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Old 05-22-2012, 10:00 PM   #1
VydorScope
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What to do when a chapter sucks...

So I am working on book four and I am trying to write this chapter. The problem with the chapter is it is a travel chapter, so at the close of the previous chapter my characters are at location A, and I need them to get to location B so they can do something at that location. So the chapter needs to tell a little about why they are going to this new location, and get them there. Well I have been struggling with it because frankly, its boring. At a round a thousand words... it does not hold attention but I could not fix it no matter what I did to it.

So when this happens to me I have a way out... I stop writing and go watch TV. Currently I am finishing up Dr. Who (just have the 2011 Christmas Special left), started watching Heroes and currently reading a very good suspense book called Relentless that has an X-Men kind of feel to it. While doing that I do not think at all about my book... and then it hit me in the shower "Its to flipping long, cut it back to a paragraph or two and move on" so I sit down and start working that out when the real problem hits me... the characters would never do what I have them doing! Duh! That is why it does not work. I have them being stupid, and they are not stupid. So fixing the chapter by cutting it the whole plot line and working a new angle.

The thing is... I could not see that till I left the story and watched/read other peoples work. I do not understand why that works, but it typically does. How about anyone else? That work for you?
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Old 05-22-2012, 10:15 PM   #2
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I usually hit the carriage return twice, and put a FIXME line inside double parenthesis, explaining what needs to happen. I then pick up at the next logical point, and keep writing. I come back and fix it when I either have an idea, or when I'm doing the first edit.
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Old 05-22-2012, 10:18 PM   #3
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I've often found when stuck, the best thing to do is get away and let the subconscious work on it.
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Old 05-23-2012, 12:53 AM   #4
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I've found three strategies so far. My first, like you, is to walk away from it, and hope I can see it clearer when I come back. If that doesn't seem to help I try to tell it again by changing the perspective, from some other point of view, as this often reveals what is wrong. But if none of that works there's only one option left: let it ride for now, as teh603 said, insert a FIXME reminder and move on in the hope that something will turn up later.
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Old 05-23-2012, 01:34 AM   #5
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I'm not really a writer, but this works for me in IT Operations too. As Billing Manager I manage and oversee quite alot of "stuff" and the immediate answer on how to solve a larger problem is not always apparent.

I find that it's either in bed, in the shower or while driving to work that I get most of my epiphanies.

Just like with pointillism, you need to get some distance to get a better perspective. Then you can zoom back in and fix those dots.
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Old 05-23-2012, 07:30 AM   #6
Nancy Fulda
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FIXME -- I love it. I generally use [braces] to mark my notes, but I like the idea of the FIXME tag much better.

One thing I find useful when stuck is to ask myself, "What does the reader care about right now?" If I can figure out where the readers' emotional investment is, I can usually leverage that to maintain tension throughout subsequent plot events.
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Old 05-23-2012, 01:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nancy Fulda View Post
FIXME -- I love it. I generally use [braces] to mark my notes, but I like the idea of the FIXME tag much better.
Exactly my method as well. I find it's important not to stop, and when things start to get stuck, just keep grinding on and get back to the trouble spots later. It happens a lot during conversation sequences, and usually later events help me go back and clean things up in the dialogue.
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Old 05-23-2012, 02:09 PM   #8
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Just continue on and let the problem fester in your subconscious. Sometimes when you try too hard to fix something, frustration gets in the way. Continue writing and you'll know when its time to go back and smooth it out. Use the Force.
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Old 05-23-2012, 02:51 PM   #9
Steven Lyle Jordan
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I use story synopses as draft guides, and when I have these problems I work them out there. Once I start writing the actual story, all of those things are already fixed and set, and I just write.
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Old 05-23-2012, 04:35 PM   #10
VydorScope
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Great ideas all!

The problem I would have in this case with [[FIX ME : This sucks!]] is that to much of the action was based on them doing something that I need to not have them do, so it could have had impact on future chapters.
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Old 05-24-2012, 06:26 PM   #11
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Maybe you can consolidate the 1,000 or so words into a few sentences or a short paragraph, still getting the characters from point A to point B in the process? I've found that when I get that bored feeling when writing a scene then chances are that's going to show through to the reader. I've read books where travel literally took place in 1-2 sentences. It keeps things moving (no pun intended) and doesn't give the reader the opportunity to get bored.
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Old 05-24-2012, 06:43 PM   #12
Todd Young
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When I get the feeling that something is going wrong - if it's boring or seems wrong - then I backtrack. I go back to where things were working and move forward from there.

If your travel scene is boring, it might be due to a lack of conflict. All scenes are supposed to have conflict, so there could possibly be some sort of conflict between the characters. If not, then a few sentences of exposition could cover the travel.
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Old 06-04-2012, 07:41 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
So I am working on book four and I am trying to write this chapter. The problem with the chapter is it is a travel chapter, so at the close of the previous chapter my characters are at location A, and I need them to get to location B so they can do something at that location. So the chapter needs to tell a little about why they are going to this new location, and get them there. Well I have been struggling with it because frankly, its boring. At a round a thousand words... it does not hold attention but I could not fix it no matter what I did to it.

[...]

The thing is... I could not see that till I left the story and watched/read other peoples work. I do not understand why that works, but it typically does. How about anyone else? That work for you?
Caveat: I'm a reader, not a writer, so I'll tell you what IMO works in similar situations from that POV.

First of all, if the travel does not add anything to the characters themselves, it's not worth reading. In the journey to Mordor, the relation between Frodo, Sam and Gollum was built and developed, so that long almost eventless travel kept the reader attention. OTOH, Gandalf went from Helm's Deep to the Ents forest in a couple of sentences. And in his meeting with the Hobbits he gives all the motivation for that travel, without boring the readers on the travel itself.

So, I'd say: if you don't know how to make the travel interesting, maybe it's because it does not have a specific function, so you can safely keep it out of your story. When your characters are in B and they do what they're supposed to do, it will be very apparent why the took the journey there.
But if you really want to describe in detail the whole thing, you can use a couple of tricks to keep the reader turning pages, like sacrifice (in the first half of the journey they lose something of great importance and they've got to figure how to go on), struggle (something wants to prevent them from reaching B), satyre (like they are three men in a boat...), revelation (while traveling, they get bits of information they need to perform their task in the B place) and so on.

Just a reader's opinion. Hope you'll find it useful.


Last edited by Format C:; 06-04-2012 at 07:44 AM.
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Old 06-04-2012, 11:34 PM   #14
GA Russell
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VydorScope, I know that in the 30s it was considered mandatory for movie directors to have the actors move to their destination (perhaps from a standing position to sitting in a chair on the other side of the desk) during the dialogue, but fifty years later that was no longer considered necessary. Directors would just show the actor sitting, and the viewer could figure out that he walked over to the chair and sat down.

It sounds to me like you have a similar situation. Perhaps there is no need to discuss how the characters travelled from Point A to Point B.
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Old 06-05-2012, 07:31 AM   #15
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VydorScope, I know that in the 30s it was considered mandatory for movie directors to have the actors move to their destination (perhaps from a standing position to sitting in a chair on the other side of the desk) during the dialogue, but fifty years later that was no longer considered necessary. Directors would just show the actor sitting, and the viewer could figure out that he walked over to the chair and sat down.

It sounds to me like you have a similar situation. Perhaps there is no need to discuss how the characters travelled from Point A to Point B.
It is a little different then a movie since there are no visual aids, but yea I decide to cut the whole travel scene down to a few sentences, and then spring the trap which was the point of the whole move to begin with. Thanks.
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