In the Writing 101 3-A lesson we covered research, and putting place holders where you knew you'd need further research. These are markers for information you need, such as research. For example, in The Violin Case I thought something was fishy about people staying awake with concussions when I never had to, so I left a place holder by highlighting all the relevant text in orange, denoting I should research it later.


After color-coding your conflict and hero myth steps and placeholders, your manuscript should resemble this


You should be reading this lesson as you're nearing finishing the first draft. Sometimes when you sit down to write you just don't want to, but you can still be productive by going back to your place holders. Now might be a good time to go back over these things as you near the end, and by near the end I mean you should be just 1-2 chapters away from finishing your first draft. Taking a break now is good, because ending a book and saying goodbye to the plot and characters is a might bit depressing as much as it is invigorating.

However, if you remember Writing 101 3-A I warned you not to do too much research while writing. If you did some in your plotting phase before writing, you know why. Google anything, go to the Wikipedia page, and kiss the next 3 hours of your life goodbye. You'll end up on the page for festivals of Greenland or celebrities who cite Jimi Hendrix as an influence before you know it.


This guy went to Wikipedia to do research halfway through his first draft. He died reading about ancient Greek chairs


Still, perhaps you need a break like that now. If so, let's get going!

You should remember how to do research, checking for veracity, cross-checking multiple sources, and navigating first-hand interviews with ease. But before you do that, go back and read the passage your place holder is in. With how the story has progressed since you inserted the placeholder, is the information still needed? Making that judgment is all you should be doing now, save the Wikipedia wandering for later.

You'll probably assume right now, yes, it is, but think on it. Perhaps you're writing a mystery and you thought Communism would make a great red herring, so you left a placeholder to research later relations with Stalin and the west. However, in your writing, perhaps the story took a turn where having such a red herring would be jarring. If so, toss it out.


Communism is ALWAYS a red herring! Only 80's kids will get this. Or anyone alive & sentient in 1985.  Or anyone who's see Clue on DVD or VHS.


Look carefully at every place holder. Is it necessary? Be very thorough, nothing is worse than spending 3 hours researching something you end up never using. Nothing makes a writer swear more when working alone, I promise you. Time is precious. 

All you need to do is look over your placeholders and toss out unnecessary ones. There's no shame saving research for until after you complete your first draft. You should analyze your placeholders before finishing the first draft. You may compete your research, though you it's best not to until after your first draft is complete. Ideally you should have only 1-3 placeholders in your story. If you have don't know enough about your subject to be writing about it. If you have none you're either a genius, a bad writer, an arrogant bastard, or one lucky son of a bitch.

It's a good time to take a break as you near the end of the writing phase, but remember to keep it to these placeholders! Next lesson we'll go over resisting the urge to make changes. If you get too bogged down in research and making changes while writing, you'll never finish the first draft. So be judicious in analyzing the need for the research denoted by your placeholders, but resist changing anything else right now.

If you make too many unnecessary in media res edits,  Conan will get you


Good luck, and happy birdwalking my fellow writers!