Pros and Cons of Navel Gazing

December 3rd, 2011

Navel Gazing: Excessive introspection,
self-absorption, or concentration on a single issue.

Sure, we all hit this point when we’re writing when you know that AMAZING scene is coming up soon and you can’t wait to reach it. It’s not such a bad thing to skip ahead to write that amazing scene because you’ll come back to where you were later. Right?

… Right…?

Well, as I (and I’m sure many of you have figured out) skipping ahead is a very dangerous habit to get into. Why you may ask? Well, I’m about to tell you… from my own personal experience of course. Again, personal experience. If it works for you, then scroll on by this.

This blog is thanks to Alexa, by the way.

1. You’ll only write your favorite scenes. This is probably the most dangerous of all the reasons navel gazing is so very, very bad. When you keep jumping ahead to write your favorite scenes, you’re going to wind up having a set of scenes that mean almost nothing because you’re missing everything in between. They may be amazing scenes, but without the rest of the novel, you won’t have anything.

2. Continuity. This figures into point number one, actually. When you have a series of scenes, you run the risk of not having everything flow together when you finally come around to writing those hated scenes. Sure, you (hopefully, in any case) have an outline you’re working with but what author hasn’t had something completely unexpected suddenly happen with your characters and suddenly it’s damage control as your characters decide to go in a direction that’s completely different than what you already had planned.

Face it. We’ve all been there.

3. Those scenes? Yeah. Those scenes. If you hated them because you skipped them, how is it going to feel when you have to write EVERY HATED SCENE EVER. And? I have a feeling your audience is going to tell it was like pulling teeth to write those scenes too.

Am I saying you should never skip ahead? No, of course not. Looking at my first draft, I had several scenes plotted out in my head and I even had the ending of this book finished when I was at the half-way point. Sometimes you do have to go where the muse takes you and write what you need to write that day. But on the other hand, it’s a dangerous habit to fall into as well. You run the risk of having to write things over and over and over again if characters screw up your well-made plans or having to write a bunch of scenes you don’t like all at once.

Instead, may I suggest a few alternatives?

1. Just Write it: Yep. Advice number one is to muscle through what you don’t like and just (to quote Earl) “git ‘er done”. Besides, when you get through the scene you’re not looking forward to writing, you’ll have a scene you want to write waiting for you as a reward.

2. why is it hated? Take a step back and look at the scene and try to figure out why you dislike it. Is it because something bad happens to the Main Character and you don’t want to make their life miserable? Or is it because the scene is an info dump and doesn’t have much action? Perhaps the reason you don’t want to write the scene is because there’s something wrong with the scene itself and it’s your muse’s way of telling you “DON’T DO IT!”. Like I said up above, if it feels like you hated writing the scene, chances are your audience will know you disliked it.

Jumping around isn’t a bad thing to do… so long as it happens in moderation.

And if you still want to jump around, navel gaze and stare at the shiny object in the corner to the exclusion of all else? Well, just let me know. I have a prodding stick with your name on it!

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