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.
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.