Monday, July 18, 2011

Your Summer Creative Challenge - Juicy Scenes

I think our brains are hard-wired to take it easy during the summer months - a lingering memento from our school days when we were allowed to stow away books and pencils to spend those hot and hazy days dreaming, playing and living off ice cream and the fruits of the season.

For writers, this season is ripe with juicy creative possibility. I'm getting the message loud and clear from all my lovelies that summer is a busy time for their family - there are vacations, day trips, time spent with kids, a whole new routine to get used to, in essence. And for my writers who don't have families, this season means an opportunity for a social life and some well-deserved R&R. Despite the siren's tempting summer call, they want to write and see their work moving forward, taking shape. Alas, there's pressure - to have a somewhat social and enjoyable summer and still be creatively productive.

The Answer: if the summer siren won't back down, give in and play a little (after all, you need something to write about, right?). Forget about page or word count if you're having difficulty breaking through and connecting one scene to the next. You'll push and push and eventually end up with a chapter that reflects the disconnect. Instead, I want you to focus on SCENE. Write a scene that takes your characters to the next level in their development. Write a scene that gives your characters context. Write a scene that moves your plot forward. Write a scene that is tight, where every word counts, that moves you and that will move us. Give it texture and flavor - put your reader in the moment. These don't need to be high concept, big blockbuster scenes - they just need to count. Put all your creative energy into that one scene and forget about word and page count. Allow yourself to be totally in the moment with your craft and let it take you somewhere. Enjoy your trip!

The Result: after writing several powerful scenes, you'll not only enjoy forward momentum with your work, you'll have reconnected with two of your most powerful creative tools - passion and the senses. You may forget these good friends while being bogged down with word and page count goals or are rushing to get something to an agent before they forget about you (they will only forget about you if you turn in something less than inspired. They'd rather wait for perfection).

There is no rush, writers. Take time to enjoy the season and let it inspire your creativity. Live a little and give us something juicy to sink our teeth into!

Your Action: If you're stuck mid-draft (or have yet to begin), take a break and do a little summer living - GO OUTSIDE OR SOMEWHERE FOR SEVERAL HOURS (I don't care how humid it is). Come back to your pen ready to write a scene that captures your experience or insert the people you met or observed and write about them! If you must write about how much you hate least write a scene where you or your character is dealing with the sweltering heat WHILE doing something else (let's see 'em sweat!). I'd love to know what you come up with.

Extra credit for those who blog this exercise. Post the link with your comment so others can check out your work and I will too. (I review all comments before I post, so please, keep it classy.)

Have a fruitful week, writers!



  1. Thank you for the reminder that summer is unlike the rest of the seasons... and therefore, our creative life can take a cue from the sultry, sunny days. Viva summer!

  2. Thank you for your encouragement and permission for goofing off! I've had exactly the issue you address here and have laid a guilt trip on myself for having fun time with family and not getting the number of pages written this summer that I'd hoped for. I've done a lot of thinking and so internally I've progressed the story. Thank you for an idea of how to move it forward without the pressure of a word count. Time to get those ideas in the head out onto the page and your suggestion will help me focus.

  3. As Erin said above, summer is so unlike the rest of the seasons and it's important for creatives to get out there and experience it because: 1. it'll make you feel more alive; and 2. you'll feel more like writing when all your senses are stimulated.

    The only caveat I have here is beware of the purple prose after a day of summer lovin'. Take the rose colored sunglasses off before crafting. The goal is to be refreshed and inspired.

  4. Oh, Erin! Thank you! I took your prompt and did just that. There were coyotes involved. And the sort of night sky that up here, in the Pacific Northwest, is never totally black this time of year. I had a delicious good time with it.

    p.s. love the new look of the blog!

  5. For years now, I've loved the term "forward momentum." It is exactly the feeling and experience of being UNstuck as a writer. And it also embraces what has to happen in our storytelling. Scenes and stories need forward momentum as much as writers do.

    Love it! Great post.


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