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View Full Version : #1 Warning Sign to Stop Writing and Go Back a Scene



Bartholomew
01-04-2007, 01:11 AM
If you're writing something, and you've just realized how horribly bored you are, stop. Go back up. Cross the scene out. Start over. Find a way to make the scene more interesting for yourself. Either by writing the scene from another PoV, by making something different happen this time, or by skipping ahead a bit in the chronology.

If the writer is bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it.

Judg
01-04-2007, 01:35 AM
Hmm, what happened to silencing the inner editor on the first draft? Can't I just leave it for now and decide what to do with it afterwards?

WildScribe
01-04-2007, 01:37 AM
That's what I do, Judg

Shadow_Ferret
01-04-2007, 01:39 AM
I can honestly say I've never been bored by anything I've written. I've had scenes that didn't work in the over all context of the piece, but they certainly didn't bore me.

Bartholomew
01-04-2007, 01:39 AM
Hmm, what happened to silencing the inner editor on the first draft? Can't I just leave it for now and decide what to do with it afterwards?

This is different from the inner editor.

This is your mind yawning as you write and wanting to desperately go somewhere else.

Bartholomew
01-04-2007, 01:39 AM
I can honestly say I've never been bored by anything I've written. I've had scenes that didn't work in the over all context of the piece, but they certainly didn't bore me.

Then I might be suffering some unique form of writer psychosis. :)

Shadow_Ferret
01-04-2007, 01:40 AM
You're too fast quoting, I edited my post. :) The jist is the same.

Bartholomew
01-04-2007, 01:44 AM
You're too fast quoting, I edited my post. :) The jist is the same.

All better.

AnnieColleen
01-04-2007, 01:44 AM
I've had this happen. Generally it means I'm trying to get from Point A to Point B, but there's no conflict or story development in between. Time to either skip directly to Point B or find something that can go wrong on the way.

Jaycinth
01-04-2007, 01:47 AM
When I fall asleep. But that's really the inner editor. It works.

Bartholomew
01-04-2007, 01:47 AM
I've had this happen. Generally it means I'm trying to get from Point A to Point B, but there's no conflict or story development in between. Time to either skip directly to Point B or find something that can go wrong on the way.

Thats one way it can happen.

Another way it can happen is that there's conflict, but you've chosen an odd place to set the camera and you're missing it all.

pconsidine
01-04-2007, 01:48 AM
You're not at all alone in this, Bart. I tend to subscribe to the belief that if I'm having a hard time writing something, there's a reason for it. Something isn't clicking for me, and so I'm not engaged. Unfortunately, I never recoginze it before spending a few thousand words chasing down a dead end.

I guess that's just my style, though.

Chasing the Horizon
01-04-2007, 06:09 AM
Actually, some of my best scenes I found kind of boring to write. I hate doing descriptive writing, so whenever I have to do a lot of description, instead of dialog and thoughts, I get bored. This doesn't mean it's boring to read. It just means I already know what everything looks like and having to describe it for others is boring.

On the flip side, I could write a hundred pages just about my characters talking and doing normal stuff because I love my characters and find everything they do fascinating. This doesn't mean anyone else would enjoy it, or that I would even find it all that interesting to read.

PeeDee
01-04-2007, 11:59 PM
This is one of the few things that actually slows me down or stops me writing. It's the little voice in my head saying "Hey, something's wrong." I just quit. Either I started the scene too early or too late, or from the wrong person's head, or any of a dozen reasons.

Invariably, once I find the appropriate fix, the story takes off again for quite a while.

Birol
01-05-2007, 12:02 AM
I'm the same way, Pete. I've learned that if I can't seem to get past a scene, there's often something wrong with it, that it's not working in the context of the story or the characters for some reason.

PeeDee
01-05-2007, 12:04 AM
It sounds like a dumb motivational speaker line (something out of How To Write GReat Fiction In Ten Days!) but the best way to avoid writer's block or writer's exhaustion of the same sort is to understand what it is that generally stops you, and being willing to go back and forward and tinker until you're moving again.

You don't get your car unstuck from a snowdrift by sitting there and really wishing it weren't stuck, after all.

