A trick that works

Today’s tip isn’t earth-shattering by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’m sure you’ve heard it no less than a dozen or so times. Here it is:

Stop writing when you’re in the middle of a scene, right when the tension is good, your creative juices are flowing and your fingers are itching to type more. Shut off the computer, stand up and walk away. It’ll be easier to start the next day.

Right? You’ve heard that one before? I know I had, and my reaction to it was always the same: CODSWALLOP! (Because that is a very fun word to say). And so I’d ignore it, keep writing, tidy up the scene and bring it to a conclusion. And then the same thing would happen day in and day out. The next time I sat down to write, I would stare at a blank screen for half an hour. I’d start to type a sentence, only to delete it. I’d try another one, then delete that too. I only get two hours a day to write if I’m lucky, so the amount of time I wasted trying to jumpstart my writing was getting frustrating.

So I tried that trick above, just once. I made myself walk away in the middle of a scene. And you guys. It totally did the trick. I was itching to start writing the next day, and I was able to jump back in and hit the ground running, so to speak. I finished the scene, then launched into the next, stopping in the mid-way point. And I’ve been doing the same thing ever since. I haven’t had a single day since where I stare at a blank screen for half an hour, trying to figure out where to go from here. It’s magic, I tell you. Magic.

What about you? Do you employ this trick? Has it worked for you?
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19 Responses

  1. J.L. Campbell says:

    I haven't heard it before, but I'm not 100% sure I'm willing to try it. 😀 Sometimes, I'm going so fast I'm afraid that if I stop I'll lost track of a great sentence or a wonderful idea.

    I figure if I do walk away, I'd continue to think about that scene and what comes next, which might drive me nuts until I sit down to write again.

    Rock and a hard place, but most things I'm willing to try once. We'll see. I have to say it's an interesting concept.

  2. hopejunkie says:

    Oooo, I get to disagree :) I'm the kind of person who first drafts in one short, intense wave (my last MS was drafted in 10 days), so I write non-stop, then sleep, then wake up and write non-stop again. When I leave in the middle of the scene, I always felt discombobulated when I returned.

    That said, what works for me is stopping before a scene I'm really excited to write.

  3. Rachel Searles says:

    Ooh, I've never heard that before. It's something I'd like to try–I've spent plenty of those half-hours staring at my screen!

  4. Ann says:

    I have to remind myself to do this. Like you I stare, I delete and stare some more. It is a hard thing to train yourself to do, but whenever I have done I too am struck by the Magic of it. Great tip.

  5. Stephanie says:

    I've never heard of that either…and I don't think I could do it. But I can see how it would totally work for some people!!!

    Luckily, I rarely stare at a blank page. I can start typing, something, even if it's not the next scene chronologically in the book….I rarely have that blank screen problem.

    I'm like JL…if I stop mid scene, I wouldn't be able to stop thinking and I'd have to jot down my thoughts, in fear of them being gone forever. I'd keep thinking about it and when it was time for bed, my mind would race….it would keep me up!!

  6. The Golden Eagle says:

    I've heard it several times before–but I've always been afraid to try it or got too caught up in the writing. I'm just afraid, even if it's a really tense scene, that I won't be able to return to the story.

  7. Alicia Gregoire says:

    I can't do it. Whenever I stop mid-scene, I have more difficulty picking up where I left off.

    What works best for me is when I'm done for the day, I write a couple of sentences at the end of the page noting what's happening next. The notes remind me as to where I was going and I spend less time pulling my hair.

  8. Happily Cheesy says:

    Life is too demanding. By the time I get back to my manuscript I have about 5 more scenes ready to go. (Ah the sparsity of my writing time…) Thus, if I quit before pumping out the gold, it may never happen.

    For daily writers, yes, this is very sound advice.

  9. Connie says:

    I've never tried it mostly because I don't think I could sleep if I didn't get the scene finished–the characters would just rattle around in my head, telling me to hurry up and copy down their words. But it is intriguing…one of these days I'm going to have to "man up" to my characters and tell them to leave me alone and try this technique

  10. Connie says:

    I've never tried it mostly because I don't think I could sleep if I didn't get the scene finished–the characters would just rattle around in my head, telling me to hurry up and copy down their words. But it is intriguing…one of these days I'm going to have to "man up" to my characters and tell them to leave me alone and try this technique

  11. Meredith says:

    Gah! Note to self: Don't post and then run off to do errands for like 7 hours. Sorry I haven't been able to respond to comments until now.

    I can totally see how this method won't work for everyone, particularly late night writers who write just before bed. I'm with you on that one. I would never be able to shut my brain off. I'm a midday writer, so this works perfectly for me.

    And hopejunkie, I am insanely jealous you can crank out a draft in 10 days. That's crazy impressive! I wish I could do that. :)

  12. Pam Harris says:

    Ooh, this is a good idea…but it seems impossible!

  13. Liz says:

    I have never heard of this, but it turns out that I do it anyway. I don't have the blank screen problem, either. I sit and type something, anything–why I don't feel like writing, what the weather is like, how annoyed I am at something–until the words for the story start flowing. (It's pretty easy to cut out the rambling and just leave the story after I finish.)

  14. Trisha says:

    I would be scared to do this 😉

  15. KO: The Insect Collector says:

    I'd not heard this… will have to try it (gulp).

  16. Tracey Neithercott says:

    I'd heard that before, but I too thought CODSWALLOP! Maybe I should try it out.

    I always leave myself notes so I know where I was headed. If I have a first sentence in mind, I'll leave that for myself, too. It jump starts my creativity, at least.

  17. Carol Riggs says:

    I write until I have to stop. I kinda like tidying things up and ending with a scene though. Then, to get back into the flow of things the next day, I roughly edit and read over the last 3 pages or so (or the scene). That gets me into the mood first, pretty easily.

  18. Jessica Tate says:

    I've heard of this tip before but I've never been able to do it…. When I'm really flowing and going I can't bring myself to stop… maybe I oughta give it a try!

  19. Kathy Bradey says:

    I've never tried that before! I would be too scared to forget what I was going to write!

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