Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Erin: My WIP is trying to kill me

I've been working on a certain side project since before TAKEN went on sub over two years ago. Whenever I have some downtime, this WIP is the baby I pull out and tinker with. It has been through countless drafts. It's changed POV and tense. It's been stream-lined in some areas and bulked up in others. It's been revised again and again and again and it's still not the story I know it can be, the vision I have in my head. Each revision brings it closer, but something is still...off.

Sometimes I'm convinced this manuscript is trying to kill me. I'll be elbow-deep in revisions and get hit with that pesky wave of doubt that claims, "You just can't do it. It's never going to be what you want it to be. Maybe you weren't meant to write this story."

My debut sort of fell out of me in one fell swoop, which was somewhat magical. I couldn't type fast enough, and when I finished, the story was pretty close to the tale I envisioned from the start. But this WIP is a labor of love, a struggle, a constant challenge, and I adore the story–the possibility of what it can become–too much to quit.

So I keep chipping away, sculpting and shaping, making it stronger every time I sit down and open Scrivener to write. As the very wise Jenny Martin said on twitter recently: Writing is revising. (And while it's slow, I am making progress.)

The only thing I know for certain is that all books start and end in the same place for a writer: there's a spark of an idea that sends us running to our computers, and later–much, much later–we've amassed several thousand words that we are proud to call our story. It's everything that happens in the between these start and end points that's unpredictable. How the story comes into being depends not only on the story itself, but the writer as a person.

So maybe it's not that I'm not supposed to write this WIP I'm struggling with, but that I'm not supposed to write it yet. Maybe I need another one, two, five years of living under my belt to tell it properly. Or maybe I just need to keep chipping away at it, day by day, until I find my path. Maybe I'm really close and I'll see the light when I round the next corner. I don't know how I'll get there, but I know that I will. One day I'll finish a revision and it will be the revision. The story as it was supposed to be told.

It's funny how stories always seems so straightforward in my head. And then I start typing and well, it's a lesson I seem destined to learn over and over: Writing is just plain hard.

So tell me...Do you have a WIP that is trying to kill you? A story that you believe in and love but seem miles away from completing? Let's commiserate in the comments! :)

18 comments:

  1. For me there's so much growth with every manuscript that when I go back to work on an old one I feel like I'm editing someone else's work. I find it hard to be able to re-imagine the story (or large chunks of it) when that happens, which is often what it needs the most, more than just tweaking.

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    1. I feel like if I step away from ANY project for long enough and eventually pick it back up, I can't help but think, "I wrote this? Really?" Funny how that happens... :)

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  2. Indeed, I do. I have the same exact tale to tell as you do, almost. But as painful and perilous as my WIP has been, and as many times as I've started over and revamped characters and settings wholesale, every few weeks or so I stop and say, "My God, that last scene was genius." I know I'll be wrestling with it for a while, but I wouldn't give it up, travails and all, for all the tea in China. I recommend: power through.

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    1. I, too, transition between "this is genius!" to "this is utter crap!" Such is the writing life, huh? Good luck powering through on your end as well!

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  3. Ooooh, goodness yes. The story of my heart is a YA manuscript set in Tokyo, where I lived for half a year. I'm happy with chapter one, but I just keep changing my mind about the rest. Now I finally think I've got it (though I've said that before), but in the meantime, I started another MS, and now I have no idea which one I should work on!

    I'm also in the middle of a rather involved R&R, so I may be going right back to my previous MS in a couple weeks or so. Oy. I need another day in the week just to write!

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    1. If you find that eighth day of the week, let me know. I could use it too ;) (And good luck with the mss)

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  4. Oh hells-do I? And I pick at it like a scab whenever I finish another project. It's IN there, you know? The damn thing WANTS to be told.. I think the characters inside it are trying to torture me. Maybe it payback for what I've done to them. :)
    In any case, I totally understand how you feel. I 'm your scab-picking sister.

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    1. Haha. