Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Rachelle Gardner

Dear Rachelle, I have a question about fiction. I would like to use the name of a real university in my story, to make the story feel more realistic. There is nothing negative about the university in my story, and all of the characters are fiction. So, should I contact a representative at the university before engaging with a publisher? Thanks in advance.

Dear Distracted,

Congratulations on finding a most ingenious way to avoid writing your book! Here’s my advice:

1. Use the university’s real name. Don’t waste time contacting them.

2. Stop worrying about side issues and simply write your book. The name of the university is an unimportant consideration, and like most writers, you’re allowing yourself to get distracted by anything and everything besides the actual writing. Stop it! Get back to work!

The name you use is irrelevant and will have no bearing on whether your book is good, whether you’ll get an agent, or whether you’ll get a publishing deal. When you’ve accomplished all those things, your editor will be able to answer any questions about the names of your characters and places.

Most writers have moments when they find themselves obsessing about extraneous things. I constantly get emails from people wondering about rules of formatting or whether to capitalize “Mom.” Just notice you’re doing it and pull your focus back.

Do the work!

What are some ways you distract yourself from the task at hand?

36 Responses

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  1. Don’t need to distract myself, physical circumstance is doing it for me, and I want to go home. Enough’s enough.

    • Well, no. Enough ISN’T enough. I have my moments of weakness, but Andre Zirnheld got it exactly right:
      I’m asking You God, to give me what You have left.
      Give me those things which others never ask of You.
      I don’t ask You for rest, or tranquility.
      Not that of the spirit, the body, or the mind.
      I don’t ask You for wealth, or success, or even health.
      All those things are asked of You so much Lord,
      that you can’t have any left to give.
      Give me instead Lord what You have left.
      Give me what others don’t want.
      I want uncertainty and doubt.
      I want torment and battle.
      And I ask that You give them to me now and forever Lord,
      so I can be sure to always have them,
      because I won’t always have the strength to ask again.
      But give me also the courage, the energy,
      and the spirit to face them.
      I ask You these things Lord,
      because I can’t ask them of myself.

      • Keep fighting, Andrew. Our prayers are with you.

        Lord, You never run out of anything. You are infinite and able to do all things. Please, grant Andrew peace, relief from the pain, hope for today and tomorrow. Yes, give him courage, energy, and spirit to face the doubt, uncertainty, and even the torment of this terrible disease. For some reason this is the path he has been chosen to walk. Thank you for not abandoning him, even if at times it feels that way. Give him faith and strength so Your name may be glorified and he may hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We trust You and thank You for being with Andrew. It is in Jeaus’ Precious and Holy name we pray, Amen.

        Keep fighting, Andrew. You are allowed to be weak. May Christ shine brightly in those moments.

      • Angie Arndt says:

        I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but that’s a beautiful prayer. Praying for you, too.

      • Courage, energy and the spirit to face your challenges–God has granted those in abundance, Andrew. Beyond what any of us can ask or think.

      • What a powerful prayer. Don’t give up hope, Andrew.

      • Praying for you, Andrew!

      • Of course I’m praying for you, Andrew, as I always do.

      • Mary R. P. Schutter says:

        God obviously isn’t finished with you yet, Andrew. He needs you where you are and so do all of us here on the Books & Such blog. We who visit the blog will continue to pray for you, for relief from pain and illness for just a moment here and there, for peace, knowing that at journey’s end, you will kneel, well and whole, before our Savior. Until then, Andrew, you’ll have to carry your burden a little closer to heaven each day until you can lay it in the arms of Jesus and be burden free at last. We love you, Andrew.

      • Mary Kay Moody says:

        Enoug is enough, Andrew, but we don’t know the enth degree of our strength when melded with Christ’s, eh? Praying, brother, and hope you feel our prayers lifting you and your wife. I see an image of a weary warrior upright with his arms draped over the shoulders of two brothers, and two next to them, and two more next to them ~ and they are all barely visible because they are there in spirit. I don’t know how God Helps us through the prayers of others, but visuals help me.

