General, writing


Picture this scenario: You’re writing. You’ve got a good flow going and the words are coming easily. You have uninterrupted time in which to get the story down and then suddenly you hit your third page and then–

You need a ____.

Writing grinds to a halt when you’re searching for names and words. Maybe it’s just a word you’ve forgotten for the moment. Maybe it’s a side character that you didn’t think would need a name, but it sounds more natural if he does have one. Maybe you finally realized you need a name for the town your characters are in. Whatever it is you need, you’re stuck until you find it, and that can kill your writing flow and eat up precious time when you’re writing.

There is a small trick that can be used to avoid those unpleasant moments when you don’t have the word you need. It’s called a placeholder. You can use it in place of the word you want so you’re not stuck searching for one.

When selecting a placeholder, make it a word you don’t use often. For places I liked to use UNNAMED (all caps) or PLACE. This makes it both easier to see and search for. Similarly, characters might be NAMELESS or PERSON. Word processors often have a ‘find and replace’ function, which allows you to effortlessly go back and turn UNNAMED into Townsville or wherever your characters are. Similarly, NAMELESS becomes Bob, Bill, Stew and PERSON easily turns into Carrie, Leanne, Rochelle or whoever else they need to be.

What are some of your placeholders?

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