I struggle with keeping my writing consistent and fear this is hampering my ability to finish my novel (currently in the editing stage).

Some scenes are brilliant, they add flavour to the story, the characters bounce off the page and I’m really in their POVs.

Other times I write a scene that is flat, boring with no substance. The characters tend to meander through the scenes and functionally it is good but it doesn’t hold the same spice as the other scenes.

One of the things I wondered was whether the scene itself is boring, but they are good scenes which are needed parts of the plot.

How do I keep myself in the first mode when writing?

  • It may partly be the way you've chosen to describe good vs. bad scenes for the question, but as a reader, I'm not sure I'd want "characters bounc[ing] off the page" in every scene.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Jun 19 at 15:14

4 Answers 4


As long as the scenes are down on the page, they move the story forward. Write. Keep on writing. To quote James Thurber, "Don't get it right, get it written."

Once you get to the end, put the story aside for a month. Then go back and re-read in cold blood. You can revise to add spice.

Or maybe not. I must add Neil Gaiman's observation:

you can have one of those days when you sit down and every word is crap. It is awful. You cannot understand how or why you are writing, what gave you the illusion or delusion that you would every have anything to say that anybody would ever want to listen to. You're not quite sure why you're wasting your time. And if there is one thing you're sure of, it's that everything that is being written that day is rubbish. I would also note that on those days (especially if deadlines and things are involved) is that I keep writing. The following day, when I actually come to look at what has been written, I will usually look at what I did the day before, and think, "That's not quite as bad as I remember. All I need to do is delete that line and move that sentence around and its fairly usable. It's not that bad." What is really sad and nightmarish (and I should add, completely unfair, in every way. And I mean it -- utterly, utterly, unfair!) is that two years later, or three years later, although you will remember very well, very clearly, that there was a point in this particular scene when you hit a horrible Writer's Block from Hell, and you will also remember there was point in this particular scene where you were writing and the words dripped like magic diamonds from your fingers -- as if the Gods were speaking through you and every sentence was a thing of beauty and magic and brilliance. You can remember just as clearly that there was a point in the story, in that same scene, when the characters had turned into pathetic cardboard cut-outs and nothing they said mattered at all. You remember this very, very clearly. The problem is you are now doing a reading and you cannot for the life of you remember which bits were the gifts of the Gods and dripped from your fingers like magical words and which bits were the nightmare things you just barely created and got down on paper somehow!! Which I consider most unfair. As a writer, you feel like one or the other should be better. I wouldn't mind which. I'm not somebody who's saying, "I really wish the stuff from the Gods was better." I wouldn't mind which way it went. I would just like one of them to be better. Rather than when it's a few years later, and you're reading the scene out loud and you don't know, and you cannot tell. It's obviously all written by the same person and it all gets the same kind of reaction from an audience. No one leaps up to say, "Oh look, that paragraph was clearly written on an 'off' day."

It is very unfair. I don't think anybody who isn't a writer would ever understand how quite unfair it is.

  • Just don't re-read what you wrote two years ago. It serves no purpose.
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 19 at 7:36
  • 1
    That depends. I have rewritten things from years earlier because the basic idea was good. Often because I realized what I had done wrong.
    – Mary
    Commented Jun 19 at 12:25
  • Ah, I see. Of course. But Gaiman was probably talking about published writings. I don't see what you get from re-reading older published texts excepts low self-esteem and shame.
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 19 at 12:41
  • Public readings for fans -- to sell books.
    – Mary
    Commented Jun 19 at 23:24
  • Most authors mainly do readings of their latest publication for a marketing campaign. But I don't seem to have expressed my argument well, so let me be blunt: We all develop. Usually what we created some time ago is worse than what we can do today. Many published writers have expressed disdain for their past writings. In fact, I don't remember any writer loving all his or her past work. You find that in most art fields. And if you work in a profession where everything you have done seems sub-par, that can get to you. It is therefore better to focus forward instead of dwelling on past failures.
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 20 at 6:59

If you are going to write, you must be able to read analytically.

That means as a mechanic. You need to read the scene without getting immersed in it; you want to remain analytic and understand the machinery that is creating the effect that you like.

You need to figure out what it is about your "good" scenes that makes them good. Is it the pacing? Word choices? Character emotions? Conflicting desires of characters?

What is in, and what is out? Do your sentence lengths reflect the mood of the piece? Are you using brighter adjectives, or are the characters being more clever, or funny?

Do your sentence lengths vary? Is it in the dialogue? Is it in the description details -- Are they sparse and on point? Do they reflect the mood of the scene?

Is it just the setting that makes it easier to describe? Would your dull scene be improved by getting the job done in a different setting? More dangerous, or more active, or more quiet? Should this be set in a hospital, or stranded on a road, or in a city park?

Analytic reading is good to perform on expert writing, but especially your own writing that you like. You need to find what is your style.

You say the flat scenes are needed parts of the plot.

If your scene is flat, that generally means it is doing only one job, imparting information, or perhaps informing the reader of a character decision. That is like just eating mayonnaise for the calories.

Your scene needs to be doing multiple jobs; at minimum some emotional work while imparting new information.

So you can invent some emotional work to do, or move the information development into an earlier or later scene. Or make the information development traumatic, or unexpected, or costly to one of the characters, that was counting on something else.

If you cannot do that, make the scene as short as you possibly can. Sometimes condensing a scene makes it better.


You need to find out what is wrong and why it happens.

Get feedback. You need an outside view on your writing. You may be mistaken about the two types of writing you do, or you may not understand what is wrong with one of them. Find an experienced reader with a critical eye who is able to communicate what works for them in your writing and what doesn't and in which way. Not a friend or family member, obviously. Other writers may be helpful, but some writers are so engrossed in their own style that they are just as bad as yourself at objectively judging your writen. A writer's group is perfect. Or you may want to pay a qualified editor once to get good and useful feedback that helps you to get an outside perspective on your writing.

Observe yourself while you write and understand what happens to you, what you do, and why it doesn't work. Why are you not "in character" while you write some parts? Are they boring to you and you are just forcing yourself because you think they need to be told? Then they will bore the readers also and you shouldn't write them or not the way you do. Don't you know and understand your characters well enough and cannot get into their minds in certain scenes? Then you need to develop them further. Do you struggle with finding the right words or shaping elegant sentences? In a different document, make a list of the things that you want to say, form short sentences from them, then combine them to something longer. Keep your language simple and straightforward. Write content first, not language first. Do your mood and wellbeing change? Do you have problems in life that burden and distract you? Take care of them. And so on.

As Mary said, not all days are the same. But if you make a habit of writing every day, your skills will stabilize and more days will be good. See this answer for more on this.


I would agree with Amadeus, but timing is important. Don't worry too much while you do the first draft; analysis comes later, with a different hat on. I find I need to wait at least a week to get a bit of distance from what I wrote, and if I re-read too soon, I just get bogged down when I should be progressing the story, and the novel loses impetus.

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