Thursday, September 14, 2017

THE WRITERS' BLOCK: Exercises for Overcoming a Creative Slump (#3: Favorite Scenes)

In this new series, Operation Awesome is providing exercises to help you break out of writer's block, or a creative slump. Too often, we get stuck with writer's block because we believe when the words don't flow organically, or when the sentences don't come out perfectly structured, or when the plot has holes, we've failed. Usually, it just means you're having an off day, and forcing yourself to write on these days can perpetuate the feeling of being stuck. It can really help to take a day off from writing, but that doesn't mean taking a day off from working on your book. These exercises will help you work on your book when you're not actually writing.

So, none of our exercises involve narrative writing, per se. Instead, they require you to think, daydream, talk to your characters, and CREATE. You can jot down notes as you go, or you can record yourself talking through the exercises, or you can keep everything in your head.

For Exercise #3, we're going to focus on FAVORITE SCENES. You know how there are certain scenes in books and movies that you read/watch over and over? They're so beautifully portrayed, or tons of fun, or they evoke an emotional response, or all of the above. Creating great scenes that keep readers turning the pages is a big part of writing, one that can take years to perfect.

But The Writers' Block isn't about craft - it's about brainstorming. So take paper and a pen, or your computer, set a timer for 20-30 minutes, and brainstorm at least ten scenes you want to see in your book. You can use a basic outline you might already have for your novel, or you can start from scratch. The main rule for this exercise is to brainstorm big, colorful, significant scenes. Nothing is off-limits here... do you want to send your main character to the circus? Into outer space, even though it's a contemporary romance? Do you want a scene where your characters get locked in a mall? Go crazy, knowing that all these scenes might not make it into the book.

Once you have your list of scenes, and you've eliminated the ones that you might write for fun, but might not end up in your book, put them in the order that makes the most sense. That might be chronological, or if you're planning a non-linear narrative, it might be the order that makes the most sense for character development.

Then, start thinking about how to flesh out the details between the ordered scenes. You'll likely need some transitions, some additional scenes, and to explore how your characters are getting from Point A to Point B.

Then, when you're ready, pick a scene, either starting from the beginning or choosing the one that seems the most fun, and start writing! The scene list is a great way to structure a brand-new story idea, but it can also help kick-start a project that has stalled.

Did you enjoy creating a scene list? What scenes did you add to your list from this brainstorming session that you might have never considered before?


  1. Great tips! I have started doing this and it does help. I tend to write scenes first anyway, but when I can't fill in scenes this helps bridge the gaps.

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