Monday, August 01, 2011

Writing Tip: Don’t Block the Flow

Whoops. That headline sounds a little like a tampon commercial, but I’m not going to stop and change it right now. I’m going to keep going because thoughts are pouring from my brain through my fingers and spilling onto the keyboard. If I stop to think of a new headline, I might not be able to get back into this thought-process that’s working on overdrive right now. So I'll keep typing and promise myself I’ll fix the headline later.

The above paragraph is completely true, but it’s also the writing tip I want to share with you today.

Disclaimer: when I (rarely) share writing tips, it’s a YMMV thing. This is what works for me. It may not work for you. I don’t know everything. In fact, most days I feel like I know nothing. So take it for what it’s worth. (A quarter? Fitty cent?)

Back to business. When I’m drafting, sometimes I find myself really cranking out a scene. The dialog is snappy. The setting is working. The suspense is building. But then I start to type the next sentence and realize I need something that would make me stop for a few minutes. Maybe it’s a fact I need to research. Or just something simple like a street name. Or the name of a minor character who just made his first appearance in the book.

I do not stop and figure out what to name this person.

I insert a code into the book, marking it as something I need to come back to later.

My code is XXX. For example, a line in my first draft might read: I took a left onto XXX Road with my tires screeching.

It’s not necessary that I know the name of the road right now. It’s not worth breaking my flow to stop and figure out what to call it. Because I could spend five minutes on that, then try to get back into the scene and find that my flow is blocked. And then take more time to get back into the groove I’d been in before I'd stopped.

Instead, I leave the XXX and keep going until I’ve either finished the scene or that burst of energy is spent. I usually start each day by reading and editing what I wrote the day before. This is usually when I fill in the XXX. Or I can always do a search in the document for XXX and find the places I need to fix. (This is why I chose XXX as my code. It’s never going to show up in a word. At least, not in my books. Tee hee.)

So that’s my little writing tip for the day. And lastly, don’t count on remembering that you need to go back and fix something. Insert a code. That way you don’t end up leaving something in that should have been changed.

Like that headline.


  1. I do this, too!
    I just insert a long line like this ____________ so I'll remember to go back to it. Or I highlight. That usually works for me. But I think it's really cool that you do this b/c I'm about to pick up your book! (I went to my local B&N, but they were out of stock :/) Anyway, now it's like a challenge, so I'm off to Book-a-Million on the hunt lol. Looking forward to reading Clairty,
    Ninja Girl

  2. Thank you! It's definitely harder to find in stores now, but they can always order it for you at the info desk. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy it. :)

  3. Great advice! I'm totally guilty of stopping, looking, researching, checking, etc. I think it has become what feels like an acceptable procrastination tool.

  4. Oh, I've had to do this quite a bit with my WIP. Since I'm working on that and editing an older novel for my agent, I need to take advantage of every second I have to draft. My ms is riddled with XXX's.

    While I love to do research, and some of my plots are even inspired by the facts I dig up, it does grind drafting to a halt, so I try to resist the urge to research.

    Glad I'm not alone!

  5. SUCH good advice. I get sidetracked all the time googling for details or trying to think up a name for a minor character.

  6. Great idea! I usually type something like "a;lsdkfj" or highlight. Just recently, a reader thought she had the wrong copy of my ms because I'd missed deleting highlighted notes. Eek!I love the XXX because it's searchable. I'll do that from now on. Thanks!

  7. I'm so glad sharing this was helpful, Camille & Brandi! :D

  8. That's a great suggestion. I'm going to try it.

  9. Yep, I do that a lot. A lot, a lot. I should stop, I know. Thanks for the great advice!