Writing Tip #7

Write TK for missing facts. I do it automatically. Without even thinking about it. Which is why I was stopped in my tracks when GalleyCat posted this tip this week (which referenced a similar post at Lifehacker). I realized two things:

1. Not everyone does this, although perhaps they use some variation like “xxx.”

2. My journalism background, which has served me well as a creative writer, got me into the habit.

When you are in the throes of a scene, fingers typing feverishly across your keyboard, don’t let some tiny detail — a fact, a name, a date — throw off your momentum. It is far easier, and more productive, to place a “TK” there and look it up later than take yourself out of your story and begin what could be the beginning of  a long Google search and an array of new browser windows. Plus, the fewer distractions, the better. Especially in my case where distractions (read: noisy, famished children) abound.

A little trivia about the origins of the “TK,” which I had forgotten: Using the combination “T” and “K” is designed to catch the eye, and since there are relatively few words that have “TK” in them, it would not be mistaken as a deliberate part of the text, making it easy for a journalist or copy editor to find a factual hole that needed to be filled — long before there were spellchecks — so that the story doesn’t go off and get published without the necessary info. Same goes for your manuscript: When you’re ready, whether it’s after a chapter, page or even paragraph is written (however long you can hold out), search for “TK” (yay, spellcheck!), and you will find your “holes” and can go back and fill them. And if you still worry those “TKs” might be accidentally overlooked, type “TKTKTKTK” rather than a single “TK,” which I’m apt to do, just to be sure.

To check out all of my writing tips, click here.


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