Monday, August 12, 2019

12 Tips for the Best Writing Life Ever

By Edie Melson @EdieMelson

The writer’s life isn’t an easy one. So much of what we create comes from some place deep inside ourselves. Giving that way can be exhausting, not to mention frustrating, when we feel empty.

The good news is that there are things we can do to help ourselves. I’ve come to learn that we either set ourselves up for success or we set ourselves up for failure. This week, I’ll share some of the writing and blogging hacks that every successful writer needs to know.

12 Things Every Writer Needs to Remember

1. Writing is a mind game—and our minds play tricks on us. When we’re in a good mood, we have confidence. When something goes wrong, that confidence melts away. Successful writers don’t base their confidence on emotions. 

2. Speak kindly to yourself. Along with the attitude comes the way we treat ourselves. We talk junk to ourselves in ways that we would never talk to someone else. Decide right now to stop. Speak words of encouragement to yourself and you’ll speed the path to success.

3. Take care of yourself physically. Writing isn’t just hard because of the mind games. It’s hard on our bodies. Just sitting all day has shown to cause horrible health problems. Take time to get the exercise you need and fuel your body with healthy food and plenty of water.

4. Schedule some rest and relaxation. I’m not necessarily talking about napping, although that's not a bad idea. Writing regularly is important, but so is time away. Take a drive, plan lunch out with a friend, whatever helps you relax. 

5. Follow a regular writing schedule. Notice I said regular—not normal. You may only be able to write late at night, or early in the morning. Or you may only be able to write on the weekends. Whatever works for you is fine—as long as you do it regularly.

6. Surround yourself with other writers who have the same commitment. This is so important. If you surround yourself with others who aren’t serious about writing or those you constantly have to shore up and encourage, you’ll wear yourself out. Find people who are committed to finish well, no matter what life problems crop up.

7. Set goals that you can track and measure. If you can’t tell how close you are to a goal, it’s pretty frustrating, so make sure the goals you have are ones where you can track the progress. For example, set a goal to send out so many queries or proposals or attend so many conferences. Don’t make getting a publishing contract the goal. You really don’t have any control over a publisher saying yes or no. BUT you can write the book, send out the queries, and get everything in place for when it does happen.

8. Invest in your dream. You have the right to follow your heart. Don’t let anyone say you don’t. But don’t be your own worst enemy. Invest time, effort, and money in making your publishing goals a reality.

9. Learn how to take critique. Writers seem to range from one extreme to the other. We either think everything we write is perfect and better than anything out there. Or we think everything we write is junk. We have no perspective. Find others you respect and listen to what they have to say about your writing. Improve where you need to, and relish the parts that truly are great.

10. Read regularly. I know that none of us has the time, but successful writers (those who are growing in their craft) know it’s vital to take the time. Read regularly, read deeply, and read widely.

11. Never go anywhere without a notebook. That notebook might be a note-taking app on your mobile device, but never be without a way to record ideas. Inspiration ALWAYS strikes at inconvenient times. Don’t get caught without a way to capture an elusive idea.

12. Keep writing, no matter what. Yes, life happens. But no matter what rough time you’re going through, keep writing. You might be able to put away the formal projects when a crisis hits, but keep writing something—a journal, a poem, a prayer. 

These are the things that help me keep moving forward, no matter what. I’d love for you to add to the list.

Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. Connect with her on her 
website, through FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Soul Care for Writers
Our lives are busier each day, and the margin we have available for recovery and peace is shrinking. Edie Melson helps you find Soul Care solutions using devotions and prayers and opportunities for creative expression. She has learned that sensory involvement deepens our relationship with the Father and gives rest to our weary souls. She will teach you to tap into your creativity. Reconnect with God using your tactile creativity. Warning! This book may become dog-eared and stained. Draw in it. Experiment with your creative passions. Learn the healing power of play. Allow God’s power to flow through creativity. Soul Care for Writers will become your heart treasure.

(Photos courtesy of Miles and Edie Melson.)


The writer’s life isn’t an easy one. Learn from @EdieMelson some important writing and blogging hacks that every successful writer needs to know. (Click to tweet.)

Monday, August 5, 2019

You Might Be a Writer If …

By Yolanda Smith

You Might Be a Writer If …
  • You’re an introvert.
  • You feel a compulsion to write every single day.
  • You drink more than five cups of coffee per day.
  • You listen to epic movie soundtracks while you write.
  • You are a prolific outliner.
  • Your favorite books are On Writing by Stephen King, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
  • Your office attire is your favorite set of pajamas.
  • You wrote your first story in fourth grade.
  • Your favorite social activities are critique meetings and writers’ conferences.
  • You nerd out on grammar studies.
  • You sort your M&M’s and Skittles by color.
  • You wash your light and dark laundry together.
  • You only shower every third Tuesday of the month.

