An Open Letter to My First Draft WIP

Dear WIP,

Why are you being so freaking disagreeable?

I know we haven’t known each other long, only about 40,000 words or so. And I know I haven’t spent as much time with you as you’d like, but I’ve made all the changes, deleted characters you didn’t care for, even changed ones I liked, but that you wanted to use otherwise. What more can I do?

Have I made some unforgivable mistake in these last few thousand words you can’t get past? Can’t we reconcile in the next act? Will we even survive long enough to make it to the revision process?

WIP, I am starting to wonder if I even loved you as much as I thought in the beginning, when you teased me with your sexy uniqueness and subtle overtones. While at first things were so easy between us, now we struggle to share the words we need to move forward. Truthfully, I’ve been avoiding you.

Look, I know we haven’t got everything figured out, and I know you never look as beautiful in the first draft stage. You know I never start to understand you until the second draft at least. While I don’t mean to sound catty, you know you’re not the only WIP out there for me, don’t you? Still, I think we have something worthwhile together. And I’ve focused everything on you right now because I believe you’re something truly special. You are, aren’t you? So can’t we work things out? Move past this mid-point slump and push for a climax?

Work with me, WIP. Please. Because we have a lot further to go.

Sincerely, Your Author


The Writing Process Blog Tour

Good morning! The Writing Process Blog Tour arrives here today. It’s my turn to try and explain the madness that is my process.

How does it work? I answer a few simple questions, then tag the next author who will likewise answer the questions when they next post their blog. I was tagged by fellow 2014 Golden Heart sister, Denny Bryce, who writes romantic suspense (among other things). You can find her over at: dennysbryce.com

1. What am I working on?

This is a fairly easy question, since I tend to work on only one thing at a time (mostly). I’m working on a contemporary paranormal romance, with the working title of “Safe Haven” (which may become “Saving Sanctuary … or lots of other things). I’m into the second draft, and pushing to have it done by July and the RWA National Conference (wish me luck!).

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I primarily write Regency paranormal romance, which already differentiates me from lots of other paranormal writers out there (though I’m far from the only author writing that rather specific sub-genre.) But, like this current book is proving to me, I like to write books with somewhat quirky characters, a good dose of humor and sarcasm, and while they might have magical powers, it’s their humanity they really need to deal with. My werewolves rarely moan about being werewolves or having super powers (I mean, come on, super powers!). That said, their power and therefore authority can become a heavy burden or lead them down paths, and that’s what I love digging into.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write paranormal because I think the world needs a bit more magic. And, I believe that by looking at extraordinary acts of magic and things that are unbelievable, we’re better able to accept and see the real magic in our lives. Like love, or trying to figure out how a three-year-old’s mind works.

4. How does your writing process work?

My process changes a bit every time I write a new book, just like I often switch things up with each new book after reading a new writing craft book, hearing a new idea, or just deciding to experiment. But I have come to understand  I am not a plotter, at least not someone with detailed charts tracking every scene and character, etc. I’m also highly impatient, and want to jump into the story instead of sit around plotting. Fortunately, I also write faster than I plot.

I like the term “Gardener” a la George R. R. Martin (for more, check out this article here) rather than pantser. This means I get a hot idea I have to work with, usually after playing with my favorite “toy,” “What If?”. Usually this comes complete with a first scene, sometimes more, sometimes less, and I’m off. I do try and hold back, to make sure I know at least the major plot points, but sometimes I’m lying to myself. Like in this current WIP, where I didn’t really know any of that, and boy was it a mess.

But therein is my new and improved method: I have a very clear method of rewriting, rewrites in four easy phases. Going from macro (major structural changes), all the way down to micro (the proofreading, etc) (Still curious? I have a post on my revision plan here.)That way, once I figured out what information I’d been missing with the novel, I go back, make chapter by chapter summaries, and literally cut it up with scissors (very cathartic if you’re frustrated with the thing). THEN I try and put it back together again, looking just at the structure, adding notes for scenes that are missing, what scenes might fit where with alteration … and which ones literally don’t make the cut.

Since I’ve been working with that method this time, my second draft is a far cry from the tangled knot-work of the first draft. And I’ll be going over it one more time to see if it needs structural work before I move on to layering, transitions, and more detail work.  And yes, this means I’ve come to love rewriting, even though nothing beats the thrill of diving headlong and blind into that first draft.

