Tackling Writing Challenges: The "Why?"


One of the biggest struggles for me when I'm experiencing any story is the lack of reasoning behind what's happening. Many of the best stories I've ever read, watched or played through do a beautiful job answering the why behind the things that are happening. Even a flimsy rationale is better to me than none at all.

That being the case, it's always been an important thing to me to try and make sure I keep that in mind with my own writing. Granted, I'm still relatively new to this whole author thing and I've got plenty more to learn (I suspect I'll never stop learning), but it's still something I strive for. I like to make sure I take the moment when I'm running through a scene in my head to ask...why? What's the point of doing whatever it is I'm doing? Fun fact, it's not always an easy question to answer.

It's true that there are a lot of things I'd like to squeeze into my work when I'm writing, cool or funny scenes that seem awesome playing out in my own head. I'll usually run with the ideas for a while too. I might get a whole half a chapter or so hammered out with all these really cool stuff that seems great...right until I pause for a moment and reflect on it and ask...

But why?

The question can be a doozy to answer. Sometimes it makes sense and nothing more than a single line or two is needed to justify it all. Life carries on, the story keeps going, everything's great. Sadly, though, it isn't always so easy.

Sometimes I slow myself down long enough to ask why I'm writing what I'm writing and there's no answer to be found anywhere. And it suuuuuuucks. So then I've got to figure out what to do about it.

Regardless of the final outcome, what happens next is usually a nice, big pause. I simply cannot handle forging ahead with an idea that doesn't have a purpose, that isn't going anywhere of value. At this point, things usually go one of two ways.

Way number one, I eventually have my eureka moment. Usually out of the blue, without warning, the pieces fall into place. It might take a small tweak or just a careful amount of planning for the long haul, but one way or another I find a reason. Once I have that, it's all too easy to get back to it and make things happen. As much as I'd love for this to be the case all the time, it happens far less than option number 2.

The do-over. Admittedly, forcing a why to something without purpose has proven far more challenging than writing something that follows the why. While I might lose a great scene that I really loved, it's still better than the alternative. Trying to make something fit that just doesn't makes for a horrifically awful experience. It doesn't take much to notice when something's just jammed into a story that has no business being there and all the best visual images in the world can't change that. I've only written three books and I can't tell you how many scenes have been cut loose and dropped because they were...just awful in the context of the whole.

Fortunately, when I have to wipe out sections that don't work, what usually follows is worlds better. Suddenly everything makes sense, the path ahead becomes clear where it was once uncertain. The beginning, middle and end all flow and connect in beautiful ways. It's just...right.

And so, it's time I stop procrastinating with a blog about figuring out what to do when a scene doesn't have a why behind it and actually go fix the section I've been working on for a few days now. Lo and behold, I've got to drop what I wanted to make work and follow what actually makes sense and a better story. Sigh... so it goes.

Thank you for joining me in my crazy world. What do you do when you hit a road-block on creative projects? How do you overcome hurdles that hinder your progress? I'd love to know.

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