Are you a writer, or aren’t you? Do you give weight to lists like this, or do they drive you crazy?

Perhaps you saw yourself in the beginning of the list and got excited. “Yes, I must be a writer,” you said. But I’m sure I lost you somewhere in the middle. If not the middle, then you definitely stopped nodding your head by the end … I hope.

A Sense of Belonging
Folks who compile lists like this have one goal in mind: to lend a sense of belonging and connection. Those of us who read these lists hope to catch a glimpse of ourselves among the identifying traits. Then we feel justified in pulling up a log and seating ourselves by the fires of our kindred tribe. If we agree with fifty or sixty percent of them, it brings a sense of validation or secures us a spot in the camp. We get to buy the t-shirt.

But what if the reverse is true? What if you read a writerly list and the waters are murky? You don’t see a clear reflection staring back at you. Does that mean you’re not a true writer? That you don’t belong?

What if you are an extrovert who writes novels while wearing a tiara and standing on one leg? Sounds a little weird, but owning a weird card might still get you a pass through the door of Ye Olde Scribes Club. What if you don’t write for three weeks, then spend a long weekend binge-writing a Bible study? Maybe you consume seven glasses of milk and a bowl of pretzels with mustard during your writing sessions. How much can you veer off the trodden path before you no longer belong?

When I first became a writer and stumbled across “You might be a writer if” list, I was hopeful I’d find myself among the rank and file. Instead, I felt doubtful, guilty, and excluded. I only met some of the criteria. Perhaps I don't have it in me after all, I told myself. I’m an extrovert. I don’t listen to music when I write. I shower on the third Tuesday AND Thursday of every month.
Okay, I also shower all the other days of the month.

We are Writers Because We Write
We face enough doubt without “helpful” lists heaping extra upon our shoulders. We are writers because we write. That is our solitary, unifying thread.

One of my mentors and I discussed the topic of writership recently, and she asked (and I’m paraphrasing), “When is an artist an artist? Is it when they sell a painting? Must their art be critically acclaimed? Or are they an artist because they create art?”

We live in an individualistic society where unique traits are celebrated. In the writing world, it’s our individual strengths, personalities, styles, and quirks that make our writing sing. And those strengths and style variations, and even our weaknesses, stem from an individualistic approach to what makes each of us tick.

Christ secured our place by the fire. Whether we write because He called us, or we plunk down our words as a fun hobby, we are writers. It doesn’t matter if we possess buckets of talent or grow in our craft by sheer determination. Panster or plotter, binge-writer or daily discipline—give weight to your own voice and do what works for you. Writing is the one true thing that makes us writers. It is enough. Pull up a log.

(Photos courtesy of Miles/artur84.)


Monday, July 29, 2019

Pay It Forward

By Andrea Merrell

It’s not what you do but who you know.

We hear that a lot, especially in the writing world. Sometimes this can be true but not always. Besides the knowing, there is also some doing.

One way to prosper and be successful in your writing career is to pay it forward. You can do this in numerous ways:

  • Help a new writer learn the basics.
  • Encourage and pray for others in the industry.
  • Retweet others’ tweets.
  • Like, share, and comment on Facebook posts.
  • Write Amazon reviews for books you’ve read. Best gift ever!
  • Invite others to write a guest post for your blog.
  • Attend local book signings.
  • Share your expertise (editing, critiquing, graphic design, making memes, marketing, and social media).
  • Invest in a new writer or someone who doesn’t have the funds by helping them attend a writers’ conference or local workshop.

Some may think this is counterintuitive—I don’t have time. It’s not my responsibility. It’s inconvenient. I need to concentrate on my own needs. Someone else will help them. This is what psychologists call “compassionate disengagement.” It is comprised of all the excuses we come up with not to help someone else.

As children of God who are called to write for Him, we should always operate by the law of sowing and reaping. It is both a natural law and a spiritual law. When we give of ourselves by sharing our expertise and tithing our time, along with our resources, we plant seeds that will produce a harvest in our own lives.

Over the years, I’ve had numerous people sow into my life, especially in my writing and editing career. These were people who were eager to see others move forward and willing to do whatever they could to make it happen. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35 NIV).