Jamesaritchie
01-05-2007, 03:53 AM
If you're writing something, and you've just realized how horribly bored you are, stop. Go back up. Cross the scene out. Start over. Find a way to make the scene more interesting for yourself. Either by writing the scene from another PoV, by making something different happen this time, or by skipping ahead a bit in the chronology.

If the writer is bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it.



I never have believed this for a second. My emotions have nothing to do with the character's emotions, and readers react to the characters, not to me. This is one of those things that sound wonderful, but really have no substance in teh real world of writing.

It's like saying you have to cry when you write a sad scene, or laugh out loud when you write a funny one. It simply isn't true.

Some of the most exciting writers we have are bored to death when actually writing, some of the funniest have no sense of humor, etc.

A scene doesn't give a darn what your emotional state is when you write it, and neither does a reader.

Willowmound
01-05-2007, 07:17 AM
You don't get your car unstuck from a snowdrift by sitting there and really wishing it weren't stuck, after all.

Well, if you wait long enough...

I agree though. With many of youse. I have learned to skip the boring bits, and these days I usually recognise those bits ahead of time, and simply don't write them.

And the stuff about getting stuck when the scene is wrong, is absolutely true for me. Bit of an eye-opener when I realised that.

Willowmound
01-05-2007, 07:21 AM
Some of the most exciting writers we have are bored to death when actually writing, some of the funniest have no sense of humor, etc.

A scene doesn't give a darn what your emotional state is when you write it, and neither does a reader.

Do you have a link to something you've written while bored? No? I'd be interested, because I don't believe you.

CBeasy
01-06-2007, 09:01 AM
I rarely write fiction, but the same can be said for essays. You have to be engaging throughout the entire work because let's face it, you're subjecting the reader to your opinion. If you can't keep them interested, why are they even listening to you? Also, it's critical to make you sure your ideas flow properly. It's easy to get off on a tangent and have your thoughts spilling unintelligibly onto the paper, or refer to things the reader has no context for. I often throw out whole essays because I lost interest while reading back over them. Thus, you rarely see me post in SYW and I hardly ever submit stuff.

Jamesaritchie
01-06-2007, 05:11 PM
Do you have a link to something you've written while bored? No? I'd be interested, because I don't believe you.

Believe what you like, but I can't say I've ever written much of anything when I wasn't somewhat bored. For me, writing is an intellectual activeity, not an emotional one.

The pure and simple truth is that "rules" like this are nonsense. If you actually look around, you'll find top professional writers all over the place who hate the act of writing, and who always find it boring. This is simply a fact. And you'll find bazillions of new writers who can't write a grocery list without help who nevertheless get excited each time they write an action scene, who cry each time something sad happens to a character, and who laugh like jackasses whenever they type something "funny."

But readers, including editors and agents, usually find their "exciting" scenes boring, they "sad" scenes maudlin or overly sentimental, and their "humor" about as funny as a baby sliding down a razor blade and landing in a pool of iodine.

Writing is about thinking, not feeling. Reading is about feeling. In fact, writers are run the gamut of emotions while writing are usually the ones who get rejeted most often. And the same ones who experience such a letdown, more emotion, when a rejection slip comes in. They have this really weird notion that because they're excited about a scene, a reader will also be excited. This goes against the first thing most good writers learn in Writing 101.

Just because you like a scene, just because it excites you, in no way, shape, or form means a reader is going to feel the same way. If this were true, then every last time a writer wrote something that excited him, editors would snap it up. They do not.

"If you're bored when writing a scene, the reader will also be bored when reading it" doesn't even make sense of on the surface, and far more likely than not, it's just an excuse to not write exciting scenes when you're bored.

I'd go so far as to say that most good writers don't feel anything when writing. They get in a zone where emotions are turned off completely. They're thinking at 90 miles per hour, but they aren't feeling at all.

Writing is about making something exciting to a character, not to the writer. Readers just do not give a rat's behind how you're feeling when you write a scene, and they shouldn't. Neither should you.

