Monday, September 27, 2010

Scene Wrestling

I spent two full days last week wrestling with a scene while writing the first draft of my present work in progress. Rolling around in a mosquito-infested swamp, trying to subdue an alligator with a bad attitude and even worse breath would probably have been easier.

Some experts would advise that it is best to step away from a ferocious, uncooperative scene when it gets all snarly and dominant and unmanageable. I’ve heard that some authors will revisit a difficult scene after both writer and manuscript have calmed. This makes perfect sense for someone other than me. Call me stubborn or obsessive or both, but I could not walk away from my snarly scene. It taunted me. If I turned my back on the bared teeth of this arrogant creature, it might, I imagined, rip my arms off of my body. So I fought on, cursing and pounding the keyboard of my poor beleaguered Mac.

Exhausted, I finally subdued the scene. This brought me great satisfaction. Of course I didn’t tame it, I only corralled it. The taming will come, I hope, in the revisions. For now, I am looking ahead to other scenes that I hope will be more puppy dog than two hundred pound alligator. But even if I come upon another sharp-toothed chunk of text, I am ready. Because now, I am more confident.

A question for the writers: Do you leave a really difficult scene and return to work on it later, after crafting other scenes? Or, do you wrestle?

A question for the readers: Do you ever sense, while reading, that an author has rolled in the mud to write a certain scene?


  1. I'm such a linear/chronological writer that it is very difficult for me to move past a scene that's giving me trouble. Like you I have to get it under control before I move on else it will haunt me and continued writing becomes difficult.

  2. Cynthia - I've dealt with difficult scenes, or places where I get stuck - several ways. Sometimes I just walk away (literally, for a walk) or do something else for a couple days and let my subconcious mind work on the problem.

    Sometimes (if I know where I think the manuscript is going) I'll jump ahead and work on a future chapter and let that one stew for a bit.

    And sometimes, like you, I get stubborn and wrestle with the darn thing until I get some semblance of a chapter written down, knowing I can always come back and fix it later.

    Good luck, and I hope the rest of your chapters are just cute little darling puppy dogs :-)

  3. Ah, Bish, I knew I couldn't be alone! Thanks for sharing. : )

    Thanks, Linda! Very cool that you have a variety of different ways to deal with a beastly scene--and they sound like great techniques, too. I may have to try these out next time I come face to face with a nasty scene.

  4. I love this analogy! Very clever.
    Like Linda, I do both. I'll leave it when it's too testy and go for a hike. That way my brain works on it while I'm not in combat mode. I'm usually racing home to write down an epiphany I've had. Sometimes, it takes a few days. And sometimes, I keep writing and surprise myself.

  5. Thanks, Terry! Clearly I need to try going for a walk or a hike when the writing gets tough. : )

  6. he he he he he! Very brilliant! Yes indeed I do wonder how authors come up with all that brilliantness!!!! It's amazing. We should call it wrestling with gators for sure. Thanks so much for your kind word my friend. Meeting Tori Spelling was something special. I will never forget it. Neither will she he he hehe!! She was gracious and kind. It was an honor to meet her.
    Thanks always Cynthia for your encouragement.
    Hug to you

  7. I do leave it and move on. I have only one more chapter to write in my ms. It's the second to last chapter. I skipped it long ago and added so much to other parts in the story. And here I am struggling with it, but I have no other choice but to tame it now!

  8. Great post. Great question. Great responses, GREAT!~

    I often will leave the scene for my characters to battle out themselves, meaning for me that I see my characters taking on such real skin that they have no choice but to find a resolution. In a novel or chapter book I often find the resolution by writing the next chapter, reflecting on how the potential impact of the toothy, unruly previous chapter would connect to "current" events, sometimes an epiphany, sometimes I have to return to the swamp, put my old-fashioned one-piece, steel plated Ironman swimsuit on and swim with the Alligators until one of us gets pulled under. BUT I ALWAYS SURFACE TO FIGHT YET ANOTHER DAY WITH MY SHARP, WOODEN #2 DAGGER!

  9. You are all the greatest! What great comments!

    V, I'm so glad you stopped by after your fabulous signing with Tori Spelling. How exciting. Thank you!

    Ahh, Kelly, I guess your situation is an example of what can happen if we walk away from a tough chapter or scene--it doesn't get any easier. Good luck finishing up.

    LOL, Justin! Love the steel plated ironman swimsuit and the #2 dagger! Of course you always surface to fight another day! : )