the first three Mae Martin psychic mysteries. The boxed set is on sale for $2.99 through the weekend.