Pep Talk Week 2: Seven Things to Do When Your WIP is a Hot Mess

This week, Katharine Grubb offers advice on how to rescue your work in progress (WIP). Katharine’s blog is about the “Confessions of a Busy Mom Who Became an Independent Novelist.”

So it’s JuNoWriMo and you’ve hit the second week!

You’re like um, I have how many words to go?

You thought you could do this. You had ideas! You had characters! You had a plot! I mean you kind of have a plot but now it kind of feels like a plod. You had a vision for the perfect story in this genre! But then you realize that maybe this contemporary romance might do better on Mars? Maybe your heroine needs fangs? Maybe you could kill everyone off, call it a dystopian and be done with it?

What do you do?

1. Take a deep breath. Deep breathing can calm you down. They don’t tell you this in writing classes but breathing when you write is as important as the kind of mug you use for your hot beverage. Take another deep breath. No one ever died from JuNoWriMo.

2. Tell a writer friend you are figuratively on the edge. If your writer friend has any experience with writing a novel, then they get this. They’ll talk you down. If they tell you to jump, figuratively, then get new friends. Seriously. You must have an understanding support system around you if you are going to be an artist of any flavor. Need one? Check out 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook!

3. Get some perspective. This is not a final exam. You do not get a grade at the end. No one is looking over your shoulder tut-tutting at your blatant use of adverbs. This is just a disciplinary practice, a game, to challenge you and stretch you. Pat yourself on the back and smile at your accomplishment so far. The worst thing that could possibly happen is that you can’t finish and you pick it up another time. So what?

4. Remember why you wanted to do this to begin with. Somewhere you had a hope that you would write a novel. Every writer in the world has had that hope. Everyone had to start somewhere. Now that I’ve written three novels, I can tell you, that having that finished book, in your hand, and seeing your name on the cover, is an amazing feeling. JuNoWriMo is only one way of making this dream come true. Your dream will come true, if you keep at it. If you quit, it won’t.

5. Try explaining your story to yourself. Fill in these sentences: “My story is about this character ________, who lives in this setting ____________ doing this __________. He/She much wants to ___________________ so that he/she can ___________________. But, my antagonist ___________________ is preventing him/her from doing it. My hero and the antagonist struggle through ______________, __________________ and ______________. Then my main character has to make a choice, does he/she choose _____________ or ________________? This exercise may help you envision where you need to go next. And, guess what? You just wrote your elevator pitch! (You’re welcome!) Can’t fill this out? No worries! Spend a day or two thinking about it. That pre-writing think time is always time well spent.

6. Try a little free writing. How? Start describing anything her dress, what they had for dinner last night, the texture of the planet Zolphon, the ball last night at the Abbey, the lab where the scientists work, anything. This exercise trains your brain to stop self editing! It also may stimulate your creative juices. This little bit of rambling can always be cut, pasted or deleted later. The point is that you wrote and you’re priming the mental pump for something else.

7. Set a timer. This is my favorite tip of all. When I lack motivation or don’t know what I’m going to say, I give myself 10 minutes, shut the door to the self editor and write like a crazy person. I’m only committed to 10 minutes so I give myself the freedom to walk away. Sometimes, when I’m really on fire, I can write 800 words in 10 minutes. That’s a LOT! I also think by using small increments of time, the bigness of the project feels manageable. I can get everything done if I lower my expectations of myself and my time and just do what I can. (Hey! Someone should write a book about this!)

JuNoWriMo is a great way to build writing discipline. It’s a good way to give your dreams the attention they deserve. It’s also a great way to connect with other writers, learn your strengths and weaknesses and fight those demons.

You can finish this. Thousands of writers have gone before you and done it.

So can you!

Katherine Grubb

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.

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She blogs at 10MinuteNovelists. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new novel, Soulless Creatures, which is two 18 year old boys, not vampires, will be released August 2015.

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Connect with Katharine on Pinterest.

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