Max Brand once write 27,000 words per day, seven days per week, for an entire year. And in doing so he produced some of the most interesting characters, and some of the most exciting writing anyone has ever done. Do you honestly believed he lived in a state of excitement the whole time?

Humor columnists often have to sit down and write something readers will laugh at the same day a wife leaves for another man, when a toothache is driving them crazy, and when nothing on earth is funny. But readers still laugh. Why? Because the humor writer knows what people find funny, and has the talent to put it down on paper.

A scene doesn't work because it's poorly written. End of story. And how well you write a scene has exactly zilch to do with your emotional state at the time. I can write an exciting scene because I KNOW what readers find exciting, and because I have the TALENT and the SKILL to put that scene down on paper in the proper manner.

If you want to get excited when you read a scene a week after you write it, go ahead. But thinking you have to be excited when you write it is completely out of touch with reality. The emotion the writer is feeling does not make writing good. More often that not, the opposite is true. Talent and skill and thinking make wrtiting worth reading.

Bartholomew
01-06-2007, 06:00 PM
<Snip>

Hi James! Welcome to the circle of love!

You're ranting. Try to make your point with a smaller number of better chosen words. This will encourage forum goers to actually read what you've written.

You're stating a lot of opinions as facts. The internet allows for a great way to cite sources; they're called hyperlinks. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperlinks) Citing sources prevents other forum goers from thinking you're full of bull poopies.

*ahem*

No one is saying that you have to be excited writing action scenes and sad writing death scenes.

I'm saying that if you're writing something, and you find that you're suddenly bored to tears and would give anything to be somewhere else, you're probably not producing good content. You are your own first reader. If the words you're pumping out are actively boring you, you're doing something wrong.

:)

PeeDee
01-06-2007, 06:38 PM
I don't get particularly emotional when I'm writing something. I don't get bored with writing the bad scenes either, I just get a distinct sense (Which we shall, in this mature discussion, refer to as my Spidey-Sense) that what I'm writing is not working. It's the writing equivalent of running your hand the wrong way on a shark's skin. It feels wrong, as it's slicing you up.

When I'm writing happy, sad, funny, whatever, I'm not in the throes of any sort of emotion. Mostly, it's because one of the biggest and most important things I ever tried to cultivate was my ability to write anywhere, at any time, for any length of time.

This means I'm writing at home, on the couch, next to my wife, which will be a pretty poor place to burst into tears. Or, I'm writing in the mall's foodcourt. Or at a coffee shop. Or I've just gotten off work, I'm sore and slouched down in front of the computer, typing at arm's length. Or writing on paper, even.

Mostly, I just do it. The emotion is in my head somewhere, and I'm damn well ensuring it's on the paper, but my actual emotional state doesn't change all that much. I could sit and have afunny conversation with someone and then turn around and write a freaky, scary, sad scene with no particular change.

Actually, writing's the only thing that doesn't change my mood. The rest of the world can sure sink it, if it tries hard enough.

To an extent, I agree with James. I think there are writers who get maudline when they're writing a dramatically sad scene, or are grinning and laughing at the Cleverness of Them when they're writing comedy. Again, it doesn't hugely matter whether you do or not.

I think the important thing, though, is not to judge your work funny/sad/angry/scary simply based off of what emotions it brought out of you while writing it. Put what you have on paper, emotions included, but wait to see how it phases the reader. I haven't written proper comedy until I've made someone laugh. I've just written bits that might be funny, or might not.

(I have cited no sources for this post, because I'm mostly just talking about me; if it applies to you, apply away. Otherwise, here's your cited source. (http://farm.tucows.com/2004/12/swedish_chef.jpg))

Bartholomew
01-06-2007, 06:49 PM
(Which we shall, in this mature discussion, refer to as my Spidey-Sense)

Heee!



When I'm writing happy, sad, funny, whatever, I'm not in the throes of any sort of emotion.
Emotion has very little to do with what I'm talking about: boredom isn't an emotion.

If your own writing is not engaging your interest, why would it engage a reader's? I've written things that horrified me, but that my readers found hysterical. We're in complete agreement that emotion doesn't factor in. Boredom, however, does.



