When The Next Scene Eludes You

Kate Flora: Fall, with the crisp air and vibrant colors, always inspires me to write. Or it AECC8887-CC17-4C5E-9BD5-B55250B865B2did until recently. Lately, I seem to have the attention span of a gnat and the creativity of a knothole. Probably not something I should admit to readers who are awaiting the next book, right? But we all go through these fallow phases when the words won’t flow. Sometimes because we just don’t know where the story goes next. In my case, it’s more of a problem of too much on my plate. I’m inches from the end of a non-series book, Guttedbut I have a short story due, and there are things I’ve promised other writers, and I’m supposed to go on vacation.

What to do? Right now, as is often the case in recent years, I am feeling grateful that I am not new to the blank page, the empty chair, the waiting screen, and my reader’s expectations. I know that if I make myself sit here even when I’m restless and cranky, the work will get done.

And then there are those moments when even the confidence that I can power through that next scene, and figure out who is in danger of being killed next, fails me. My solution? Head for the kitchen.

I sometimes think that my kitchen should have a lock like a bank vault, so it closes after breakfast and cannot be reentered until it is time to make dinner. The kitchen is a very dangerous place. I’m one of those people who read cookbooks for fun. Who has files and files of recipes waiting to be tried. Whose New York Times recipe box is full of things I’m going to one day make.

Lest you think that I am cooking to avoid my work, let me set you straight. Cooking is a marvelous opportunity to the let mind roam free (so long as all the ingredients make it into the pot) and often, by the time that whatever I am making is in the oven, my characters have shown me where we are going next, and I can return to my desk and start shaping the scene that eluded me earlier.

Perhaps this see-saw of writing and cooking accounts for the fact that I am not slim? But in other ways, it is the perfect dance for a writer. I cook up plots at my desk, and cook up more plots while cooking up dinner downstairs.

Friends, do you have proven strategies that help you over the work hump and send you back refreshed or reinspired? If you do, I hope you’ll share.

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4 Responses to When The Next Scene Eludes You

  1. kaitlynkathy says:

    I find that lying down on the living room sofa with my eyes closed often generates new ideas. That’s assuming, of course, that I don’t fall asleep. Well, sometimes it works. And if it doesn’t, at least I catch up on what my mother used to call “beauty rest” 😊

  2. susanvaughan says:

    A long walk with my dog often finds the key to my blocked story problem. The fresh air and trek through the woods and fields gets me away from the blank screen or blank page of notes and frees my brain to drift as Sasha drifts with each new smell.

  3. I look ago discovered the power of the whining email. I start writing an email–either to myself or to a friend who will understand if I accidentally hit send–and I whine. I start by whining about how I’m not in the mood and I don’t know what to write, and pretty soon I start explaining the plot holes that I need to resolve and bemoaning how much research I need to do before I can write that critical scene, or the fact that I don’t know how my heroine can possibly discover some critical clue . . . and then I suggest something that might fix it, but I’m not sure I like that direction, or maybe I could do this other thing, but damn, that would require tweaking some earlier scenes . . . though it probably would work . . . and–you get the picture. I whine about my writing. But whining about writing is still writing about writing, and if you keep at it, writing about writing will eventually turn in to just plain writing.

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