I’ll just fix it in post 🎥 😬


“What’s this here?” my husband asks. He’s been editing one of my upcoming publications for me.

“What’s what where?”

“This asterisk next to a misspelling of ‘guard.’”

“Oh that. That’s a placeholder.”

“A…placeholder?”

“Yeah for a character that didn’t have a name yet. ‘Course Find/Replace doesn’t work if you misspell shit.” I sigh.

Guard/Guardian. One of those words I mistype like half the time.

But my use of placeholders is the much bigger story here (not my chronic misspelling of words. Can’t really help that one). And part of something you hear about all the time, Reader.

About people spending a whole writing session staring at a blank screen because they can’t think of what to write.

Or getting stalled partway through because the perfect word just isn’t coming to them.

They spend hour upon hour searching desperately for that one perfect word…

When instead they could have created hundreds upon hundreds of new words.

And formed new worlds out of nothing.

Magicked new people out of thin air who never existed before that moment, but now have wants and desires and tragic heart-wrenching loss.

It’s something I learned to do while writing my first novel Daemons in the Mist in the winter of 2010/11 and I want to share it with you.

So here are 3 pieces of advice from my 12+ years as a professional storyteller to pull you free from the Swamp of Sorrows and help you conquer that Blank Page Syndrome:

1) Write It Now. Edit It Better.

It is far better to get your ideas down and edit them better than to aim for perfection on the first go.

  • Write messy first drafts.
  • Write a scene as if you’re giving stage directions.
  • Use symbols or shorthand codes to denote “a word should be here but isn’t.
  • Do whatever it takes to get the ideas out of your head so you can move forward.

👉 Because you can’t do anything with a blank page but put something on it.

2) Townsperson B

My best advice for coming up with names for “scenery characters” in my stories is that I don’t. At least not in the first draft. (I call it my Raw Draft for a reason.)

You can lose steam quickly on a creative project if you waste it all on naming every mean girl and guard.

Instead, just give them a 1-3 word descriptor in [ ] and move on. Like this:

[Townsperson B]

You can always Find/Replace the placeholder name in the first round of edits.

(Yes I am 100% making a Haikyuu!! reference)

3) Give yourself permission to suck

9 times out of 10 creative blocks aren’t from a lack of ideas but from the fear of having to create something perfect right from the start.

So take a breath…and give yourself permission to suck. Remember, the only one who needs to see your rough draft is you.

If you remember the Scene Alchemy printable you got last fall this will be a nice refresher.

Bonus: 3 Core Elements of a Scene

Every story that ever was is just a collection of scenes stitched together. And each of those scenes is made up of these 3 Core Elements:

Legendary Character + Action = Outcome

The Valiant Knight + Rescues the dragon from the villagers = Is branded a traitor by the Crown

Keep this in mind and your scenes—and story—will never go awry.

Well, Reader, I hope this advice helps you pull free from the Swamp of Sorrows and conquer that Blank Page Syndrome.

Your cohort in storytelling,

Kat Vancil

🐱

PS 👉 If I were to offer a mini-course on starting a story would you be interested? Hit reply and let me know.

PSS 👉 If this Quest of the Week prompt sparks your creative catfish hit reply and let me know or Story me on The Gram 😸

Quest of the Week

Your Legendary Character (possibly a Valiant Knight) rescues a dragon from the villagers and is branded a traitor by the Crown. So what happens next?

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The Saga Quest

1179 West A Street, Suite 137, Hayward, CA 94541

I’m Kat! Professional Storyteller & Neurodivergent Creative

Here to help you vanquish those story construction obstacles, slay that imposter syndrome clawing at the back of your brain & stomp boredom flat with heart-pounding Boys Love fiction. Join the Saga and choose your inbox obsession, whether it’s helpful advice to get your writing unstuck or an episode of my weekly Boys Love Fantasy series to devour during your coffee break.

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