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I'm currently working on my seventh novel, and one of the most valuable lessons I've learned about the writing process is when to hit pause on a particular scene/sentence/description and move on. If you're a perfectionist or Type-A personality, that can be hard to do, but it's extremely important. Trust me!


When I was writing my first novel, if I wasn't sure where to take the story next, I would spend countless hours tweaking, editing, refining, and tinkering the words I already had written. Where did that get me? Nowhere! The problem with spending too much time on a particular area of the book is that you aren't moving the story forward, and if you don't move the story forward, you will never finish the book. I'm convinced this is why it takes some people ten years to complete the first draft of a novel. They work so hard making every sentence perfect that it takes forever to get to the finish line.


A good trick I've learned is to use the ALL CAPS function. My current manuscript is filled with notes in ALL CAPS such as:




It would be easy to spend days, if not weeks working on the above issues, but at the end of the day, they are details that aren't critical to the story. If I want to finish the novel, my focus has to be on progressing the story.


Once you finish the first draft, then it's time to go back and fix all the problem areas you've put in ALL CAPS along the way. That's where the fun begins, because you know you're in the home stretch!


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She is the award-winning author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind and Chocolate for Two, and Cassidy Lane. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at


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Jun 16, 2014 12:30 PM SDSullivan    says:

Great advice. Instead of using ALL CAPS, though, I use a  double-bracket to enclose comments to myself <<comment>>.  The difference is, at least on my system, CAPS aren't searchable, while brackets are.  And using a double bracket eliminates any chance of finding a single bracket that you're actually using on purpose in the text.  (No good reason to have a double bracket in a story that I can think of.)


So, if you suddenly have an idea for how to fix something that jammed you up previously, you can just search and go back to that spot easly.  :-)


FWIW, it's always good to have some unique character sets you can drop in for easy searching on drafts.   For instance, I have a nonsense word that I drop in for unimportant names -- or things I don't have time to look up -- so I can just keep cruising on the preliminary writing.  Nonsense words are also sure to show up during a spell check, so there's litlte chance of missing them on the final run through.


Keep forging ahead, writers!  That's the key to finishing a book -- or many books.

Jun 23, 2014 11:58 PM siencyn    says:

This is such good advice. Another useful feature, if you're using MS Word for example, is Comments under the Review tab.

You can use these to add notes in balloons in the margin.

A very powerful tool, easily searchable and no danger you'll leave something undesirable in the text itself.

Also very useful for collaborating on a text with another writer or editor.

Jun 27, 2014 12:06 PM BostonPeng    says:

I do something similar to this. I write in LibreOffice Writer and I just drop in a comment where I need to do more writing, research something I had just thought of, or for some reason know I need to go back to something later. I end up with a lot of comments in my document but I know that if there are any comments left in a story it's not ready to move to final polishing. I've actually caught something I had completely forgotten about that way. I was about to send a story to some friends to read and looked for comments. That would have been embarassing since these friends don't see my work until the first draft is finished.

Dec 9, 2017 3:49 AM Dolphin27    says:

Great advice. That can happen a lot to writers, and it can make them freak out. Until they learn how to handle it. After that? It still happens... Kind of like an Author getting writer's block at times. The thing is learning how to move past it. Keep doing something creative, and if you can't write. Take time to learn something new to get back to focus.

Dec 9, 2017 8:17 PM Dolphin27    says in response to SDSullivan:

I read one of your blog posts with many others, and I found them helpful. I can't remember where I seen marshmellow at? Where can I find app for this? Please reply. Thanks for all your suggestions and tips.