Also by this author: Pall in the Family, Be Careful What You Witch For, A Fright to the Death, An Unhappy Medium
Future Me vs. Past Me
Thank you for inviting me to Books That Hook!
When I first started writing, I read lots of articles and interviews about writers and their process. I thought I could figure out the secret to actually completing a novel if I studied the methods of people who had succeeded. Now, I am very fortunate to be part of a supportive and talented writing group. We like to discuss writer-y things like which POV is best, what just happened on Downton Abbey, and the writing process. It seems that all writers are fascinated by how other writers work. A couple of the members work on their word quota until each word is exactly the way they want it. They will stop writing to look up a detail or do a bit of research. Even if it takes hours to get those words down, they are happy that when they are done, that section is complete. No need for rewrites or do-overs. They are not outliners, just methodical “pantsters.”
I’m a list maker. An outliner. A planner, for sure. I write mysteries, which seem to beg for outlines, even though I have read many great mysteries by writers who claim to hate outlines. The idea of not knowing where I’m going with a story is just as crippling to me as outlining would be to a pantster. But I’m not going to delve into the outliner versus pantster debate. I’m going to discuss the use of a tiny editing note that has the power to either free up your writing, or make you crazy – or maybe both. And it will work for outliners or pantsters.
One would think that an outliner would never use the dreaded “TK.” It stands for “to come” or, more accurately, “I can’t deal with this now, I’m on a roll.” I didn’t realize TK was a thing other writers did until fairly recently. I called it “future me.” I would put brackets in the text with a note to myself – [what car does she drive?], [was U2 on tour in 1989?], [clue here]. I would then rely on future me to look up those details or suddenly be more creative than past me in coming up with a clever clue.
I know! It almost seems like cheating. It is cheating if you have strict rules about how your book gets written. But it’s very clever cheating. I found that I could get so distracted by a detail (or the lack of one) that it could derail an entire writing session. When the words are flowing, I don’t like to stop for any reason. Now, I don’t have to. I just leave questions in brackets and know that someone else will deal with it later. The problem is that at some point, I become the “someone else” who has to answer all those questions. Future me is not nearly as big a fan of this plan as past me was when I put those notes in the manuscript.
However, for the most part, it works. Words get written. The quiet hours of the day are not lost looking up small details. When I start editing, I scan through the pages I plan to work on and look up any details that are missing. I do some research if necessary. The most important thing it has added to my writing process is permission to not know everything when I sit down to write a scene. I don’t get bogged down in details, and sometimes the questions answer themselves as I write further into the story. Since the early days of devouring descriptions of other writer’s methods, I have learned that part of the writing journey is figuring out what works for you. But I still love to hear about how other writers work.
How about you? Have you ever tried TK?