So what about you? Is your process more madness than method? Or are you one of those detailed plotters I can only admire?

Next up, I tag another fellow 2014 Golden Heart sister, (and another Shelly!): Shelly Alexander. Check out her process when she posts next week.

Shelly grew up traveling the world, earned a BBA in Marketing, and worked in a corporate job, before marriage lured her to New Mexico in the early 90s. She spent years helping to run the family business, had three sons in as many years, and finally launched her writing career after surviving invasive breast cancer.


Now Shelly spends her days tending to an overweight English bulldog named Lola while writing steamy contemporary romances that will keep you laughing.

Website:  http://shellyalexander.net/

Twitter: @ShellyCAlexander


Stumped … or not?

Today is the first day this year that I’ve tried to work on my current WIP. It hasn’t gone well. I’m not sure if this is just me, or if it means its time to abandon the project. I’m feeling rather philosophical about the whole thing since, after all, that makes it so much easier to philosophize instead of just write.

I am considering new directions. I feel overwhelmed by too much information looking through various craft books, writing books, etc. Because of course, they are written for the general “writer,” whoever the heck that is. And they try in earnest to be helpful – and perhaps they would be were I in a different frame of mind – but of course, it’s useless to look for answers only I have.

The book feels stalled. Perhaps because I have taken such a long break from it, leaving my imagination / subconscious still off on holiday. Perhaps it is because I really don’t like zombies, so writing a book about them was a bit of a foolish notion. Perhaps it is fear.

No, I think instead it’s the crushing nature of expectation and ambition. See, I’m a worrier. And if I start thinking about all the things I “should” and “ought” to be doing instead of just getting over myself and writing, I can darn near suffocate myself with invisible foes. Worrying about if I’m writing what is “marketable” or “saleable” is, to some extent, a fool’s venture, especially so early in the first draft. I don’t even have a story at all – how on earth could it ever be marketable? It’s like expecting a baby to do my taxes.

So, I have a new plan. Perhaps I will try and play more. Instead of just doing writing exercises and creating reams of new worlds that I don’t especially feel like getting more than a 1000 words into, why not go diving into my own WIP? After all, if I’m looking at the potential of abandoning and tossing the whole thing anyway, where’s the harm? Best case scenario: I end up with something that can be salvaged in future drafts and the book is completed. Worst case scenario: instead of lots of pieces of flash fiction laying all over the place (and cluttering up my file directory since I can’t bear to delete them – it’s like killing puppies!), I instead have further messed up an already messed up story, and the whole thing may RIP.

Yes, this is completely against my usual method. But seeing as the usual isn’t working, guess it’s time to play. 😉 Wish me luck. I’m off to mess around.

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re having a fantastic week.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Light at the End of the Tunnel: My Method of Revision (pt1)

I am not someone who usually like rewrites. To me, they always take SO much longer than writing the first draft did, and I’m left wondering if I even made it any better … which then leads to yet another new draft as I try to fix mistakes still left over from draft 1, and the ones from the new draft, and … well, you get the picture.

So it is rather an unusual experience for me to suddenly feel like rewrites are going well. Earlier this week, I looked up from the keyboard and suddenly realized I could see the whole WIP laid out before me how it was supposed to be, full knowledge of how I needed and would fix it, and how it would look in the end. It was beautiful and shocking as all heck, especially for this manuscript which has stubbornly did it’s own thing from the start. I thought I’d share what I did because a) maybe it will help you too, and b) maybe then I’ll remember the method when I come to my next rewrite and actually have things go well again (twice in a row … maybe not, but I’m a optimist today).

This week I’ll discuss the first 5 steps of my 10 step method (convenient it worked out that way, hmm?). Then, since it will take you most of the week to get those done, I’ll offer the final 5 next week.

