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EYNK Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft

This is based on a Stephen King article I talked about in “Everything You Need to Know.

King states that to be a successful writer, you should “never look at a reference book while doing a first draft.” He basically says to put away any and all reference materials and just write. His point here is that stopping to look something up kills the writing process. It breaks your train of thought, pulls you out of the moment, and steals the momentum of your writing. He gave a very wordy rendition of the “writers write” principle.

Again, keeping in mind King’s article/interview was from the late 1980s, he didn’t really go into the distractions of the Internet and all the wonderful-word killers like Facebook, Twitter, and Pintrest. Earlier this month, I posted about how to tell if you are a “real” writer and I shared tips I used to keep me writing a little every day. One of the things I do is keep a copy of A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves (I talked about this book in Writing Prompts too) on my desk within arm’s reach. If I need a writing prompt to get me started, I pull that book out, flip to the current date and do the prompt. Going on the Internet to search for a writing prompt is a mind boggling waste of writing time. It is distracting and so much worse than looking at a reference book.

Even as I type this post, I don’t have anything open except this screen. However, my Kindle is lying beside me and I can hear my Facebook notification ping at random intervals. Knowing Facebook, it’s probably a game request, but either way I’m in no real hurry to check. Still, that little noise pulls me out of my head and out of my writing.

As you write, give yourself permission to insert place holders until your writing session is over. You can fill in the blanks then. For example, I was working on a first draft of a novel. Out of nowhere, I wrote in a couple grandparents I really hadn’t planned to include so I had no names ready for them. I think I talked about this before, but if I name characters on the fly, they end up starting with an A. Always. Instead of stopping my writing process completely to find a name that didn’t begin with an A, I typed NEEDNAMEF for the grandmother and NEEDNAMEM for the grandfather. Whenever I get around to naming them, I’ll do a search and replace to change these. In another piece I was working on, I needed names for four different villages so they became Village Wwww, Village Xxxx, Village Yyyy, and Village Zzzz. I try to use something that isn’t a typical word to make the find/replace process easier.


About Marsha Blevins, Author

Marsha Blevins lives in West Virginia with her boyfriend and six fur-children. She earned her B.A. in English with a concentration on writing from Marshall University. Two of her short stories and several poems were published in the university’s literary magazine, Et Cetera. She is an active member of the writing group Wicked Wordsmiths of the West and WV Writers. Follow her at on Facebook at, on Twitter @marbleswords.

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