Wisdomous Wednesday: Stop in the Middle of
Wisdomous Wednesday is a weekly series of posts with advice about writing ranging from craft to navigation through the publishing world. If you have some wisdomous thoughts you’d like to share here, don’t hesitate to contact me. I love advice from other writers!
I think one of the hardest things about writing is getting started. There’s something about the blank page that is pretty scary–not in an “it’s gonna eat my face” way, but in a “now you have to prove things” way, and a “everyone’s expecting you to be awesome” way. Even harder than getting started at the beginning is getting started on a new scene after stopping a project for a while. You don’t have the excitement of first lines and unlimited potential to get you going.
Today’s advice is, yet again, for people who struggle to keep momentum on projects from “Once upon a time” until “and they lived happily ever after.” (Can you tell that that used to be my biggest problem? I have about thirty ways to help with it.)
Stop Writing in the Middle of a Scene
It’s pretty simple. Instead of getting to the end of your chapter or the end of your scene and stopping there for the day, find the most exciting part of what you’re writing and stop there. Even if you’re ACHING to keep going. If you know you’re going to stop in the next half hour or so, just quit when it’s super exciting. (Here I use “exciting” not necessarily to mean action scenes, but just something you’re really enjoying writing something, whether it’s a romantic scene, an action scene, a description you’ve been dying to write, etc.) You’ll come back to it the next day and want to dive right in, rather than sit there staring at the next chapter title going “Okay, now what?”
My favorite side effect of this is that when you stop in the middle of a scene you’re really into, your brain will stay with it and keep turning it over, even subconsciously. More ideas will flow even when you’re away from your project, keeping you eager to return to it and possibly even offering paths forward in the manuscript that you hadn’t thought of before.
Some writers take this so far as to stop mid-sentence. I tend to find that a bit frustrating, myself, as I can never remember what the second half of the sentence was supposed to be. And I always believe it was going to be something TOTALLY BRILLIANT, if only I could just remember what I was thinking. But try it both ways and see what works best for you!
Today’s advice comes via the man himself, Ernest Hemingway. He said: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck … That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”
Typical. I spend five hundred words trying to explain it and he does it in a few sentences. Some day I’ll learn to be concise!
But just, you know. Not today.