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.