P. D. Wright

Wrighting Blog

Contest Winners and Problem Sections

So, though this is REALLY late, I actually did pick the winner on the right day. I just only now got around to posting it. Sorry, life has been busy busy (I say it twice so you know it’s true). Anyway, on to winners!

The winner of my Guards! Guards! Giveaway contest, who will receive a brand new copy of the book Guards! Guards! By Terry Pratchett, is bunnyb! Contact me (pdwright[at]pdwright[dot]com) to claim your prize (I’ll need a name and mailing address)! (Just to be safe, I’ll try emailing you, too – telepathy doesn’t seem to work as well as I hoped.) Congratulations bunnyb – I hope you love the book!

Now that business has been taken care of, you might be wondering about what’s been keeping me so busy busy. There are many things – my last post on distractions might give you somewhat of a clue – but the biggest thing, the most annoying thing, the most frustrating thing that’s been on my plate is a problem section in my WIP.

Every time I sit down to write I see this section. I rewrite it. I stop. I reread it. I hate it. I try again. Over and over I do this until I am too frustrated to write anymore. It’s stressful, it’s demoralizing, and it’s part of life. At least, for a writer, it is.

So what do you do when your manuscript is being difficult? Well, I have three techniques I attempt to use when I notice that I’ve been caught in a Problem Section (I don’t always realize it right away – it’s not uncommon for me to rewrite a section once or twice):

  1. Take a break. Walk away. Work on something else. Cook dinner. Clean the house. A little time away from a problem section – from your manuscript as a whole – might just give you the freshness you need to attack it from a different angle.
  2. Ask for help. I just submitted four pages of my Problem Section to my small writer’s group, telling them that it’s causing me trouble and I need help. Sometimes you are too close to the problem to see the answer, and sometimes just talking the problem out can lead to a solution. A fresh pair of eyes can be amazingly helpful. (That is my hope for THIS section – I guess I’ll find out at small group tonight!)
  3. If all else fails, skip it! I hate to do this. I hate to even mention it. Somehow skipping a section makes my manuscript feel less whole. But sometimes it’s just what you have to do. Obviously, if you are on a final draft this recommendation doesn’t work – you can probably only leave these kinds of holes in your first or (if necessary) second draft. But rather than being frustrated by one little section and get no writing done, sometimes you just have to move past it and see what you want to do with it when everything else is done.

Anyway, those are what I do. Does anyone else have other techniques? I can use all the help I can get at this point.

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6 Responses to “Contest Winners and Problem Sections”

  1. A logical, tedious approach: What does this character need to get from this scene? What does that other character need to get from this scene? Where does this story need to go? What might they say/do to move in the right direction? What can’t they do/say? What are different options for accomplishing the same thing? What paths are better than others?…

    I don’t know if you want to try looking at it through brainstorming, mapping, outlining, or some other type of planning, but you can prepare what you want to convey through a development process of one form or another.

    As for me… I tend not to get stuck. Everything is perfect, always. Never had a problem. Yeah, right.

  2. Whenever I get stuck I figure out (like Ryan said) what NEEDS to be the outcome, then I brainstorm on what situations would cause my characters to react in such a way that the outcome is natural and not forced. I often hash it out with my wife… my poor, poor wife who has to listen to me ramble about my story constantly. God Bless that woman.

  3. You know, I completely left that option off and I use it all the time: a human soundboard – bounding ideas off of someone. lol, and we did that for about an hour last night in group… brainstorming and soundboarding.

  4. roh says:

    Hmm – try a version of #3: Put it on ‘hold’.

    But only for now. Give it a chapter number and move on. Tell yourself that you will come back to it when you’re ready, or when you are finished.

    Sometimes that blockage to a section is there because you are not ready to write it. Certain scenes need certain moods, and we can’t always dictate our mood.

    Many times it will percolate in the back of your mind and a solution will suddenly make itself known. Or events in later chapters determine what REALLY needs to be in the ‘on hold’ portion of your story.

    Trust your characters and your story. The writing will come when it’s meant to.

  5. David Oliver says:

    I think all the suggestions given are great. I particularly liked:

    “Sometimes that blockage to a section is there because you are not ready to write it. Certain scenes need certain moods, and we can’t always dictate our mood.”

    I think that is the cause of a lot of blocks. If you are in a cheerful mood it is incredibly hard to write angst, or vice-versa.

    I think all the suggestions are helpful at some time or another. If I were to add anything it would be take a break, as you said, but I would add that it is sometimes helpful for me to play around with my characters in my head; to try to place them in different circumstances or related circumstances and see how they react. Sometimes by doing this you can get a better understanding on how your characters act so that when you go back to writing you might suddenly see a solution that you did not see before.

  6. Myrna Foster says:

    This is timely for me, so thank you. I’m on my third draft and feel like I’d better deal with the problem, but I’m not sure how. I’ve let it mull around in my head the last couple of days. It’s probably time to tackle it.

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