My WIPs Get an Intervention

Confronting Your Works In Progress

As it often happens with me, once I start writing, the writing takes over. Because I began a new Urban Fantasy and got engrossed in the Work In Progress (WIP), Poetry came pounding on the door snarling “What about me? I got ideas too, you know.” So I’d scramble to write some poetry, locking my WIP characters in their room until done. Of course, they’d shout and try to distract me until I had a sit-down with both my writing types. 

“Look you guys, I need to get work done. I understand you both want to be finished first but we need some ground rules. Novel. You are long and complicated. I can’t spit out 10,000 words a day. So be happy when I eke out 2500. I have an arc to follow, so quit trying to distract me and sneak in a love story.”

“Poetry. I know you are so close to being a chapbook you can taste it. But you have to be the best you can be. That’s why I’m writing new poems to flesh you out and solidify your theme.” Poetry puffs its chest and sticks its tongue out at Novel. “Enough of that. You’re entirely different than Novel, so it really isn’t a competition. Novel is 7 times you, so Novel needs more words. Poetry, you take as much care, however, so don’t get your panties in a twist.”

The Juggling Act

“Here’s the deal. Poetry, you get the mornings. I’ll work on you until noon. Then you retire to your computer file and unwind. Poems are better after they rest awhile, and congeal.” Poetry grimaces. “Okay, congeal is a bad word choice. That’s why I have to go slowly with you. To choose the best words in the best order.” Poetry gives a smug smile.

“Novel, you get the afternoons and evenings.” Poetry opens its mouth to snark and I hold up a hand. “Longer. Deal with it. Novel, we don’t have time to rest. I have to get your first draft down before you sidetrack me from my mission.” Novel gives a guilty look. “Hey, I know you like some side characters better, but they need to stick to their lane. I promise when you are done, the second draft will have as much hands-on attention as Poetry.” Novel sits back and nods its head.

I raise my voice. “Essay! Stop lurking outside the door.” Essay slinks into the room with a sheepish grin. “I know you don’t get as much attention as your brethren, but you have an important function also. You help me deal with reality.” Poetry and Novel snort. “Essay, you get to discuss Poetry and Novel, so don’t take their shit. All of you are important in your own way. You will all get attention, I promise.”

A knock sounds on the door. “This is Non-Fiction, are you having a meeting? Let me in.” 

“Quick, hide,” I hiss as I slam my laptop lid then raise my voice. “Sorry, no super-secret WIP intervention here. You have the wrong author. Come back next year.”

Non-Fiction gives an evil chuckle. “Next year? See you next week.”

Other Posts on Writing

Killing Pesky Cliches

Taking Inspiration by Force

The Trouble With Being a Poet

Listening to Poetry vs. Reading Poetry – Part I

Listening to Poetry vs. Reading Poetry – Part II

Looking Down to Find Yourself

The Journal Jungle

It’s Drafty in Here

Advice Paralysis

Outside Links

How to Juggle Multiple Writing Projects

Juggling Multiple Writing Projects at Once

The Benefits of Multiple Writing Projects

Finished and Starting Again

I finished my Urban Fantasy novel a couple of months ago, and incorporated some beta reader comments, cut 8000 words, tweaked grammar. All the things you need to do to finish and finalize. Finished, finished, finished. Awesome, right? Now it sits as the query letter is being smoothed over. Comp titles are a bit flummoxing. I have some, then I reread the comp book, and I wonder if it is really as close to what my story is about as I think it is. All this second-guessing makes for writing frustration.

So I started another book.

I even outlined it first. In a couple of past posts, I yammered about outlining, and being a pantser, not a plotter, before I realized why yes, I actually do outline my work. I just wasn’t calling it an outline. I wrote 8 pages of ‘This happened, then this, then the character did this, and oh, yeah, this is how it all turned out.’ 8 pages of outline. Then I wrote some scenes that came to mind after reading the outline and taking a deep breath, I opened Scrivener.

Scrivener is a word processing program and outliner. I let it intimidate me before, writing chapters in Word then dropping them in the program. It’s got a bit of a learning curve. This time, I read tutorials and played around a bit. Then I started. I used the Index card part to plug my 8-page outline into digestible chunks. It forced me to sum up what was going on, chapter by chapter. The good thing about the cards is I can move them around. My brain while reading continuous pages of text insists that’s how it should be, linear, like a novel.

Virtual 3×5 Cards

Index cards with summaries helped me see the overall flow of the novel much more easily. I sized it to nine cards on a page, out of 34 chapters, so I could take things in at a glance. (So this was storyboarding? I could work with this.) I can rearrange index cards, but figuring out how to add a blank one took me a bit. Learning curve. I did like color coding each chapter so I know whose Point of View it’s in. I found out the bad guy needs more time on the page.

Each time I opened Scrivener, I wanted to flee back to Word, but I resisted the impulse. I do a lot of my writing in Google Docs and Word because they are familiar. How many times do we stick with the familiar instead of branching out? I promised myself I’d try writing chapters in Scrivener. I do like the ability to have nothing but a big, blank page showing on the screen. (For some reason, Word’s ribbon feature draws my eye. It has toys. My downfall.)The blank page has never intimidated me. I just jump in and worry about organization later. Pantser instincts never die.

Is my outline finished? Urm, no. Every time I read it, I tighten it up, add things in, and try to pinpoint conflict. Little by little, I become more comfortable with outlining, and it’s even helped me on the previous Urban Fantasy query letter. The only drawback I see to this is carrying all those characters from multiple books in my head. I guess as long as no fistfights break out, I’ll be able to finish one book and write the other. Writers out there, have you tried a new process? How did it go? What’s your outlining method?

