Friday, January 24, 2014

Shiny New Projects

How many books have you written? (and by written, I mean finished.)
I’ve written three. And one thing keeps surprising me. How hard it is to start the next thing.
When you’re waiting for some  form of rejection/acceptance - be it from an agent or publisher or some other interested party, the best advice (which I follow) is to get busy and work. Work is the only thing that will ever get you closer to whatever your goal is (unless your goal is to give up. in that case, don’t do anything, you’re good.)

But getting back on the horse is HARD. and even though I blogged about the last time I did this here, I was still a little blindsided by how hard it is.

Finding your next WIP. 
What will you work on? There’s no shortage of ideas in your head, your mind is a beehive and the honey is flowing, but which idea is really worth it? And how do you know? While my book was with beta readers in December, I started to outline (see here for more about my religious conversion from Pantser to Plotter) a story I’ve had in my head for a long time. I’ve been thinking and talking about this book for years. I even have a pretty solid idea of what happens. Plus, it involves stand up comedy, a mermaid and a girl who may or may not be hallucinating. Even to me it sounds like it’s right up my alley. My outline made it on to my whiteboard and I got books out of the library and started researching and talking to my husband.

Maybe that’s where it all went horribly wrong for the book I call JOKE. I told my husband I had three stories in my head and didn’t know which one to go with. One was called JOKE, the other was called VOX and the third was literally only a title. Guess which one he thought had the most promise? Yeah, the title.

I basically thought he was insane. and anyway, it’s not like he reads a lot of YA/Children’s books. Mostly he’s reading Stephen King, TITUS GROAN and Dennis Wheatley. I went back to work on JOKE. And I couldn’t get it off the ground. I mean, the sucker just didn’t have any lift. I knew the story arc; I had figured out a lot of plot logistics. I probably spent about two weeks with JOKE before I realized it was a dead parrot.

When something feels like a heavy lift - even if all the elements seem to be there for a great story - I believe there’s a reason for the drag. It’s not that the idea sucks, necessarily, or that I can’t write it. I think it means that this isn’t the time for THIS idea and I’m not ready to write it NOW. I trust those instincts. So, if something feels lifeless to you as a writer before you have written it, it will in all likelihood feel that way to your readers.

Loving your next WIP.
You settle on your next project. You do your research. You start to plot out your story arc (or you do what I did and take Ramona Defelice Long’s excellent online course on story arc - but warning, she will kick your story’s ass.) Or maybe you are a degenerate pantser (KIDDING!) and just plunge in with full heart, bright eyes. Great. But as you get deeper into the first draft, still in Act 1 but maybe two, three chapters in, you realize you are not singing the Ava Marias. You are not going, "Damn, I’m good." You are going yuck and god that’s so boring and MAKES NO SENSE. You know what happened there? You forgot to zip up your inner editor. It’s natural, especially after coming out of the revision period you spent (months in my case) shining up your last WIP. You’re still in edit mode and you must get out of that mode. It’s hard to do. It’s more than just saying to yourself “Self, now stop that editing nonsense and let the free flow of ideas come forth.” It’s not that easy. I have to constantly remind myself that the reason these words on this WIP are not as lovely and shiny as the words on my last WIP is not because this one is sub par, but because I spent SIX MONTHS with the other pretty. This one I’ve spent a week and a half on. Give the relationship some time, won’t you? Before you break up? It won’t feel comfortable and zingy - it can’t yet. You’re back in the basement building with Legos - foundation up. Give yourself time.

Don't Bring Your last MC to this book (unless your writing the next book in a series.)
Because I’ve written a couple of books before I am keenly aware (and concerned about) having my main characters sound like each other. It's so easy, after getting into the mind of your last MC, to just stay there, change the skin of the character (now she's a he and instead of a teenager, he's ten!) but unintentionally be writing the SAME CHARACTER. Ask yourself the questions about who your MC is before you start writing. Be aware if the new character and the old character are too similar. I find that doing a deep character write up of the MC before I start writing helps me get the voice of THAT character started, and helps me leave the voice of the LAST main character behind.

Clean the palate, start at zero. Your new WIP is a new world. Be ready.

How do you start a new project?


  1. This post speaks to me. I mean SERIOUSLY speaks to me. As you know I have been struggling to get above ground on my WIP. I have been diving between manic can't-write-fast-enough-for-brain periods and periods of complete hopelessness.
    The only thing that finally let me come out of it was that I finally outlined the damn thing. Then I was all like, "oh yeah. That's where I was going with all of that." And I've finally reached the point where I feel like I HAVE TO WRITE THIS because no one else is writing this book, and it needs to be written. We could call this approach the "pantsless until my ass starts to get cold" approach.
    But everything you wrote is exactly on target.


  2. Hi Alex, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris


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