Writer's Notes


By Nancy Raven Smith


LS 3.8MB-1There have been lots of brick walls in my life, such as the ones I used to jump my horse over, the ones in relationships, and those on the outer walls of the house I grew up in. But let’s discuss those pesky ones that pop up when I’m writing. Especially since I’m a pantster.

As a pantster, I usually know the character, some of the major act breaks, and the ending when I start a writing project. But everything is up for change and development as I go along. Plotters/planners spend a lot of time outlining and making decisions before starting. I spend the same time tightening and rewriting after my first draft. As an explorer, some of the paths I take end in box canyons, and often the only way out is to return to the mouth of the canyon and move on. So I hit a lot of canyon walls, but I don’t count these as brick walls. More like taking the scenic route.

When a serious block appears on a project and my forward writing motion comes to a halt, I often wish that there was a magical horse that could help me leap over the problem. Sadly I haven’t found that horse yet. So in the meantime, I’ll share something that does work for me in the hope that it will help other writers with the same problem.

When I start writing, there are always scattered scenes that I see in my head. A love scene here or a bit of action there that comes late in the second act, or the ending of my project. These are scenes that I haven’t written yet because I haven’t reached them chronologically. So if I’m blocked from writing chronologically forward with the story, I’ll skip ahead and write one of those scenes. Sometimes as I write, my chronological log jam will break and when I finish the new scene, I can go back to where I was stopped. Other times not. If that happens, I’ll write another miscellaneous scene I know. If I write enough of those scenes, I’ll start connecting them and begin moving forward again.

While writing my second ever screenplay, I hit a serious wall right before the midpoint. I finally managed to keep going because I knew the ending very clearly in my mind. So I wrote the ending. When I did, I realized I knew the scene before it, and then the scene before that. As I continued writing backwards, I actually backed into the midpoint and the first half of my script. Then I smoothed, added, subtracted, and polished the screenplay during the subsequent rewrites.

Lest you think this produces a bad piece of work, that screenplay ended up in the top six out of over three thousand entries in the Disney Fellowship Competition. So I can honestly say this does work for me.

I hope this idea is a help if you get stuck somewhere, and I’d love to hear if anyone else has an unusual way of addressing the challenges they run into when brick walls stop their writing.



In Land Sharks, Lexi Winslow is a fraud investigator at a private Beverly Hills bank. As a favor to her boss, she’s sent to fetch home the daughter of the bank’s biggest client.
So she’s off to Sumatra, where the wayward daughter and her latest boyfriend were last seen. She has the added complication of having to take the boss’ inexperienced son along for training.

Once Lexi arrives at an isolated resort carved out of the remote Sumatran jungle, she discovers there are more deadly dangers inside the hotel than the crocodiles and head hunters outside. It is a hotel where women check in, but most don’t check out.

And of all the places in the world, Lexi runs into her ex-lover, who not only conned his way into her heart, but is always conning someone somewhere. Lexi is determined to find out what is going on and to get everyone out alive.



HeadShotNancy LS Banner2Nancy Raven Smith grew up in the Virginia horse country near Washington D.C. where she was an active member of the equestrian community. She also rescued and retrained former racehorses as well as cats and dogs for over twenty years. Raven Smith was a contributing writer and cartoonist for several sports magazines such as The Chronicle of the Horse and Practical Horseman and her screenplays have won multiple awards.

Raven Smith is a member of Sisters in Crime, Women in Film, Romance Writers of America, & Mystery Writers of America. Her debut novel, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra, was chosen as an Amazon/Kindle Scout Program Selection Winner.
Reluctant Farmer on Amazon –
Land Sharks on Amazon –