Monday, November 28, 2011


I love the concept of NaNoWriMo (for those who don't know what it is, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It was started in 1999 by Chris Baty and meant to be a socialization of a personal and "sole" activity. With the goal of writing 50,000 words in a single month (November), registrants post and share how they are doing towards that goal.

More than a quarter of a million people participate each year, and the number continues to grow.

I have participated in the past. I'll likely participate in the future again.

But right now, I'm just happy when I can get ANY writing done.

Which was why, Saturday morning, I got frustrated when my writing got cut short by an activity that frequently occurs when I'm in the middle of something.

I was "in the Zone" and composing what I thought was an important moment in a novel. I came to a part where one of the characters was going to say something about a subject where he was supposed to be knowledgeable and authoritative.

I, of course, was nowhere near authoritative or knowledgeable about the subject -- that's my cue to doing a bit of research.

And therein lies the mistake I made.

I took a quick moment to check a fact, do an internet search about a topic so as to ensure my character was speaking with the correct degree of knowledge. That "quick moment" of research turned into fifteen minutes of reading about the topic and about a related topic, getting drawn in and interested in learning more.

The next thing I knew, the writing flow had been broken. I was no longer in the Zone.

In that same fifteen minutes, I could have likely written another 500 to 1000 words. But alas, those words remain unwritten.

quill writing from
This is a mistake I regularly make - the trick is catching myself in the midst of it so as to prevent the "full stop" that occurs. A strategy I have employed in the past (which tends to work) is inserting a note for myself to pay attention to during the re-write. So, instead of breaking the narrative flow by more than a few words, I insert a line in the middle of the sentence [just like this - just a few words] and then, satisfied I have recognized a moment that needs to be addresses when I have the time, I continue writing.

During the re-write phase, or when I'm about to quit for that session, I do the research and substitute in the appropriate word or detail.


Robert turned toward the instrument panel and noticed that [the proper technical name of the radial dial] was glowing [alert colour]. He immediately sounded the alarm and called Steve on his cell phone.

In the example above, once I do a bit of research to determine the proper technical name of the radial dial on the monitoring device Robert is looking at and whether the alert colour is red or orange, I return to them and insert the details.  Note that the research doesn't have to be into real stuff. This could be a piece of speculative fiction in which the instrument panel system Robert is observing is entirely fictitious but I need to look back to my own notes or where this detail was previously mentioned in the novel and merely fill in the info there.

It's a useful device. One I should remember to use so I don't get all carried away with the enjoyment of the research.

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