55000868Remember that famous writing advice to always stop mid-scene, at the most exciting part, maybe even mid sentence, so that you’ll be yearning to get back to it and continue? Hemingway certainly suggested it, and many others have followed suit, crediting him or not. How on earth is this a good idea? The momentum gets lost. The train of thought is gone. And in the meantime, after “writing” the rest of the scene in my head, several other scenes begin clamoring for attention.

As it turns out though, that was only half the advice.

Mice: How much should you write a day?

Y.C.: The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

Mice: All right.

Y.C.: Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start. Once you are into the novel it is as cowardly to worry about whether you can go on the next day as to worry about having to go into inevitable action. You have to go on. So there is no sense to worry. You have to learn that to write a novel. The hard part about a novel is to finish it.

Mice: How can you learn not to worry?

Y.C.: By not thinking about it. As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Think about something else. You have to learn that.

— from By-Line: E. H., 216-217; also in E.H. on Writing

The ‘don’t obsess’ half of the advice is often lost, or retold as a separate tip, but clearly, or at least in my case, the two are inseparable! I’m still not sure I’ll leave my writing mid-scene, but I may try quitting a session only with a future scene in mind (a week ‘off’ after nanowrimo has… erm… led to some writing block — more to come!).

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