Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: “Don’t Finish That Scene!”

September 23rd, 2008 by

How about an occasional bit of practical wisdom? So here’s today’s inaugural edition of “Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work.”

Let’s say you’re in the middle of writing a script – and it’s a slog. You’re finding it really tough to drag your ass onto the chair and start writing the next scene.

Well, let’s roll back the clock. What if yesterday, you hadn’t finished the previous scene? What if you got halfway through that scene, knew exactly where it needed to go to reach the end, but instead of completing it, you quit your writing session with the scene unfinished.

Now instead of starting the next day having to break a new scene, you have the easy task of finishing the scene from the day before.

Bada-bing, bada-boom, you knock out the ending to the scene, giving your mind and your fingers a chance to warm up — and now you’re ready to charge ahead.

So the trick is stop each writing session in the middle of a scene. That way you can start the next session with the ‘positive’ experience of finishing a scene.

This has been the inaugural edition of “Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work.”

10 thoughts on “Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: “Don’t Finish That Scene!”

  1. Michelle says:

    Or as Hemingway liked to say, “Always stop when you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all of the time.”

  2. Scott says:

    Michelle, that’s a great quote and I’ll add it to my file of On Writing quotes. You might be interested in this post about a scientific study that suggests the best way to engender creativity is often not the direct route (i.e., work at it harder), but the indirect route (i.e., go for a walk, do the laundry). Apparently, scientists are thinking that those “Eureka!” moments of insight can happen when our conscious brain is preoccupied with something else — but as writers, we already knew that, didn’t we!

  3. Jlanter says:

    Can I use that trick writing for a reality series? Because most of the time I’d soon stop before I even start. Of course it may just be the subject matter.

  4. justwrite7 says:

    I once read that Hemingway would often stop a writing session in the middle of a sentence and pick up exactly where he left off. At least I think it was him.

  5. E.C. Henry says:

    “So the trick is stop each writing session in the middle of a scene.”

    Sounds like you’re running scared. Getting stuck and not knowing what comes next is PART OF BEING A WRITER. The real trick is to continue thinking about your story and tossing arround ideas. Admit when you’re stumped, and try to come up with solutions.

    Whenever you’re accomplished and write something of merit people listen, but I don’t give Hemingway’s trick much credence.

    – E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

  6. meg says:

    Since I’m a night owl I have done that but only as a way to get me up in the morning. Knowing I have a great scene to finish gets me out of the bed.

    Eureka moments happen directly and indirectly for me. Sure going for a walk and I can hit upon a new idea. But just as often I’ve been writing and a new idea hits me. It existence owed to the act of actually writing.

    I’m still new at this writing stuff so maybe I don’t know any better but a blank page doesn’t scare me. It’s a big puzzle to me. The wonderment at how it will all turn out excites me. I like mysteries. I mean one minute there’s nothing and then… there is.

  7. Scott says:

    Meg, you might enjoy the Screenwriting 101 that just posted with Neil Simon, how he gave up outlining because he wants to be as surprised by what the characters do as the viewer.

  8. Michelle says:

    Hi Scott,

    Great note. I’ve always gotten my best ideas in the shower, and work out the fine details best while on a run or walk or driving — ie, while “doing something else.” Nice to know that science has proven the effectiveness of my methods!

  9. Scott says:

    A main point of the “Eureka!” theory is that sometimes the ‘left-brain’ has to be preoccupied in order for the ‘right-brain’ to escape rational control. I suppose this would explain the stereotype why creative types through history have relied on alcohol and other depressants or stimulants to alter the conscious state.

    I do remember reading somewhere a screenwriter answering the question what’s the best way to break out of writer’s block with a simple two word answer: “Get drunk.”

  10. Helene says:

    I like watching day time TV – court shows, Judge this or that or Housewives of Atlanta, not actually watching but just having them on – somehow it makes the work seem less intimidating, like I'm just sitting down to do something while the TV keeps me company – but oddly enough I think it does keep the brain occupied so it doesn't interfere – it's like quieting up a kid by putting in him front of the TV – I haven't had a TV for months now and I just realized I've been making my writing so "meaningful" – quiet – silence – write – I have to figure out a way to get the TV effect again – maybe I have to pull it out of storage – because so much of writing sometimes is just getting things laid out – at least for me and then going back in to write the scene it's like sneaking up on the scene – it's the laying out that can be tedious sometimes – TV is better for you than booze (I think) at last it doesn't make your face puffy :-)

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