Monday, 10 November 2008

The hardest thing...

Is it just me, or do other writers have problems getting in to scenes? As in, finding the right words to get the thing in motion, bridge from the last thing and into the next, mark the passage of time or just plain get the reader into the tortured thinking of the central character? I think I spend more time on these jumping off platforms than anywhere else in the book.
Once I’ve climbed up there and looked at the teeny tiny pool I’m aiming for and taken a deep breath and funked it, walked back, breathed again, aimed again and jumped… then, I’m usually OK…after the odd second failure to jump, near miss or weird landing in a different pool altogether.

But getting up there, leaving everything else behind and knowing exactly what you’re aiming for in this next effort – that seems to be the hardest thing for me.

What’s the hardest process thing for the other writers out there? Other than sorting out strained metaphors in other people’s blogs, obviously.


KAREN said...

I know just what you mean.

I recently had a character entering a friend's workplace as an employee for the first time and seeing the place with fresh eyes...well, what a palaver! It must have taken me more than a day to get to grips with the scene. I was doing Internet 'research' to spark ideas, thinking back to how I felt starting a new job, stopping, starting, sighing...yet once I got into it I was fine!

I've found if I just type SOMETHING, even if it's rubbish, and go back to it later it's a) not as bad as I thought and b) something cleverer has usually occurred to me in the meantime :o) Such a weird process isn't it?

Tim Stretton said...

My way around this problem is usually a jump-cut. If the transition process is causing difficulties, there's every chance the reader isn't interested anyway. If the character ends one scene in Location A, and I need him to start the next in Location B, I just cut straight there (doesn't work very well if A is a cliffhanger...).

The harder part is getting the character's--and the reader's--head there too. I try not to write different scenes on the same day because that transition is hard to manage and it seems to work better fresh.

Karen's strategy of writing "rubbish" to get moving is always a good one, and not just for transitions. ("I can always fix it in revision" is a wonderfully soothing mantra!)

Alis said...

Hi Karen - glad it's not just me, then!
I agree about typing something, even if it's just to see something on screen which you instantly know is not the right thing to do. At least then you feel like a writer who's failing to get it right rather than a hopeless case staring out the window!

Hi Tim - yes, I know what you mean about jump cuts and sometimes they're just what you need. Other times - at least for me - they induce the 'whoah, did I miss something?' feeling!

David Isaak said...

Nope. I have many many problems, but that isn't one of them. I love starting.

In most things I fear I'm much better at starting than finishing, which says something not too flattering about my character.

Martin Edwards said...

I always find it hard to get started - I usually write after a day out at work, and there are always other distractions. But one thing that helps is if I've left something incomplete - a scene, even a paragraph or a conversation - the previous night. Then it doesn't feel so much like starting from scratch.

Alis said...

Hi Martin - yes, I've heard other writers use that technique to good effect too. I've tried it (I'll try anything to get started more easily) but for me it ruins the flow and I find it frustrating that I'm in a different mindset today than I was when I stopped in the middle of whatever it is.
Different strokes for different folks and I guess I'll just have to keep struggling with this unless a better technique comes up!

Jane said...

Hi Alis

I agree with Karen - the most important thing is to get it down. We should allow ourselves to be bad. Victoria Wood once said that she writes about 7 or 8 drafts of each episode. The first and second draft are awful and she expects them to be awful. But there's something on the page at least. Then she goes over and over it, adding jokes, taking bits out, and gradually it starts to take shape. That approach is not for everyone but I do think writers censor themselves terribly - maybe we'd do beter to give ourselves the freedom to do a few crap drafts.

Another thing I do is if I get into that blessed state of Flow . . .I stop at a point where it's going well. So when I come back to it, I have an idea of where to go. Also, I keep a notebook and pen with me at all times. Far too often a great idea pops into my head just as my mind is relaxing and I'm drifting off to sleep, and I think: 'Oh I'll remember that' and I NEVER do. Always write it down.

Thanks for the link to Emma Darwin's site btw. Very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Strange as this may seem, I have a similar issue sometimes when creating photographs. I intuitively know the scene is lacking something but am darn'd if I can figure out what. My problem is that I usually only have a limited window of opportunity to get it right.