If others have helped you along the way, be thankful. Then make a decision to help others in whatever way you can. Pay it forward. You'll be glad you did.

Can you think of other ways we can sow into someone else? How have people helped you? How have you helped others? We would love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)


Monday, July 22, 2019

Know Why You're Writing

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

There are many reasons writers author books. Some are superficial, while others dig deep into our purpose in life.

What is your true WHY behind your desire or call to write? Let's do some exploring to find out.

WHO are you writing for? 

This defines your audience. Once you know who your audience is, you can write for your audience. Keep in mind that you are not your audience. Others are. It helps to define one specific person you are writing to for each individual project (like a book or devotion or article) and for your mass projects (like a blog). Maybe your audience is just one person, perhaps a family member.

Ask yourself a few questions:

Do you want to reach believers or those who have fallen away from their faith? Or does your audience have no idea who the Lord is?
Are they young or old?
Are they married or single? Have kids or not?
What is their career? Are they still in high school? Or younger?
What are their hobbies?

Consider how we develop characters, and do this for your avatar audience.

The first person we, as Christian writers, should be focused on writing for is the Lord. Everything we do should aim to please Him.

Does this mean we don't write about the harsh things in life? No. Every story has conflict. His Word is filled with harlots, murderers, and other topics we try to be soft about. And there are many lessons we can learn about God's love by how he presents these people in His Word. Keep that in mind when you're writing. Find freedom in writing raw and real.

WHAT are you writing?

What you are writing may be influencing why you are are writing.

If you're writing memoir, you probably have a story to tell. Is the story for yourself? Your family? Or the world?

If you're writing novels, what genre are you writing? Romance? Suspense? Thriller? Contemporary? What age are you writing for? Young adults? New adults (college-aged)? Adults?

If you're writing devotions, what topics are you covering?

If you're blogging, what's your theme?

It's one thing to have a desire or sense a call to write. It's another thing to know WHY.  {Click to Tweet}

There are several reasons we write. Let's start with the surface reasons:

- We need to work from home, so we write to make money. We pay household bills and put food on the table.
- Some of us need a secondary income or we supplement our spouse's income. So we plug away and pound out articles during our evenings so we can help pay for the new car or take our family on a vacation. We write for the "extras."
- We want to write a bestseller or award-winners. This gives us a sense of accomplishment.
- We want to see our books become movies. We write to entertain.
- We want to see new places in the world, so we travel to new places in the name of research for our books.

There are more reasons like these, I'm sure. But these are all surface reasons for writing.

What is your deep-down desire for writing?

What is your WHY?

For me, it's an opportunity to be creative with my Creator. It's another way for me to spend time with the Lord. It's a desire to share His truth with the world by presenting the nitty gritty of life in a clean way that teens will enjoy.

My daughter is a young adult reader. She loves all young adult novels, but she doesn't like when an author takes a great adventure and then adds sex to it. She doesn't need or want to read about sex at 16. There are ways to imply something or to note that something has happened in the life of our characters without getting detailed about it. My daughter is not only my who and what for my novel writing; she is my why.

I also love reading. I love reading romantic suspense. I also love reading young adult novels. I want to write what I read. I want to write what I know. I want to write what I love.

The blog I'm releasing in August is another story. My audience there is a group of mothers. Mothers of all types. New moms. Great-grandmothers. Step-mothers. Foster and adoptive mothers. Mothers of normal kids. (Is there such a thing?) Mothers of chronic kids. Spiritual mothers. Moms of all ages and races and experiences.

Why such a large, non-niched audience? Because God has blessed me with a gift of encouragement, and there's no one I can think of who needs more encouragement than mothers.

We lay down our lives to serve our families and the Lord, and there's rarely any payback other than the joy of doing so. The occasional thank you. But many feel as if their hard work is unseen and unappreciated. There's an imbalance. And I want them to know that someone sees them. Someone knows them. Understands them.

But that's not my only reason for that blog. I also want to build a community of women and resources. Someplace central that moms can come to access information they may not otherwise have access to.

Plus, I know from my own experiences that what works for one family may not work for another. But it may help someone else like me. I love reading posts and resources other moms write and recommend. I'm always looking for something that will work for my family and our situations. I'm sure other moms are too. So I want to share experiences in our community.

Again, I pose the question: WHY are you writing? Keeping your WHY in front of you will encourage you to keep going to the keyboard even when you feel blank.

