So You Wanna Write Part 8: Knowing When to Stop



Ever read the Bone saga by Jeff Smith? You should no matter who you are.

Years ago I was reading an article by Mr. Smith and he said something that changed my writing habits for life.

He was talking about his writing process while developing Bone. He said something like, “You’ve just got to know when to stop and skip a scene and come back to it later.”

That tip has done wonders for my writing. And, it’s a great tool to combat writer’s block. If you’re willing to skip a difficult scene and move on ahead of the story to construct something further down the timeline, then your book or story isn’t just sitting in limbo.

Be willing to skip scenes. Heck, on your first draft, be willing to be sloppy! I’m in the process of writing a young readers historical novel and it’s very sloppy right now – the facts are all wrong, the setting’s a mess – but that’s why I’m going to go back and fix all that.

When you buy a building for your business you don’t start adding up your funds right away or upgrading your product line. You’re focused on one thing initially, and that’s location.

The same with writing. Don’t worry about the details on your first draft. Worry about one thing only – story, story, story!

John Lasseter, CCO of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios says, “Every single Pixar film, at one time or another, has been the worst movie ever put on film.”

In fact, no animated movie has ever been filmed chronologically. They may even start with the third act, and the opening scene may be the last thing they work on. For my historical novel, I have the entire ending drafted already, and I’m not even in the second act!

Be willing to skip around, get messy, get scattered, and in the end, it’ll all come together.


About Andrew Toy
I'm in the beginning stages of starting my own publishing company that's unlike anything you've ever heard of in the industry. The direction of AdoptingJames is taking a 90-degree turn and will be more writing/publishing-focused. Stay tuned for huge updates and exciting news!

25 Responses to So You Wanna Write Part 8: Knowing When to Stop

  1. Mich-in-French says:

    Thanks James – some useful tips here and in the long run it will save us many a stressed out evening as well as from the desperate delete button.

  2. I had this epiphane over the last couple years and I’m greatly encouraged by it. I still have a very difficult time gaining any kind of traction…My life is prioritized differently right now and my book may be that “she worked on it for 15 years before the first draft was finally complete” author’s story, but dagnabit, there WILL be a book! :p 🙂 I’m pregnant with our 6th, I’m a stay at home mom who tries to do some freelance, and right now we homeschool. I have a very difficult time carving out writing time. Especially uninterrupted writing time. 🙂 But I do, occasionally, and so there is what others may not see as progress but what I see as baby steps.

  3. leahkaminsky says:

    Well put — I definitely agree, and I love the John Lasseter quote. I think the next logical extension of this is knowing when an entire project needs to be put in a drawer for awhile, trusting that either you’ll come back to it when you’ve got a little more perspective or have added a few new skills to your repertoire, integrate snippets of it into a different piece, or simply move on. Good luck with your writing!

  4. Great encouragement! Yesterday I was writing my latest blog post out by hand in a notebook, but I got so frustrated, I had to switch to the laptop. 😉 Computers have spoiled me I’m afraid.

  5. sjoycarlson says:

    So true. That first draft is just about getting all those ideas on there, to be refined with successive revisions. Don’t get hung up on spelling, grammar. Don’t get stuck on the next scene if you don’t have the ideas for it. For me, if I’m really struggling to write a chapter or section, or if I’ve written it and always finding myself skimming through it on re-reads, I have to ask myself, does it really need to be in there? If I don’t like it as the writer, will the readers? Unless of course it’s an action scene. I find those so hard to write! Thanks for the great reminder 🙂

  6. This is a nice advice for a starter like me. I get stuck a lot of times on a scene that unable me to write the next scene…
    Thank you for posting this!

  7. Wardy says:

    Nice tips and totally male sense too! Thx James. 🙂

  8. I just can’t work out of sequence, even on a first draft.

  9. J. A. Faulkerson says:

    Reblogged this on Novelist J.A. Faulkerson and commented:
    Great advice to keep your stories moving.

  10. Nice – a good reminder that applies to any creative project. Go where the energy is – & don’t get hung up on being perfect from the start. Keep playing! Thanks –

  11. carbonkitten says:

    This is definitely me! Stagnating and waiting for inspiration in order to move on just drives me bats.

  12. Pingback: Blogdom Apr. 23-May 21, ’14 | The ToiBox of Words

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