from mermaid Susan Andrews:  SusanMermaid

There’s a problem I’ve experienced as a writer sometimes that just knocks me on my back.  Mind you, I can plot, draft, write and create.  I carve out time to write.  I’ve created a little space for my books and my papers.  I’ve learned to draft manuscripts on the train, to use my phone for making notes and jotting down ideas.  I have a nifty new keyboard for my iPad.  I’ve even discovered the charm of the Yonkers Will Public Library for its blissfully silent study tables.

But, every once in a while, right in the middle of things, I get stuck.  That one word, the one fact I was so sure I knew, escapes me.  It’s right there, ready to be typed and, at the same time, out of sight.

I’m frozen.  Stuck.  My dream of being A Productive Writer is smashed at my feet, at least for the moment.  And, frankly, I’m a little pissed.

However, I’m blessed to know (and be married to) a very clever writer, who makes his living writing.  And has met deadlines for nearly thirty years.  Who also has his moments of grasping for a word, a phrase, or an idea.

He tells me, “Susan, you need a bagel.”  Damn, that man has good ideas.  RaisinCinnBagel

Here’s the idea:  You type along, thinking good thoughts, getting into the groove of your writing, and suddenly you’re not sure what the next word is supposed to be.  Peter (aka Word God for this post) types “bagel” and continues writing.  Since his non-fiction work is science writing, and bagels have never figured in any of his published science articles, “bagel” is his preferred word for “silly me, not able to think of that just now.”  When he’s ready to revise, he also cleans up the “bagels” and gives himself the time to think of the proper word or phrase.

I’ve started using it myself in my work, and it’s marvelously freeing.  “Bagel” allows me to keep working.  It’s a funny, cute, small way to acknowledge that a draft isn’t intended to be perfect right out of the box.  I’m able to forgive myself for not knowing the word and move on.

Just this past week, I used it when I saw a hole in my plot.  “Bagel”, I typed.  “Insert sex scene here.”

Dang, that’s a lot of bagels.

Peter Andrews writes the How to Write Fast blog at www.howtowritefast.blogspot.com.  He has a hundred tips like this one for the WannaBeProductive writer and will be featured on April 29 in a Waterworld Mermaid Guy Day interview.


About Susan Jeffery

I am loving the challenge (sometimes) of re-entering the contemporary romance market after a lifetime of raising two fantastic children (it never ends, btw). Just when I thought I was done with kids, I accepted a position as librarian to 900 boys in a Bronx private school. I'm a vintage published author, Harlequin American #206 Fair Game (1987). Winner of the Golden Heart, 1986. Currently exploring the possibility of indie publishing under my new pseudonym (see fresh name, above).


  1. Susan,
    That’s an amazing idea! That’s awesome. I’m so stealing it.
    Of course, I have a feeling that when I do a search and replace, there’s gonna be a lot of bagels in my story. LOL.
    Great post. Can’t wait for Word God to dive into the lagoon.

  2. I have a chepter in one story where the hero brings bagels to share… hmmm, I wonder if “anchovy” would be a decent choice B for stumbling blocks there.

  3. As a foodie writer, I need a non-bagel bagel…but I love this idea! And one of my critique partners uses the “insert sex scene here” idea when she is working on plot. We always get a good giggle out of that 🙂

  4. Great tip, Susan. I’m looking forward to hearing more like these at the New England RWA Writers’ conference this coming Saturday from that clever man, Peter Andrews. Hope to see you both!

  5. Laura, Peter is flying solo on the Boston trip, but I hope you all rave and cheer for him! He’s got great slides and you know his lectures always wow us with his great insight on power writing.

  6. Kristan, XXX works for me – although I’m always afraid I’ll mis-type and put in XXXX or XX and have a mess to clean up.

  7. SUSAN Mermaid! I loved this! Hmm, I think my bagel word will be “monkeybars” Have no idea why but that word popped into my head as I was reading about everyone else’s bagels. Yay! I’m so excited The Fabulous Mr. Andrews will be here soon!!!!! He’s one smart cookie 😉

  8. Susan,
    Yeah, “bagel” wouldn’t work for me, either, as I’m working on a food-centric story… But I love the idea! And I love anchovies. Lol. Will have to try this next time I get stuck.

  9. Darlings, we SO need a “like” button in this lagoon! I luv your comments about monkeybars (which I never could master, btw) and anchovies. Let’s rock those bagels, mermaids!

  10. I said I was gonna steal this idea. Consider it stolen. I used it yesterday when I couldn’t remember the name of a drug. Imagine Pintip’s surprise when she read through one of my scenes and Bagel kept popping up. Anybody else would not have understood that, but mermaids do. 🙂
    Thanks for a great writing idea.

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