    • Nicholas says:

      Keep fighting, keep the hope. We’ll keep praying!

  2. Nicholas says:

    Yeah! I so recognise that! Sometimes I can get so wound up thinking about it in my off writing moments, it spills into the writing time and destroys the flow.
    Mantra: ‘It’s the writing,stupid!’ 🙂

  3. Angie Arndt says:

    Pinterest, character photos, housework, obsessing over tiny plot points, and commenting on blogs. (Oops! Going back to work now!)

  4. There’s nothing like the uncertainty of comma placement, the worry of overuse of ellipses, and the memories of my grouchy grammar teacher barking to stop the flow of my creativity.

    “Take us the foxes, The little foxes, that spoil the vineyards; For our vineyards are in bloom.” (Song of Solomon 2:15)

  5. Linda Wilson says:

    Couldn’t help myself here – just had to laugh out loud. Tell it as it is,Rachelle…keep on telling it as it really is!

  6. I love your post, Rachelle. In the last couple of months, I started putting XXX when I got stuck on the ‘perfect’ word or if I needed to research more. I discovered it helps me stay on track.

  7. Great post, Rachelle. And I might be hanging my head, a little bit. Yes, I’ve been that distracted writer. Often what distracts me is making sure I have my facts accurate. I think of a story angle, or something one of the characters is going to face, or something regarding their occupations, and I have to research it. Right. That. Minute.
    *Two hours later . . .
    *I finally get back to to the story. I’m working on the distracted aspect of writing. Like Jackie, if I don’t have the perfect word, I put in XXX or *** to remind me to come back to it later.
    *Loved this post!

    • Carol Ashby says:

      Sometimes I put in the temporary word and change the font to red. Other times, I type “definition ‘word'” into the Bing search engine and find the synonym with exactly the right nuance. That can save time overall because I then know what other words can vary word choice while carrying the meaning I want.
      *Is that a distraction or a writing tool that increases both efficiency and quality?

      • that’s a great idea, Carol. I guess it depends on what stage of the process you’re in. When I fast-draft (my first draft), I don’t want to stop to find the perfect word. But, if I’m editing, I do want that perfect word. 🙂 SO . . . distraction or efficient? 😉

  8. A lot of great words get stuck behind the dam of an imperfect first sentence. Silly me, I keep tweaking the sentence while my better thoughts drift into oblivion.

  9. Katie Powner says:

    So is that a “yes” on the capitalization of Mom? Asking for a friend. 🙂

    • Carol Ashby says:

      Capitalize when it’s used like a proper name. No caps if it’s used as a simple noun, like in “his mom” and “the moms.” All caps when your character is using it as a proper name and rolling her eyes at the same time…MOM!!! (My daughter thought that usage deserved a few exclamations points as well.)

  10. Carol Ashby says:

    I find it too easy to get completely distracted from the day’s writing when I get a new book that I’ve bought for historical research. I need to do the research because it underpins both my novels and the history site that generates many of my international sales. Plus learning new things, especially unusual details, has always been something I find fun. But time spent in the new book is time not spent writing the next scene.

    Even though the distraction can burn up writing time, it can be a good thing. Historical fiction lovers are real sticklers for getting the details right. I might learn something that requires a change in what I’ve already written. I had to rewrite part of my 3rd novel when I learned something new about Roman marriage law that ran counter to what I’d written. On the bright side, that detail also spawned a major plot element for a later volume in the series.

  11. Ha ha, the other day I spent some of my writing time researching how many hurricanes are likely to have already occurred by mid July and what letter of the alphabet to use to name my hurricane and if that name had already been used. Also, does the yellow eyelash viper strike, drop the hummingbird, and then slither down to eat it? Or does the viper strike and then hold onto the hummingbird? They are fast enough to hunt hummingbirds, pretty amazing huh? But yeah, can be distracting.

