Sometimes, I put something into a novel and it’s just a placeholder. I know something must go there and this seems a reasonable thing to put in, but it’s not the right thing to put in.

Recognizing a Placeholder

DB was commenting yesterday that she was surprised that I didn’t want the subplot of Dad being away on a military trip. I had put it in, so therefore, I must care about it.

I think that’s one of the keys to recognizing a Placeholder: it’s an element that you don’t really care about. Yes, something must go there and this is a reasonable thing to put there. But when I was pushed to develop the subplot, I didn’t want to. At first, I thought it was because it wasn’t important. But it was more than that. I wasn’t passionate about that subplot and had only put it in because it was convenient, it didn’t require lots of thought.

Replacing a Placeholder

My story is finally starting to work again because I’ve replaced the placeholder and instead, have found something closer to the heart of the novel, something I can be more passionate about.

The key here is to be open to change. Be willing to change anything and everything, except the heart of the story FOR YOU. Doesn’t matter what others think the heart of the story should be; it only matters what you think is the heart of the story. Stick to it. But be willing to change everything else.