There are often days when I don’t want to write. The scene I put into my outline months ago is too complicated. It’s smarter than I am. I can’t possibly write it.
And so the writing comes to a halt because I don’t know what happens next. I mean, I have a general idea of what happens, but I don’t know the specifics. I’m not a detailed outliner. I jot down a small paragraph of what’s going to happen in each chapter. Then I get to a particular chapter, read my outline, and think, I’m too stupid. How can I possibly pull this off?
Inevitably, the chapter will get written, but I have to remind myself what to do. You see, I’ve had to practice motivating myself for…all my life now. And I still forget what to do when I’m stuck. So now I’m making myself write it down.
First I ask myself what would make the scene fun to write. An epic battle, more kissing, something funny, more kissing, something dangerous, more kissing—whatever. Don’t forget what it is about writing that you love and work it into the scene. But sometimes you can’t do that. You have to write a serious scene or a death scene or something that prevents you from putting in what you love right away. Then what?
Often I run into the problem of forgetting to let my characters behave like themselves. I’m putting them through the motions of what needs to happen without coloring their actions with their personalities. Two characters are angry at each other. Let that get in the way of what they need to do. Another one is terrified. Let that hinder the process. A fourth needs to usher everyone on because she’s the responsible one. A fifth is the thrill seeker who is loving every moment of this difficult, complex scene I thought I could write. If a scene is painful to write, color it more with your characters. Let them help you push on. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what needs to happen that I forget who’s involved in making it happen—and how they feel about the whole thing.
And then, if I’m still stuck, it’s important to get the creative juices flowing. If you don’t know what’s going to happen next, make a list of what could happen next. List all the ways you can think of for your characters to do what needs doing, no matter how clichéd. Put every idea onto the list. The more your mind comes up with, the more unique your ideas will get. Eventually the right one will come to you. Even if it takes days. Your mind is a muscle. It needs to be stretched. When you start forcing it to think a certain way, it will get stronger until you get the results you need.
And then when the answer finally comes to you and you get to move on to the next scene, you can be like Kermit.
Until the next difficult scene comes…