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Welcome to The Inkwell, the blog site of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) of Colorado.

Each week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you can find a wide variety of topics and insight
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Monday, July 26, 2010

A Simple Solution

“What’s the blog topic this month?”

“Time management.”

“Ha ha. No really. What’s the topic?”

“Time management.”

“Is this some kind of sick joke?”

Asking creative types to talk about managing their time is like asking shopaholics to discuss budgeting. At best, all we have are theories and our own abandoned attempts at bringing the problem under control.

I have a long way to go in this area. I’m scatter-brained, routineless, and constantly behind, and if I pretended to have some sort of system in my writing life and presented it here for the benefit of others—well, several of my writing friends would show up on my doorstep to confront me (in sisterly love, of course) for my outrageous lie.

So I’m just going to share one area I’m struggling with now and what I’m doing to get through it. I know it’s not rocket science. I leave that stuff to my husband. But maybe you need to be reminded of this method just like I did.

My WIP is set in England and involves characters from the classic novel Wuthering Heights. I spent a month researching the novel, the Brontës, and Yorkshire before I began writing. But, in almost every chapter, I run into difficulty when it comes to making the details accurate. I want to get it right. And I know there are Brontë scholars and English folks who know way more about my subject matter than I do. I imagine these people breathing down my neck as I write. For some reason, the figments all resemble a particularly harsh professor I had in college.

Anyway, when I hit a snag in my writing, I turn to my different research sources. Sometimes I find my answer, plug it in, and plunge onward, content that the detail is accurate. But, more often than not, I don’t find the solution. That’s when the paralysis hits. I stare at the screen. I reread the Wiki article or shuffle through the website again. I look through all my books a second or third time. How can I possibly go on with my story? I don’t know if English people use the word pantry. I don’t know how many acres (or hectacres) are in a park. I don’t know what Heathrow smells like.

It’s as though someone has pressed Pause on my creativity. My story is frozen because of one detail.

My family and my writing friends witnessed me pulling my hair out over these things, and they all gave me advice. The same advice.

“Make a note of it and move on.”

Naturally, I didn’t listen, and I’ve wasted a lot of time because of my stubbornness. Finally, exhausted from hovering in limbo, I gave in, highlighted the problem in red and (gasp!) moved on.

You know what? It works. And I can come back to those details at a later date. What’s important now is letting the story flow.

Like I said, I know it isn’t rocket science. I’ve heard of the highlight it and move on approach before. But I needed to be reminded. I needed permission. I needed my critique group to tell me that I was not going to be judged as a sloppy writer for leaving some research for a later date. So I wanted to pass on the hint. Don’t get bogged down. Don’t waste your precious time. Mark it and move on!

Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up living and breathing good stories. She has co-authored two children’s books which are under contract with Waterbrook Press and also writes adult fiction. Evangeline is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, serving as chapter secretary.


Kersley Fitzgerald said...

Sloppy writer? *You*? I don't understand the question.

Bonnie Doran said...

I've got the same stare-at-the-screen problem. I'm sure someone, somewhere will tell me astronauts just don't spacewalk like that. In my case, it IS rocket science.

Paula said...

excellent post! I have struggled with that, too, waiting to continue until the details are right, but it does ruin the flow. I'm learning to let go of that perfectionism to get my story out.

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