What the TK?! (Or How I Cured My Case of Writer’s Block)

Whenever I don’t know what to write, I write TK.

It’s an editor’s habit: TK, editorially, is used as a placeholder for missing information. When I write up cover copy to give to the book’s designer, I often don’t know what the Canadian price is. So I write TK. Sometimes I don’t have the ISBN number handy. I write TK.

If you are a published writer, chances are you’ve stumbled across TK when reviewing your work, pre-publication, and maybe wondered what it was.  The weird letter combo means quite literally the information is “to come”. The reason it means that, though, is much more mysterious. I’d always thought that TK is used because it’s a consonant combination that doesn’t appear in English. Therefore, it’s easy to scan for and find. That explanation makes sense in the age of computers, but its origins are much older than that—so is that really all it is?

A search through the Internet reveals a few different theories. One site claims that it’s an abbreviation for tokum, the intentional misspelling of “to come,” as in “more info to come.” Another source says that TK derives from the Latin Taceo Kal(endarium) or Tacite Kal—which the author translates to “Be silent first time.” It was supposedly used in ancient religious manuscripts. I don’t know Latin (unless you count carpe diem)—but that makes sense.

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Whatever the source or the reason, TK is as handy a writing tool as it is an editorial abbreviation. I used to be the kind of writer who would obsess over getting every sentence right before I could move on to the next. That produced such hellish writer’s block, I swore, I would NEVER have a career that involved a lot of writing. (HAHA!)

But then I discovered the TK trick. Can’t think of a character name? TK! Can’t figure out how that plot point should play out exactly—TK! Can’t think of how to end that sentence—TK! Of course, all that assumes that you actually go back and fill things in. But it turns out filling things in after the fact, is so SO much easier. And it made writing (for me) so much more fun. I had the freedom to just spout ideas, without worry about whether I was making any sense. It helped turn off my inner critic long enough to produce a workable draft. Just get the ideas down, no matter how stilted it comes out and leave the polish for later . . . A better draft is always TK!

One thought on “What the TK?! (Or How I Cured My Case of Writer’s Block)

  • I didn’t know “TK,” but I’ve been writing highlighted notes to myself in my WIP (first draft) instead of stopping for every detail. I’ve never before added notes IN my manuscript, but I’m finding it helps me push forward and get stuck less often.

    Great post, Nina! I like your blog! 🙂

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