(Otherwise, here's your cited source. (http://farm.tucows.com/2004/12/swedish_chef.jpg))
My sources are far superior. (http://www.chemistry.msu.edu/facilities/nmr/kermit.jpg)

I snarked on Jamie because Jamie was making a phantom arguement. He crossed a wire or something: the conversation went from, "If you're bored you aren't writing well" to "emotions have nothing to do with this!"

Total non-sequitur.

PeeDee
01-06-2007, 07:15 PM
Cute sources. Not worth this much (http://www.gummylump.com/files/product/a_2116.snuffleupagus.jpg), though.

I agree that you're right on boredom not being an emotion. That's true. And I generally agree that you should be interested in what you write.

But...supposing the scene's mostly pre-built in your head? Supposing you don't actually want to write the scene at all, but you need to write it, and it has to be there? Supposing you're writing an article on a subject you don't care much about?

That's where writing in cold blood comes from, both the act and the phrase. It means you're not interested, you'd rather be anywhere else doing most anything else, but you're going to write this silly thing.

It can still be interested. I've written scenes in cold blood that have come out just fine and entertaining. That can be the bit where writing is work.

I think the trick is making sure that the scene is good, whether or not you're enjoying it. Call it different shades of boredom, I guess.

Bartholomew
01-06-2007, 07:30 PM
Cute sources. Not worth this much (http://www.gummylump.com/files/product/a_2116.snuffleupagus.jpg), though.


You've made me bust out the big guns. (http://www.giantmicrobes.com/us/products/madcow.html)



But...supposing the scene's mostly pre-built in your head? Supposing you don't actually want to write the scene at all, but you need to write it, and it has to be there? Supposing you're writing an article on a subject you don't care much about?

That's where writing in cold blood comes from, both the act and the phrase. It means you're not interested, you'd rather be anywhere else doing most anything else, but you're going to write this silly thing.

It can still be interested. I've written scenes in cold blood that have come out just fine and entertaining. That can be the bit where writing is work.

I think the trick is making sure that the scene is good, whether or not you're enjoying it. Call it different shades of boredom, I guess.

True, I suppose, but if I'm writing about something that bores me silly in the first place, it really doesn't get the same kind of treatment. It gets a once over outloud for flow and syntax, and then another once over for grammar... and then its out the door. I'm assuming you mean non-fiction here, though.

In the case of fiction, especially for scenes that are already pretty much pre-built in my head, if I've built the scene, I'm generally pretty enthralled with writing it out. I think we'll have to agree to disagree on that one, and chalk it up to a difference of persona.

And I absolutely love the phrase "writing in cold blood."

PeeDee
01-06-2007, 07:45 PM
You've made me bust out the big guns. (http://www.giantmicrobes.com/us/products/madcow.html)




True, I suppose, but if I'm writing about something that bores me silly in the first place, it really doesn't get the same kind of treatment. It gets a once over outloud for flow and syntax, and then another once over for grammar... and then its out the door. I'm assuming you mean non-fiction here, though.

In the case of fiction, especially for scenes that are already pretty much pre-built in my head, if I've built the scene, I'm generally pretty enthralled with writing it out. I think we'll have to agree to disagree on that one, and chalk it up to a difference of persona.

And I absolutely love the phrase "writing in cold blood."

I used non-fiction as an example, but I didn't mean it exclusively, no. It applies to fiction too.

But yeah, we'll agree to disagree. That is to say, I'm right and you're wrong. Good thing we agreed. :)

(Yes. I do have sour grapes because I can't find anything cooler to beat a flesh eating virus plushie!)

Bartholomew
01-06-2007, 07:49 PM
I used non-fiction as an example, but I didn't mean it exclusively, no. It applies to fiction too.

But yeah, we'll agree to disagree. That is to say, I'm right and you're wrong. Good thing we agreed. :)

(Yes. I do have sour grapes because I can't find anything cooler to beat a flesh eating virus plushie!)

Don't feel too bad. You almost won. It was sheer luck that reminded me of the flesh eating viral plushies.

I think a really well-made velociraptor plush might be cooler. I'd have to see.