  12. My biggest distraction is e-mail. Like this…Oh, Oh! I should stop replying and start writing. 😉

  13. Beth K Vogt says:

    I appreciate how you cut through all the, um, junk and focus on what matters. Doing the work.
    And, with that said, I’m getting back to work.

  14. Billie says:

    Love this Rachelle! Too many distractions lead to too few words.

  15. Patricia Iacuzzi says:

    “Stop worrying about side issues”… Thank you Rachelle, for the very important reminder.
    I always thought finishing a book in the fastest time possible was the way to go–and found the amount of work I’d scheduled (yeah–had the hrs./days/
    months worked out almost to the minute) just became overwhelming.
    I welcomed distractions, then decided to trade speed for consistency by cutting the amt. of work in half–and it worked.

    Learn to stay in the battle by taking one step at a time; and let the Lord deal with the speed.

    “I want torment and battle.”– Andrew, you’ve been in my prayers daily since I’ve come to this site. With the Lord by your side, you will always win the battle.

  16. Dear Andrew,.
    So glad I visited the blog today. I can understand how you feel to some degree, but I love being g God’s peace and order into places of pain and disorder I wish more people did these…It’s fun to learn odd things about friends. 😉😝
    1. Favorite smell? Flowers
    2. Last time you cried? Yesterday for joy.
    3. Favorite pizza? Papa Murphy’s steak and arugula on a delight thin crust.
    4. Favorite flower? Sorry, unable to choose just one
    5. Favorite animal? Dog
    6. Did you go to college? yes
    7. Untie your shoes when taking them off? Yes
    8. Roller coasters? No longer.
    9. Favorite ice cream? Peppermint Bob him or Rocky Road
    10.Shorts or jeans? Jeans
    11. Favorite color? Green
    12. What are you listening? History special
    13. Favorite tv show? None. I enjoy a variety. Don t watch sitcoms. Don t have anything other than the basic channels. Gotta love my You Tube channels. When able I love to watch House Hunters at my sister’s and vote on the house we think the people will buy.
    14. Tattoos? 0
    15. Hair color? Brown
    16. Eye Color? Blue green
    17. Favorite food to eat? A good steak
    18. Favorite holiday? Christmas
    21. Beer or wine? Water with I’ve and a wedge of lime or lemon and a small sprig of mint and a little ginger grated in. Fresh, clean tasting and healthy.
    22. Night owl or morning? Morning
    23. Favorite day of the week? Sunday
    24. Do you have a nickname? Yes, quite a few, but.mostlly Momma B
    25. Favorite season? Fall
    26. Favorite place to get away? Hiking trails here , but ultimately a tropical beach
    27. Missing someone? Yes, but they’re enjoying themselves in heaven. I’ll get there eventually.
    28. Dream vacation? Mediterranean Cruise with layovers that include Spain, Greece and Italy, and also to go all g Paul’s missionary journey ending up in a week stay in Israel.
    30. Regrets? Some
    31. Middle name? Jean
    33. Go back to secondary school? No
    34. Ocean or lake? Either is very nice
    35. Who do you think will do this? Marcela Bosma
    Come on… someone do this with me. Let’s take a break from negativity & learn about each other. because peep have been so overwhelmed. That is what I am currently doing for my sister who was in ICU and is really a
    miracle she is alive. She did transfer to a rehab facility…of sorts. I had gone back to my husband for Christmas but
    received panicky calls and texts from my sister within a day or two of being there. Long story short. I wouldn’t put anyone in
    there. Her husband from day two was already working on getting het home. She was transferred.home the day before
    my 60th birthday January 4th. I celebrated my birthday and got my husband’s blessing to stay with them indeterminate , going
    home, every 2 weeks over a weekend to see my husband, pay bills, check on my Momma B children, and whatever else. I
    can guarantee I am doing things no one really asks to do,I mean she can talk, read, eat on her own, but everything else I do,
    everyhing..the good, the bad, and the ugly. But we ask why is it we are willing to do the things others may not ask to do, no
    matter if It’s suffering the pain of a disease, or the pain of seeing the loved one suffer, or maybe it’s having to pray God keeps you
    from stretching after you’ve emptied and cleaned the commode for the umpteenth time. If you all knew the story of
    my sister’s family and my family and things that have transpired you would even wonder.more why I would do this . But, lifes
    challenges bring out the courage in us or the cowardice. Andrew, you are courageous and so many are praying for you and