I recommend making yourself a vision board. Put something in front of you that describes your why, so that you can refer to it every time you are discouraged or drained or want to quit. Find things that describe your why (pictures, words, logos) and put them on a corkboard on your office wall or glue them to posterboard and hang that. You could create an art journal to flip through or add them to your planner and set goals to meet them.

If you're brave and want to share, we'd love to hear your WHYs in the comments below!

Monday, July 15, 2019

An Author's Reading Life

By Yolanda Smith

Mallory has ambitions of being a world-class violinist someday. She keeps her instrument finely tuned and follows a rigorous practice schedule. Although she covets a chair in the renowned philharmonic, Mallory never attends orchestral concerts.


Andre spends hours in front of a canvas in his private studio. He paints from morning 'til night and believes, if he is diligent, he will be a featured gallery artist in the future. But Andre has never stepped foot inside an art gallery.


Edgar wants to be a master chef.  His loyal wife assures him he makes the best bologna sandwiches she’s ever eaten. But wifey-poo would like to ditch the bologna on occasion and spend an evening of fine dining at the local five-star restaurant. Edgar is too busy whipping up his personal creations to step foot in anybody else’s eatery and taste something other than his own dishes.


Carrie wants to be a bestselling author. Day after day she taps a thousand words on her keyboard, the story finding its way from her head to the magical screen. Carrie doesn’t have time to read books. She never reads classics, nor does she consume titles off the current bestseller list. Audio books aren’t an option because she’s too busy listening to other things.


Mallory, Andre, and Edgar are figments of my imagination. But Carrie? I know her. Sometimes she’s young, now and then she’s old, and often she’s middle-aged. She writes memoirs, poetry, middle grade fiction, Bible studies, and romance novels. Carrie also goes by many other names.

I ran into Carrie recently and asked, “So, what have you been reading lately?”

Eyes downcast, she offered a shrug of shame. “I know I should do better, but …”

Not a Judgement, but a Plea

Have you met Carrie? Does she stare back at you from the mirror while you brush your teeth?

When I became a writer, I assumed all writers loved books at a high level. I assumed they recognized the life-changing power of story, thereby gulping down as many tales as they could swallow. But Carrie never ceases to shock me, and she shows up everywhere.

Carrie is busy, and she has a list of excuses—all valid, mind you. I hope she doesn’t feel I’m judging her for not reading, or not reading enough. But I’m begging her to change her ways.

Here’s the thing. Carrie can’t expect to be a bestselling author if she doesn’t know what a bestseller looks like. She’ll never develop an ear for the cadence of literary language, tease apart the particulars of her genre, nor feel the evocative power of written words unless she consumes the work of the masters.

Finding Time

For some of us, reading is as natural as eating, and we would shrivel up and die if we didn’t feast on a steady diet of literature. But for other folks, reading is an extra item on the to-do list, only to find space once everything else is crossed off.

How do we make more time to read? Here’s a short list of options for finding ways to consume more books:

  • Skip television. Don’t hate me. Can you scrub a half-hour program from your TV time in favor of higher learning? Could you—gasp—forfeit a whole hour? An average novel takes somewhere in the neighborhood of nine hours to read.
  • Listen to audio books. I get in listening time when I’m driving, cooking, folding laundry, or getting ready for the day.
  • Keep a book on your smartphone or tablet. Read a few paragraphs during those odd cracks of time when there’s nothing else to do but mindlessly scroll the internet.
  • Read aloud to your kids, grandkids, nieces, or nephews. I’ve been doing this for the last twenty years, and there were many years this was the only kind of reading I had time for. Don’t discount the power of picture books and children’s novels. Some of the best stories in the world come from picture books.
  • Find a reading partner, join a book club, or become a member of an online literary community. Reading is more fun when you can discuss it with someone, and you’ll find strength of motivation from this activity.

What to Read

Read books in your genre. Analyze the books that make all the lists and win the awards. Read books outside your genre. You never know when something will ignite a new idea you can incorporate into your own writing.

Read books that are heartwarming and endearing, or lighthearted and fun. Find titles that make you angry or cause you to examine your opinions. Grab books that are too hard for you and will stretch you. Revisit old favorites. Read a classic once in a while (audiobooks are great for this), and definitely find room in your repertoire for the latest releases.

Already a Reader

If you are already a reader, consider ways you might encourage the nonreaders in your life. You’d be surprised what you might be able to accomplish.

After five years of marriage, my husband finally caught on that one of the primary ways he, a nonreader, can connect with me, a book vulture, is by reading. Physical books put him to sleep, but he spends hours on the road each day and discovered he enjoys audiobooks. He’s read more books in the last year than he has in the last decade. We’ve had great fun chatting about all the bookish things.