Links to Past Posts on Writing:

This is Your Brain on Writing

Pulling Words Apart

Ignoring Writing Advice

Revising 101 (Housekeeping)

A Few Words on Revision

Link to Scrivener

Links to outlining methods:

Finding the Novel Outlining Process That Works for You

7 Ways to Write a Plot Outline

12 Great Ways to Outline a Novel

Reading, Writing, and Resolution

Now that we’re safely past the end of the year wrap-ups and new year resolution posts, I can move on without obsessing over either. Well, okay, just a little obsession. There were no end of year lists or greatest hits for me. I don’t have anything to recount. I listened to older music, read a hell of a lot of books in all genres—Kindle Unlimited is to thank for that, and emails that offer books in genres I like. There are plenty of free and cheap books that offer a quality read. Saves my money for buying even more books I covet.

I also picked up a lot of poetry books at end of year sales. Reading is stocked for the new year. The great thing about all the reading I do is I’m not tempted to look at the news. Much. Sometimes I get sucked in just to run screaming at the idiocy of it all. And bad journalism.

One thing reading a lot does is give you a keen sense of what good writing is, and what’s not working. It’s been valuable as I final edit my manuscripts, and not just from reading fantasy. All genres have something to offer for writing novels, even non-fiction. Poetry brain also latches on to a deft turn of phrase. I found interspersing poetry with novels helped me do more writing. Not sure why that is, but I find poetry rejuvenating in the crazy world that is COVID.

Step Outside

The hardest part has been reading things totally out of my comfort zone and gathering the gems from them. My instinct is to put up a wall. I don’t like horror, not interested in thrillers, mysteries do nothing for me. But still, I read them now and then. Unfortunately, it’s often to enforce the idea I still don’t like them. I keep thinking they’ve changed since I last read one. Or I have. Recommendations from friends tend to get me more interested in picking up a book I might have passed by due to my prejudices.

On to my New Year’s resolution that’s not a resolution. More an affirmation. Keep reading. Read everything. Suck it up, and then when I go to write, hope that all the good stuff stuck and is reflected in my work. I’ve made reading a habit, and it’s stuck. If you don’t feel like reading, don’t. Use the time to daydream instead. It’s valid also and helps your brain. For me, reading is my brain prewriting. So I read widely, and assume everything is valuable. Everything IS valuable, and even the smallest change can have deep consequences, if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that.

Links to some of my other Reading posts:


Reading, Writing, and Reviewing

Reading, an Opinionated Overview

Other Links to book reading:

How to Make Reading a Habit 

14 Ways to Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit

46 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2021

48 Fantasy & Sci-Fi Book Releases To Look Out For In 2021

Pulling Words Apart to Smash Writing Together

I’ve been largely silent for a while from having a whole lot of editing on my plate. 2 novels and a chapbook of mine, things from other people, working on Gyroscope Review and the Press. Good thing I like editing. As much fun writing a new novel is, I really get into the flow when I settle in to edit. Multiple passes with multiple purposes. Right now, I’m eradicating weasel words from my novels. You know, words like “that” and “just” and “be able”, baggage words adding little to your prose because they’re part of our everyday speech and sneaky as hell.

Editing the novels also helps me edit poetry. The same thing happens there, lazy, non-freight bearing words creep in and somehow duck, dodge, and evade the editor’s knife. I’ve resorted to spacing poem lines 3-4 spaces (or more) apart, so I can only see one line at a time. It helps me find the bumpy places. It also forces me to think about what form I want the poem to take when it has no form at the moment. And still, unneeded words evade me. It’s nice when my writer’s group sees the problems in my blank spots. Then I can go about fixing them. The recommendations aren’t always in line with my vision, but they provide excellent ideas for revision.

I have a habit of not letting my work out to beta readers until it’s mostly done. I know you are supposed to get novels out to beta readers sooner, in case of plot holes, but I want my work as tight as I can get it before flinging it into the world. Then, if a plot hole needs to be patched, the whole novel is fresh in my mind and I can (usually) backfill and spackle over fairly easily. I know this method will probably come back and bit me in the butt someday. Most things do.

Trying Something New

It’s why I’ve come around to doing better outlines. Previous outlines have consisted of paragraphs of “this happens, then this, then this” and 10,000 words of backstory to help me find my way. I like my method and it works for me, but I see where a bit more stringent outlining will speed things along. I have an outline for editing. A checklist of stuff to evaluate and correct. Like weasel words. I’ve made one for editing poetry also, trying to address my blind spots. It’s a good method to try.

I know a lot of writers who only tolerate the editing stage of writing. I like editing, I think it comes from being an artist. I love the process, I’m a process person, not a project person. (Which doesn’t bode well for novel endings. Alas.) Teach me something new, and I’ll happily spend time puzzling it out. That’s what editing is to me, a great, big puzzle, or the boss level of a video game. What is editing like for you? I’m curious about other people’s methods—poetry, essay, or novel. What gets your editing brain in gear? Any advice?

Some of my other essays on editing:

Revising 101 (Housekeeping)

A Few Words on Revision

Self-Inflicted Wounds – Revising Poetry, Part I

Telling Little Stories – Revising Poetry, Part II

Here are some outside links to articles on weasel words in writing

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

The Wright Practice

Outside Links to Editing:

25 Rules for Editing Poems

The 12-Point Checklist for Poetry Editing

The Ultimate Fiction Editing Checklist

Fiction University

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