The title of this post is not a mistake. It’s a note I make for myself when I’m stuck on a passage in my stories — mostly my novel, as my short stories were short enough to be written in sequence, and weren’t halted by my inability to write something as well as desired before moving on to the next scene.
With a novel, there are far more thoughts to be collected — too many to put down completely before moving forward. There’s always revision, but typing something I’m not pleased with is more difficult for me than typing nothing at all. Even when I remind myself that I can revise, or that a first draft is allowed to be bad — because let’s face it, they always are, no matter who writes them — I find myself staring at the cursor for several minutes, unable to type the sentences I have in mind to follow the one stubborn sentence that I just can’t write satisfactorily.
This happened in a passage where I was trying to come up with a good simile. It wasn’t even a whole sentence giving me trouble, but half of one. While I hemmed and hawed, typed and deleted, the sentences waiting to come next did just that — waited. I finally got frustrated, said “Screw it,” and typed “[put something good here].” I moved on, and finished the chapter. I eventually put something good there, over a week later.
It’s less difficult to type nothing, but certainly not better, especially if one ever hopes to finish their story. The current draft of my novel is filled with [ ] notes, mostly summarizing chapters, but also reminding me to write something good later.
[put something good here] [expand on this] [make this dialogue instead of narration]
It gives me something to write, which helps me move forward while reminding me that the passage will be there waiting for me when I’m ready to complete it. It’s a small gesture, but it helps the process — especially because I’ve often discovered what’s needed to finish that sentence is the ones that follow it.