Every so often, I hit a groove and I type away, the words flowing from me like chocolate in a fountain. Everything is falling into place, the dialogue is working, and I’m on top of the world. But then I introduce a new character, and I don’t have a good name for him yet. Or I need the date 9/11 happened. (Just kidding – but I do need a historical date) Or I need to know which side fired first at Gettysburg.
I have a choice.
I can stop writing and look up the information or think of a name for the character. Or I can move on and leave a blank space, coming back to fill it in later. For the most part, I choose the latter.
Writing flows come rarely for me. Uninterrupted time when I can sit and just be at one with the computer is a precious commodity. Most of the time, I have children at my elbow or a ringing telephone, someone’s at the door or I have children at my elbow. (I know I already said that but with four children, it happens a lot) When I write late at night, I have a snoring husband in the room and I’m so tired I’m about to pass out. The golden moments of uninterrupted creation are few and far between and I don’t want to waste them.
So, I insert a symbol. A @, a $, or a % work well because these aren’t symbols I generally use while writing. I pop one of those puppies in and I keep writing. Then, later, I’ll do a search and put in whatever symbol I’ve chosen to use. The computer will pop me from place to place and I can then do the necessary research to put in the right day or the proper rank of the visiting soldier or the name of the maid or what-have-you. It’s a tip I picked up from my LDStorymaker friends and let me say, it has saved me a lot of time.
I used to be a little more ambiguous. I would name my characters things like Girl and Boy, Dude, Maid, Postman, and other things like that. Or I would put “He said something romantic” when I couldn’t think of just what it was I wanted him to say. But using a symbol makes it much easier to find, because it pops off the screen at you. Now my writing is more apt to look something like this:
Annie came into the room and saw $ sitting on the floor. “What are you doing down there?”
$ jumped up and brushed off his trousers. “I was trying to fix the heater, but I need a % or it won’t work properly.”
“Are you sure that will fix it?”
$ @says something funny – think of it later@
I keep a little notebook right next to me as I’m typing and just make notes of the symbols I’ve used. I then go on and can freely build up the approach of the mailman who is carrying the Anthrax-laden letter. $ is going to open it and . . . oops! I shouldn’t give too much away!
In summary, a writer’s flow is precious. Don’t waste it on the little details. Get the main picture down while it’s clear in your mind and then go back. You’ll be so glad you did.