So, my method:

  1. Leave the manuscript alone as long as you can after completing the first (or whatever number you’re on) draft. This will make it more possible to look at it with fresher eyes – instead of the intense / driven / slightly mad eyes you used to complete it.
  2. Read the manuscript through the first time and DO NOT make any changes or detailed notes. Instead, record impressions (ie: this chapter worked, something was weak here, confused here, bored, etc). Your impressions this time through will hopefully be closer to what your readers may find – and which shows you some of the weaknesses you can miss when you’re too immediately familiar with the work (ie: you finished writing it yesterday).
  3. Create a chapter by chapter (or scene by scene if that’s how you write) summary with the purpose, characters, and enough information for you to quickly identify what scene / chapter you’re referring to. Try to keep it brief and quick – if you can’t remember what happened in a chapter whatsoever, this may mean the chapter is, frankly, unmemorable.
  4. Analyze your breakdown as it stands. I personally like paper in my hand, and print off a copy to do this. If you can do it on-screen, power to you. Whatever the case, as you read your summaries, does it make sense? Even to you, does it feel like something is missing? Are there sections that lag? Are some chapters / scenes in the wrong place? Where do they belong? Make notes to situate them properly.
  5. Identify your major plot points and turning points. Do you hit these in appropriate places in the manuscript? Are they obvious? Are you missing any? Do previous scenes / chapters build towards these points? It may help to identify each major step in every plot and see that you move through all of them, that they intertwine neatly, and that it’s a logical progression. Likewise, consider: could you more tightly intertwine some of these plot points, especially if they align with major turning points?

Next week I’ll explain my next five steps. Or better yet, why not share some of yours? Comment below.

Best of luck and hope those revisions go well.  Thanks for reading, and have a great week. Happy writing!

The Journey to Publication, Writing

When to Rewrite, and When to Leave it Alone: Or, Is It Done Yet?

The question of when something needs further drafts, versions, and either heavy rewrites or light editing is a question that, I think, a lot of writers consider. Likewise, I haven’t met a lot who like revisions, even though to a greater or lesser extent, they’re still essential for every work in progress (WIP). Thus arises the question: continue rewrites, or leave it alone and move onto something else? Is this a piece that “is as it is,” or should it be something else, something more?

Everyone has their own answer, and while there are easy books and hard ones, revision is necessary.  You complete draft two … then three … and before you know it, with some pieces, you’re onto draft eight or nine.

This is where I interject my confession: the inspiration for this piece comes from the fact that I’m considering starting revisions on a piece that is already in draft eight at least (I sometimes fudge the numbers or forget to save new versions for the first two drafts or so … which makes the “d8” designation even more depressing). Yes, it has been literally years since I’ve worked on this piece, so I shouldn’t still be sick of it, but still, are the revisions necessary? Should I even try, or should I just leave it be and start on the “something new” that I really want?

I have to ask myself, is this honestly the best this piece can be? Have I polished it to what it should be? The best that I can do right now?

That latter part – the best right now – that’s the rub, because sometimes, what was good enough months ago – or even years ago – sometimes it doesn’t seem good enough when you go back with more distance from the piece provided by time and other writing. Other pieces have been rewritten, improved, overall concepts have changed. Your writing itself – along with some of your goals and central ideas about theme – have also probably changed. Thus what was as good as it could be at the time is now … well, lacking.

So, do you go back?

Personally, it isn’t usually something I do – which is perhaps part of my hesitation to do so now. Most of the time, I say keep moving forward, don’t look back too much. With every new work, every new novel, you continue to grow, evolve, and it continues to let you play with your writing – which likewise helps to improve your writing, increase your experience. Plus, when you’re asked about what you have completed, you have more than one novel to submit, and you can prove you’re more than just a “one book author.” Besides which, some books are what they are, and perhaps they should be allowed to remain as such – even if they never become the blockbusters you one dreamed they could be.

I’m as yet unpublished, though I have completed seven full length (100k) novels. At least three will never see the light of day, and probably shouldn’t, unless someday I’m inspired to go back and make use of what I did like about them and dispose of the rest. There are three more that I’m actively marketing … and then there’s the “problem child” – the WIP I think I probably have to go back and rewrite.

Why does this one get the exception to my rule of keep moving forward, onto the next book? Why might yours be the same?

  • It’s part of a series
  • There’s something about the story I still like – and many have said it’s their favorite story.
  • It comes between two other books that have been substantially rewritten, and may consequentially now lack continuity and the ability to “participate” in the series.

The final reason, though, is the reason that right after this I have to start going back and taking a look. The question I ask myself is: it may have been good enough before, but is it good enough now? Is this something you can say is the best you can write, a great showcase of your work and your ability as a writer? Do I still care about it enough to try?

I haven’t looked back yet, I haven’t analyzed the book. Maybe it too may stay and be accepted as it is … or maybe not. I guess I won’t know until I take a look.

So what about you, do you ever “look back,” or constantly keep moving forwards? Please do comment below.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.