    So as some of you who are familiar can see I am still here,
    but the first three days of 2018, I was set apart until my 60th birthday. Then it has been a rush to get here, and honestly I am so
    glad to be here but I am exhausted. I had to bring my little Shin Tzu, Peanut, because he really missed me last time I
    was gone, and he is a great therapy dog. sister.

    Just wanted to let you know an
    update on my sister, and that I didn’t stop off the planet.

    I’m very excited that on January
    20th I have been asked to speak for a brief time at my dear friend of eigjt years, Florence from Kenya.. and to be part of her
    worship team. We sing in English and Swahili. I don’t speak Swahili but they have taught me the songs if their people and how to dance to them.i have always supported Florence, and so I have become known to them as the white woman with the African heart. Course my Latino friends, say I have a Latino heart.

    Thanks for the post Rachelle. Needed message. Right now i have been somewjat derailed by care sistet, and doing the needed continuing exucation tjat needs to be done before the end of January so I can renew my registered nurses license.

    Blessings on you all. Sorry, in advance for any typos, I can barely see due to poor lightning in the guest room, and my.eyes are so tired.

    • Ok, good thing I already apologized, but I have no idea how that Facebook questionnaire I answered was copied and pasted into my comment…absolutely no idea. I’m going to bed. My brain is shot for the time being.

    • Betsy, I loved the FB questionnaire. Choking on every breath now and can’t stay to write more, but know that you mean the world to me

      • Thank you for even using your energy for your kind note. I’m keeping you and Barb in prayer and on my Battle Board which is my special prayer board I place and God every time I fast and pray which for years has been a weekly discipline. I have seen so much occur as a result that although some times it is more challenging than others, I have learned to cherish that time. I don’t play Andrew, when I war in the spirit I war. You know we won’t know until heaven why our paths take us some places and not others, why some suffer more than othets, BUT I know my Heavenly Father, I know my Beloved Jesus, and I know the Holy Spirit my constant Companion, and His ways are far different than ours, and some of the.most beautiful rewards in heaven are kept for those who learned to suffer well. In spite of unrelenting pain be it physical based or soul based (mind, will, and emotions). Don’t fight so. Is it the unknown, in part..mostly it is the inexperienced. Even though the Bible may tell us the glories of heaven, most of us have not experienced it. In part, I have from dreams and visions. All, I know is Jesus has promised to never leave or forsake you…never Andrew. Not even on the trip Home. Let the Shepherd gather you up in His arms and carry you. I will continue to pray for your beloved Barb and loyal canines. With great respect and compassion. One day I and my dear husband will meet you and your precious wife in the great libraries of our heavenly home. Who knows maybe Jesus will lift a book and look at you and say, ” Andrew, I know that nigjt you cried oit fir the thousandth time in pain, knowing your life had talen you down a road you had not asked for, and you had to drink from that cup of suffering, you wrote this. Do you know as you cried and wrote those very words were inscribed in this book of remembrance and my tears fell upon this very page.

        May you be dear brother, His eye is always upon you, and His ear always open to your cry.

  17. Patricia Iacuzzi says:

    I’m right behind you on that road Elizabeth, praying in the Spirit for you Andrew, that He imparts his strength and love. I am praising God as we go.

    Thank you, Books ‘n Such for allowing us to support one another on this site. Much success to you all….

  18. Karen Cioffi says:

    Well put, Rachelle. It’s much too easy to get distracted from writing. And, Andrew, you are in my prayers.