I am currently working on Book Two in The Chorus Chronicles and while I have a terrific plot plan, I’m having the hardest time getting through a specific scene.  It is an important scene.  It deals with a sensitive topic, requires respect, has deep emotion, but must also have humor and fun.  All this is swirling around in my head and the scene is feeling more impossible by the second.

I feel almost paralyzed.  I sit and stare at the computer, re-reading what I have written until finally just giving up for the day.

Another term for this is Writer’s Block.

Sometimes it can take me a while to remember, but I do, in fact, have several strategies that I can use to get through this.  Here are four tips that have worked for me in the past.  Maybe they can work for you as well.

Tip #1: Go for Quantity rather than Quality

I forget where I first heard the story, but maybe you have heard it too.  The story is about a pottery class experiment. It goes something like this:

A pottery instructor split his class into two groups on day 1.  One group was told they would be graded on quantity only.  The more pieces they produced, the better.  At the end of the term, all their work would be weighed.  If it came to 50 lbs., then they got an A.  If 40 lbs., then they got a B.

The second group was told they only needed to create one piece.  But it had to be of excellent quality.

At the end of the term, there was a contest to choose the three top quality pieces.  Can you guess which group the top three came from?

It was the group that focused on quantity.

The lesson here is to just produce.  Produce as much as possible.  In the process of just producing, quality sneaks in.  For me, that means spending some time doing “stream of thought” writing.  I set a timer for, say, 5 minutes, and the only rule is that I have to write non-stop.  This produces a lot of terrible writing, but it can break through the creativity dam, and I can always delete it later.

Tip #2: Ask Questions

A trick that sometimes helps me is to ask myself a lot of questions.  Things like:

  • What is *insert character’s name* thinking and feeling right now?
  • What does the room look like?
  • Who else is in the room?
  • What are they thinking and feeling right now?
  • What kind of furniture is in the room?
  • How is it decorated?
  • Why is it decorated like that?

And so on.  Then I answer those questions, and in the answering, I write the scene.

Tip #3: Change Scenery

By this I mean my scenery.  I have a few favorite locations from which to write.  My couch, the other end of my couch, the love seat, and sometimes my desk.  These all have everything I need—comfort, easy access to coffee, and my dog.  But if I am stuck, one trick I’ve found that sometimes works is to physically write from somewhere else.  Some ideas include:

  • The Coffee Shop—my favorite shop has a couch as too! Plus easy access to coffee.  And the bustle of people moving around brings a different energy than a sleepy dog.  Different energy is sometimes exactly what I need to get through a challenging scene.
  • The Bus—we have a public transportation system that goes up and down the valley. The seats are comfortable, the scenery outside the windows is constantly changing, and new characters board at every stop.  I do tend to get a little motion sick, but I have found motion sickness bracelets to be very helpful.  Highly recommend this as a writing escape.
  • An Airbnb in a different city—I enjoy any excuse to travel. My last “writing retreat” was to Walla Walla, WA (so nice they named it twice).  Long story, but I had a free couple nights at an Airbnb there.  The drive was 3 hours one way.  While the trip didn’t produce a lot of hard copy, I spent the entire drive thinking about my plot and I now have a firmer vision for the third book in my series!

Changing the physical location of where I’m writing can help my head move forward when I am stuck.

Tip #4: Lower the Bar

This is my favorite tip.  And it is simple.  Sometimes the only thing I can do is create something that “isn’t terrible.”  We have to start somewhere, right?  Instead of striving for the “perfect” scene, I strive for a scene that simply doesn’t suck.  I may not know what perfect looks like for my scene.  But I can sure identify “terrible”.  I can fix terrible.  In fact, the more I fix terrible, the closer I get to “perfect”.

Incidentally, the low bar tactic is my approach to blog posts.  In case you are wondering.