For the Love of Brackets

Sometimes you just don’t feel like finishing a particular scene at the moment, or maybe you need to get more research to finish that second paragraph of your essay. I come across these moments fairly often, often enough that I’ve developed a system which works for this particular type of writer’s block.

I present, the humble brackets. [ ]

I use brackets to make notes in both my creative and academic writing. When I’m stuck, I can stick a “[FINISH]” at the end of a paragraph to keep the structure without interrupting my momentum with what I feel inspired to write that day. Sometimes I’ll also use brackets at the end of a writing prompt, outlining what else I may want to do with this idea.

As an example, I recently left a bracket at the beginning of a scene that I felt lacked a good transition. I didn’t have a good idea for the transition at the time, so I put: [Lead into scene more smoothly]. This also helps when revision time comes around, I can scan the document easily, looking for rough patches I noted while writing.

Another way that I like to use both brackets and parentheses is when I’m dealing with naming. Unless a specific name comes to mind for a place or character, I like to put quite a bit of effort into choosing an appropriate name. When I’m just writing a snippet as a result of a writing prompt however, I don’t like to devote five minutes of precious writing time to tracking down the perfect name. Instead, I place a (1) or [1] in place of a character’s name. The numbering system works well for multiple characters in the scene, when I go back I can tell what each person is saying. And if you go back through these snippets to pull old ideas into a new story, having blank spots for names makes it easier to imagine your Work in Progress’ characters doing the action.

Do you have a method that helps you hold a place in your writing? Share in the comments!


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