Figure It Out Now

So you’ve written that first draft or you absolutely don’t have an ounce of creativity in you (Netflix binge mixed with copious amounts of chocolate will do that). It’s time to fill in all those FIOLs.

This is pretty simple. Open up your project and do a search for ” [ “. Now every “oh crap I don’t know this” moment you skipped before is ready for you to figure out.

And…that’s it.

Figure It Out Later

If you’re anything like me, you’re the world’s slowest writer. And whenever you come upon something that you don’t know, it derails your writing mojo and stalls all momentum. I’m not talking about plot decisions or anything major like that, I’m talking about little things like:

  • Coming up with a name for a minor character
  • An inconsequential detail relevant to a time period (Is there room inside a panzer for fuzzy dice?)
  • Vocabulary repetition (I must find a better word than ripped to describe my Mary-Sue character)
  • Previous details (Was the bartender in the opening scene bald and toothless?)

Bald and toothless might be the way I’m remembered after I’m gone. It’s also a great name for an 80s band. I digress.

Basically, anytime I didn’t know something, my fingers left the keyboard. I couldn’t move on. I HAD TO KNOW! I would go to the internet to research and get lost until I found the answer. All these inconsequential detours were causing me serious downtime.

So what do you do?

You can’t just skip it and move on. You have to figure it out right now. At least…that’s what I thought. Leaving something unanswered felt like I was willingly leaving out a puzzle piece (like the missing one your jerk brother stole so he could finish the puzzle at the end).

I was wrong. You can leave holes in your novel and you should because it will make you faster. Don’t worry, you’ll fill them in later. I call these holes “FIOLS”. It stands for: Figure It Out Later. FIOLs increased my¬†writing sessions from 500 words to 5 MILLION!!! Ok, that’s a lie. But truthfully, I am a much faster writer today because of them.

Here’s how I do it.

Let’s pretend I’m writing a scene about killer robot cats from New Jersey. (Who wouldn’t want to read that?) As I’m writing, I suddenly realize that I don’t know how fast a cat can flip over from its back when falling. Rather than stop and search the internet and get lost in cat memes, I write the following:

The robot cat fell from the tree. It twisted in midair, rotating at [speed] and landed on its non-furry feet.

Now I can keep writing without stopping (By the way, the next scene with the cat would have made you cry). The [ ] serves as a FIOL. The reason I use these marks is that I can search and find every FIOL quickly later when I’m ready to FION.

So when do you go back and fix all those holes?

Great question, thanks for asking it. I discuss that process in this post.


I’m not feeling it

I’m not feeling it.

I say that to myself nearly every single day. It’s time to write, but I just don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, I just don’t like the process it takes to get words flowing from my head to the page.

What is it that makes it so hard? After many years of struggle, I finally figured out the answer and it came from trying to wake up my wife. Hear me out. Like my wife, my creative brain likes to sleep. Imagine the following with me:

There is my beautiful wife, cute and asleep in our bed. She’s completely oblivious to the world around her. An evil man (me) sneaks up and shouts “WAKE UP!”. Then a murder takes place and I’m laid to rest in a coffin in the shape of a dog house. My children now live with their uncle.

Now picture this. A writer sits down for some scheduled writing time. He/she puts their fingers to the keyboard and expects brilliance to flow…only it doesn’t. They get frustrated and question every life decision they’ve ever made (even the red couches. Trust me, you made the right decision).

Shouting at the creative sides of our brains to wake up is not going to produce a happy, love to see you, this is the best-morning-of-my-life type of writing. It just never will. You have to wake it up gently, with plenty of warning and lots of snooze time.

Here’s how I do it.

Prior to writing, I go for a walk. The walk clears my head and allows me to clear my mind and think about nothing. As a man, this is easy. The secondary reason for walking is I need to go to my writing spot. Do you have a writing spot? I highly suggest finding a place that is NOT quiet or secluded. Creative brains need stimulus. I write at my local library on my lunch break. Here’s a great article on avoiding silence during writing.

Back to the walk. Occasionally during this time, I will listen to podcasts about writing. Listening to others talk about the craft helps me think about my own techniques and ultimately about my story. This almost always wakes up my creative side. Here’s a link to my favorite podcast on writing.

But what if you STILL don’t feel like writing? The following idea has helped me overcome some of my more serious mental blocks. Open up your current WIP and have Siri read ANY chapter to you. Yes, her voice and cadence are robotic, but that isn’t the point. Just listen to her read your story. In a matter of minutes, the creative side of your brain should begin to wake up. This is because inevitably one of two things will happen:

You’ll hear something so poorly written that you’ll cringe. Your creative brain knows you can do better than that dribble. You’ll have such an itch to fix/change that scene you’ll be running to your writing spot.


You’ll hear something you like. You’ll think, “Wow, maybe I can do this. Maybe I’m not a fraud. That wasn’t too bad!”. With this excitement, you’ll begin to think more and more about your story as the creative side of your brain wakes up.

But what if your creative brain was up all night binge-watching Netflix and can’t wake up? What then?

I’ve had this happen a few times. No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to get going. Does that mean it’s time to quit? No. Now it’s time to switch over to plan FION. Click these to learn what FION and FIOL¬†are.