PeeDee
01-06-2007, 07:54 PM
I'm unsure on that point too. (http://www.krittersinthemailbox.com/animals/dinosaur/waplt2700vr.htm)

Bartholomew
01-06-2007, 08:09 PM
I'm unsure on that point too. (http://www.krittersinthemailbox.com/animals/dinosaur/waplt2700vr.htm)

Oh... that's a hard one.

We must settle this old fashioned style. In OP, with a poll!

Willowmound
01-07-2007, 04:36 AM
Believe what you like, but I can't say I've ever written much of anything when I wasn't somewhat bored.
My condolences.


For me, writing is an intellectual activeity, not an emotional one.
For me, it's both.


The pure and simple truth is that "rules" like this are nonsense. If you actually look around, you'll find top professional writers all over the place who hate the act of writing, and who always find it boring.
I cannot fathom why a person would do that to himself. I'd find another job, myself.


And you'll find bazillions of new writers who can't write a grocery list without help who nevertheless get excited each time they write an action scene, who cry each time something sad happens to a character, and who laugh like jackasses whenever they type something "funny."
This is beside the point. Not being bored does not equate with having no talent. Having no talent does not equate with enjoying the act of writing.



"If you're bored when writing a scene, the reader will also be bored when reading it" doesn't even make sense of on the surface, and far more likely than not, it's just an excuse to not write exciting scenes when you're bored.
My experience tells me otherwise. Writing isn't surgery. There's an art to it as well, and very few writers, if any, can emulate the natural bounce (or 'pop' or 'edge') you get when you feel what you write.

This does not mean you cry when your character cries.


I'd go so far as to say that most good writers don't feel anything when writing. They get in a zone where emotions are turned off completely. They're thinking at 90 miles per hour, but they aren't feeling at all.
That sounds dissociative and a little bit insane actually.


Max Brand once write 27,000 words per day, seven days per week, for an entire year. And in doing so he produced some of the most interesting characters, and some of the most exciting writing anyone has ever done. Do you honestly believed he lived in a state of excitement the whole time?
Not being bored does not equate with being excited.


A scene doesn't work because it's poorly written. End of story.
Of course.


And how well you write a scene has exactly zilch to do with your emotional state at the time.
That's doubtful.


I can write an exciting scene because I KNOW what readers find exciting, and because I have the TALENT and the SKILL to put that scene down on paper in the proper manner.
Not being bored does not equate having no talent. Having no talent does not equate enjoying the act of writing.


But thinking you have to be excited when you write it is completely out of touch with reality. And again, not being bored does not equate with being excited.


Did you feel nothing when you wrote this? I could practically smell your indignant anger, sir.

pconsidine
01-12-2007, 04:57 AM
My 2?

I think there's a bit of confusion between "what" and "how" in the discussion. Whether you know you have to include a scene for story purposes (the "what") in no way means that you need to be unengaged in the writing (the "how"). And that's what I think of when I think about the question. If I'm bored in the writing, I'm not engaged. And there's a reason for that. Even if the scene must exist in the story, there are still plenty of ways to realize said scene, and there is usually one approach that engages me more than the others.

Even still, wasn't it Dorothy Parker who said "I hate writing, but I love having written"?

engmajor2005
01-12-2007, 06:51 AM
I start over when I'm bored writing something, chiefly because I won't finish it.

As far as not knowing where to go, I don't force it. I stop. I save my document and go do something else--another project or play video games or whatever--and when I pick up the scent again, if you will, I go back. Not hard to do for me, and keeps me from just staring at a blank screen.

ink wench
01-12-2007, 05:30 PM
Perversely, the scenes I'm most bored writing usually turn out to contain some of my best writing. Haven't figured out why. That said, I'd much rather be fully engaged in a scene even if it requires more editing in the end.

PeeDee
01-13-2007, 03:10 AM
I can be entirely interested and enjoying a scene I'm writing, and still know that I need to stop and back up a bit. Sometimes, something jst goes off the rails, and I have to back up to fix it.

Sometimes, it's because I have in the middle of my story discovered a whole new story. I trim it out, the way you trim a forum thread.