Sunday, October 16, 2011

Not sure what to write? [INSERT TEXT HERE].

I have a confession to make, people: Technically speaking, I'm new to this writing gig.

All told, I've been wholly committed to being a writer for a couple of months. I know, I know, it doesn't seem like much at all. 

Still, I've been writing for a lot longer than that. In that time, I've found one hyper-critical tidbit of process that has saved my flow in many occasions. 

If you do not know what to write regarding a relatively small detail, do not stop writing. 

Instead, throw a bracket-blank into your text, and go on your merry way. 

It's simple. Say Bob and Lauren are in Kiev, and need to get directions to the candy store they've located on their map. You could stop writing, pull up an Internet browser, and get lost for a few minutes (or a few hours) looking for just the right phrase (Покажіть мені це місце на мапі). 

When you find it, or give up, you wander back to your draft, distracted, unfocused, and thoroughly off track. Not the best state of mind for writing. 

Alternatively, you could leave yourself a small note, reminding you to fill it in later. 

When I do it, it looks something like this:


Bob tapped the hobo's shoulder, while Lauren fiddled with the Ukrainian-to-English phrasebook. 

The hobo turned to them, a devilish grin on his face. Lauren's breath caught, but she managed to read from the book, "[DIRECT ME TO DELIGHTFUL CONFECTIONS, FOOLISH MORTAL!]."


By so doing, we have successfully jumped right over the troublesome pothole, and may now zoom ahead. We will see just how much this mysterious hobo knows about the black market candy store, and, further, about Lauren's secret past.

This method is useful for situations other than language barriers. You could try applying a thin layer of bracket-blank to:

  • Patch / tie together short bits of conversation
  • Sum up description that needs to be fleshed out later
  • Label a one-appearance character's name TBD
  • Accept that you can't find the right word, and move on

Maintaining consistent flow is of utmost importance to me when I'm writing. Otherwise, I'll hardly accomplish anything in my writing sessions. 

Remember: the most important thing, when working on a first draft, is to get something down. You can always go back and fix it. Bracket-blanking helps free you to do this. 

I hope this helps you writerly types out there. With demanding word-count expectations coming up during NaNoWriMo, we can't afford to get hung up on minute details. Allow yourself to go back and fix it later, even if it's at the end of the day. You'll be happy you did. 

Keep the writer juices flowing.

Just what does that hobo know about the candy?


  1. It is so interesting to hear the inner thoughts and processes of a writer. Following you on twitter and on this blog is superbly interesting. (no pressure!)

  2. @Gabe:

    Err... Yes! Even I get to hear the inner thoughts now and again (half of which are then conveyed to online status) :)

    Glad to have you on board for the moderately strange journey. No pressure...

  3. Awesome advice. I'm a bracketer convert. ;)

  4. @zencherry:

    I'm not kidding when I say that it's saved me. When I realize that I'm staring at the monitor, slack-jawed and drooling, trying to eke out just the right word, I have to kick myself. This makes my writing sessions *so* much more productive.