Writing Is Hard Work

Musings of a Hard Working Writer...

  • Roger Colby

5 Tips to Write Through a Hard Passage


Lately, I've shifted out of a current work in progress to finally work on a novel I've been planning a thinking about for over 20 years. Last week I dragged out all of my notes on the subject (and still haven't found my book on Roman soldiers that had all of those annotations). In going through them, I discovered that I had some new ideas to drive the story further, to make it more poignant and to get even more excited about finally writing it.


However, in writing it, I ran into a few snags regarding how to start it. I'm still puzzling over the point of view, struggling with the best way to open the scene an introduce the characters, and generally throwing fits over making it perfect from the start. Lately, I've hit a pretty hard passage, namely a scene that transports our heroes to the center of the conflict and the catalyst that sends them on the journey.


So here are my ideas about working through difficult passages that don't just fly out of your brain and onto the page:


  1. Read Through Your Notes - I take meticulous notes when planning a novel. I'm sure this won't work for you "pantsers" out there, but when I'm stuck I've found that going back to the notes I wrote regarding the characters, the setting, the subplots and plots, really get me back into the groove of writing the scene. Somewhere in the notes a long time ago I figured it out, and usually all it takes is stumbling through them.

  2. Bounce It Off of a Group - I have a group of people I talk to when working through story, and if you don't have this in your life you need to get it now. I rely on the minds of others to get into the depth of my story, and if you tell someone your plot and how you want to move forward, usually a group of other writers can figure out how to get you over the hump.

  3. Peruse the Interwebs - I was recently writing a scene where a column of Roman soldiers were on a long march. I wanted something to make the scene pop and add some color to the characters, so I wondered if they (being soldiers) would call a cadence while marching. Sure enough, after much internet research, I hit on a forum of history professors who were discussing that very thing. In fact, I found a wonderful link to an ancient poet named Florus who apparently wrote a ton of lewd poetry. It gave my scene the thing it needed to move forward and helped me create a realism that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

  4. Journal - One of the most effective methods for working through a block is just sitting down and journaling. I don't know if you are like me, but the rule I have in journaling is that I just write down all the thoughts that come into my head without any rhyme or reason. In writing out my thoughts about the work in progress I find that my mind begins to order things in workable chunks and then I usually find my way around the road block.

  5. Thought Webs - I use a wonderful program called Mind Node, which is a plotting program that helps me to brainstorm ideas. You just have to start with one seed and then you can make as many branches off of that seed as you want. I find that when I get stuck figuring out a passage, I start with the main idea of the passage and then branch out from there with ideas. My mind begins to play with the many different ways the scene could go and perhaps how it might fit with the rest of the narrative. I don't make any money off of the program, but I'll promote it nonetheless because it has been very beneficial in breaking through a tough passage.

What are the techniques you use to break through tough passages? Do you have any sure-fire ways to break the ice block that is the difficult scene? Write about it below!