There will be seasons when reading is more of an option or less of a possibility. Take regular time to reevaluate your reading life and see where changes can be made.

What would you like to be different about your reading life? Do you have suggestions for incorporating more books into a busy schedule?

(Photos courtesy of


Monday, July 8, 2019

It's All About the Hashtags

By Marcie Bridges

I hear it all the time: “I’m a writer … not a marketer.”

Many authors assume that once they have achieved the coveted contract with a publisher, the marketing aspect of their book is strictly in the hands of the publisher.

I hate to break it to you, dear authors, but the majority of promotion for your book is on your shoulders. Publishers cannot get as personal with your readers as you can. Publishers cannot go to a library and read a chapter from your book and converse with the public for you. Publishers cannot go to bookstores and do your book signing. No, these special occasions are just for you.

Which brings us to social media. The idea of social media is just what it implies. It is meant to be “social.”

Your publisher can put your book out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but they cannot build the kind of relationship with your followers you can.

Now, you don’t want to inundate your followers or friends by asking them all the time to buy your products, but you can use social media as a tool to get the word out about your book or books.

The best way to build your following is to apply hashtags. A hashtag, which is the number symbol (#), goes before keywords in each social media status you share. Hashtags create a group for followers to join and interact with.

If you are a fiction writer, you most definitely should always be using the hashtag #fiction or #fictionwriter. The same goes with #non-fiction.

You can also get extremely specific in your hashtags. If you write romance novels, by all means add that to your status. For example, Land of My Dreams by Norma Gail would contain #fiction #romance #Christianromance.  Or you might have The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife by Nan Jones as #pastorswives #inspiration #ministryhelp.  Do you have a book on parenting you want to advertise on Instagram? For Praying for the Prodigal by Andrea Merrell you would use #prayer #prodigal #children #encouragement #parents. And that’s just for starters.

There are all kinds of hashtags you can use. Use your imagination, especially on Instagram. With Instagram you can have up to 30 hashtags with your post. But be careful with Facebook and Twitter where they only encourage up to 3 hashtags for each post. 

A great way to build your hashtag list is to make a spreadsheet with a list of hashtags for each of your social media accounts. It will take some time, but in the end, it will be worth the effort. At one time, I built a list for our LPC authors and had four pages each for fiction and non-fiction categories.

So, now it’s your turn. What hashtags will you use for your 
book? We'd love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of, David Castillo Dominici, and Chris Sharp.)


Marcie Bridges is a lover of God, people, poetry, and chocolate. She is a freelance editor as well as the Author Care Representative of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). Marcie’s deepest passion is sharing her faith through poetry. She is the author of Broken and Spilled Out: An Offering of Poetry and Prayers for the Hurting Soul. She lives in Western N.C. with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. You can contact Marcie through her website: or at


Check out Marcie's book, Broken and Spilled Out.

Are you feeling broken? Needing a place to find rest for your weary, worn-out soul? Broken and Spilled Out: An Offering of Poetry and Prayers for the Hurting Soul is a collection of poems Marcie has written chronicling her journey from places of brokenness to healing. You will also find places to rest and pour out your own prayerful thoughts within the pages of this heart-stirring book.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Writer, Don't Lose Heart

By Andrea Merrell

As we’ve talked about before, writing is a process, not an event. It’s a journey that can begin very slowly and seem uphill all the way.

Just like everything else in life, there are always obstacles to overcome. At times we have to “fight” in order to possess the territory—the dream God has placed in our heart.

But sometimes it’s hard to believe in our heart (as the Word says) when we don’t see our dream manifest as quickly as we’d like it to. That’s when we have to exercise our faith.

Pastor and author Bob Gass says:

Just because something’s not immediately evident doesn’t mean it won’t happen. For example, when we ask God for an oak tree, He gives us an acorn. At this point we may think God didn’t hear and answer our prayer. No, the oak tree is in the acorn; it’s just a matter of time before what’s inside bursts out. Whatever God has promised you, the seeds are already within you. Water them, nurture them, and don’t let anyone uproot them through unbelief. In other words, begin thanking God for what He’s going to do in your life.

The hardest part is in the waiting. That’s when the Enemy whispers defeat in our ears and tries to convince us to give up. But God is always at work in and around us, even when we don’t see the evidence. Read these words from Chris Tiegreen and take them to heart:

There can be a painfully long gap between a promise from God and its fulfillment. In that gap, we can become thoroughly frustrated at how long it’s taking to happen or how many detours we’ve had to take. The place between promise and payoff is hard one. And it can distort our perception of life, God, and ourselves.

