Shit I Don’t Need to Know

NOTE: I published this one about a year ago, but came across it just now, reread, and decided I like it enough to republish. 

So you know when you’re cranking along on your story about the Druids in space, and you come to that part in the manuscript where there’s an epic space battle, and you suddenly realize you don’t know anything about astrophysics or physics or weaponry or astro-weaponry (if that’s a real thing)? That’s the point where you have to decide how much of this shit you need to know in order to get that epic space battle down on paper.

This is known in my household as The Rabbit Hole. (I suppose I could call it The Black Hole when I’m working on sci-fi, but whatever.) Now, if you’ve followed my blog(s) or my various feeds, you’ve probably figured out that I love to gets me some meaty research. To me, research is the fastest way out of writer’s block, it spawns amazing plot twists, it helps characters evolve into people. But The Rabbit Hole is a dangerous place for writers. You can get sucked into a research Funhouse of Facts that quickly leads you to darkness and despair when you realize there’s just so damned much you don’t know.

Well, stay focused on the reason you turned to research and employ a link app like Delicious.com. Do I need to know that changes in a pregnant mother’s environment can have a direct impact on the epigenome of her unborn child, as well as that child’s future child? If I’m working on The Apocalyptic Series (dark fantasy), probably not. But I’m sure gonna save that link for when I do need it! Click on that little Delicious icon and — boom! — it’s saved. Does it pertain to this manuscript, but not this immediate research need? Then Trello.com* is my destination. There I have my projects broken into cards (think of them like index cards) that cover different aspects of each novel (ex. Research, Marketing, Plot, Editing).

Now, what was I looking for? Right. I can get back on track.

But there’s another side of this issue. And that’s whether or not you really need to know as much as you think you do. This is the funhouse part. Where you’re so lost and confused and thinking you don’t know how far down The Rabbit Hole you’ve fallen and need to fall in order to start climbing back out. I’m gonna help you. Repeat after me:

I don’t need to know all of this shit.

That’s right. Give yourself permission to put a little note in the text that says, “Need some scientific shit here,” and keep writing. Will this cause problems later? Maybe. Maybe not. The thing is, you’ll get to a point in the manuscript where you know you need to go back and fill in that research blank because it’s going to inform what happens next, but when the story is cranking, don’t be stopped by the shit you don’t need to know (at that moment and/or ever).

I don’t need to know all of this shit. <– Advice to live by.

*More to come about Trello in a later post. Can’t recommend this app enough!

By Monica Enderle Pierce

I'm a Seattle author of fantasy and science fiction books that have been called lyrical, powerful, and sensual. I trust readers to fill the gaps with their own imaginations.

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