Skipping a Difficult Scene

Photo by Stanley Dai on Unsplash

I’m writing the first draft of my novel and I’m trying to write the dialogue in this scene in the first chapter. I’m realizing that I don’t know some of the characters enough for the dialogue to make sense. I’m leading up to a scene where someone gets killed, but I’m lost trying to write the scene before it, the scene that ratchets up the tension and culminates in death.

In my mind, it feels like that whole scene is being dragged out. I know what I want it to look like, I’ve outlined it enough for me to have a good enough idea to go back and write that scene, but in trying to write that scene right now, I’m spending way too much time hemming and hawwing over a single scene.

So, I skipped it. I jumped right into Chapter 2. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made while drafting this novel. It’s something I used to hate even thinking about doing.

LETTING YOURSELF MOVE FORWARD

I was a stickler about writing in chronological order. From chapter one to the last chapter, every scene in order, every chapter following the one before it. I couldn’t imagine writing a scene that was supposed to go in the middle of my story out of order. That is, until my foray into an MFA program sort of forced me to.

I had made a full outline for the first time (that is another blog post for another time) and there was an assignment to write a scene (from our novels) dealing with conflict. In an effort to fulfill the terms of the assignment, I took a scene right out of Chapter 12, of all places, and just wrote it out.

This was extraordinary to me. Not only did I not hate it, but I actually was able to see my characters in a new light. I was able to see laid out how I wanted my characters to be at a certain point, and that made it easier for me to create the scenes leading up to that point to get the characters where I already knew they were.

FIRST DRAFTS ARE HARD

Now that I’m seriously writing the first draft, I am allowing myself to keep moving forward. When I come across a character mentioned that I have not yet named, I don’t dither around on the internet trying to come up with a name that very moment. I simply type [insert name of character here] or [place name?] or [last name?], etc. In fact, I realized that I had forgotten to give one of my main characters a last name, and I’m just going with it until I find a surname I like.

And yes, I’m also skipping scenes. I’ve only skipped the one so far, and I don’t want to make it a constant habit. Otherwise, instead of a first draft, I’ll just have a much longer outline. Not what I’m going for. But skipping this particular scene helped me to keep writing.

I’M MOVING FORWARD

The point of writing the first draft, is, well, to write the first draft. My goal is to move forward. To get words down on paper. To give my story a frame that I can build upon. If I have to skip some scenes (or, and here’s another blog post, cut some scenes out) to continue to move forward in completing the first draft, then so be it. I have a goal to accomplish.

Have you ever been stuck on a scene? What technique did you use to get pass it? Are you working on a first draft? Let me know in the comments!

*Originally posted on previous blog February 7, 2020

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