This is normal for God. The hard place of waiting is also the fruitful place of faith. This is where faith gets stretched and strengthened, and we can’t get to any land of promise without it. We have to know that even when we don’t see God working, he is—behind the scenes, between the lines, beyond the horizon. He may give us glimpses to keep us going, but for the most part, we have to wait with nothing but trust.

Don’t give up the wait. God watches over his words to fulfill them. He hasn’t forgotten you, changed his mind, or stripped it from you. His words are like seeds planted in the ground. Eventually, they show. And the harvest is wonderful.

God is a man of His Word. What He promises, He will do. Jeremiah confirmed it in Jeremiah 1:12: The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled" (NIV).

The Message puts it this way: God’s message came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I said, “A walking stick—that’s all.” And God said, “Good eyes! I’m sticking with you. I’ll make every word I give you come true.

If you’re in the hard place of waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled, know that He hasn’t forgotten or forsaken you. He is working all things together for your good, and His timing is always perfect. So, don’t lose heart. He will come through just in time.

(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)


Monday, June 17, 2019

Research and Rabbit Holes

By Yolanda Smith

Inspiration is running hot. Words are coming to you faster than you can capture them on the keyboard. Your main character, having heard an intruder in the kitchen, digs through the closet for her handgun. But it’s important to use specifics. What kind of gun does she have?

Google to the rescue. A quick search for “women and handguns” reveals women are choosing Glocks these days, dispelling myths that females need a smaller caliber, or prefer revolvers, or any number of other stereotypes. Wait. There are myths about women and guns? What’s that all about? You’ve got to know more.

You type “myths about women and guns” in the search bar, and your first thought is, “Holy mackerel, there are myths on both sides of the gun control issue.” And then you wonder how “holy mackerel” popped into your head, since it’s not a term you’re fond of using. Where did that phrase even originate?

The internet provides answers yet again. You learn it was probably a substitution for an unacceptable expletive, thereby making it less offensive. The website makes a comparison to the phrase jumping Jehosophat. Wait a minute. He’s a character in the Bible, right? And you thought his name was spelled differently. Wikipedia reveals his name as Jehoshaphat (yay, you were right) and says the phrase “Jumpin’ Geehosofat” is first recorded in the 1865-1866 novel The Headless Horseman by Thomas Mayne Reid.[1]

But you thought Washington Irving wrote that story. Another search reveals Irving’s work is a short story and bears the title The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. You envision the cartoon version you watched as a kid and get the willies. Will nightmares plague you tonight?

Your eyes drift back to the computer screen—and—UGH!!! WHAT HAPPENED?

Dear friend, you fell down the rabbit hole.

For half an hour.

 It’s time for lunch, and your red-hot inspiration has burned to a pile of powdery ashes.
Please tell me I’m not the only writer who has experienced this. When I began the rough draft of my novel, I’d already conducted a ton of research. It never dawned on me that in the throes of scene-writing I would need further research on less-significant items. I fell down rabbit holes more than a few times before I realized something had to change. Otherwise, I’d never get my book written.

I devised a solution. Then I found out other, wiser writers employed similar methods. I only wish someone had told me about it before I got bruised, dirty, and lost. But now I’m telling you, in case you’re one of the three people in the world that didn’t already know.

These days, when I come to a spot of writing that needs research, I give myself a bracketed placeholder. Here are a couple of examples:

The flames licked the south side of the barn. Celia screamed for help before she grabbed the [bracket—what materials were buckets made of in the 1830s?] bucket and ran for the river.

The smell of fall was in the air, and the [bracket—ask hubby which trees change colors first] trees were showing the first hint of orange [bracket—or red or yellow] across the hills.

Why do I write the word bracket when I’ve placed actual brackets around the things I need to explore?  Later, when I follow up at the end of the scene, chapter, or even the entire manuscript, I use the Find function in Word, type in the word bracket, and my placeholders all show up at once. I’m able to address them when I’m in research mode, rather than losing momentum during a creative streak.

Research isn’t the only writing hole we tumble down, but it can be a big one. What other things tend to get you off track? What practical solutions would you offer for staying on task?

[1] Wikipedia contributors. "Jehoshaphat." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 Jun. 2019. Web. 14 Jun. 2019.

(Photos courtesy of, Stuart Miles, and Sira Anamwong.)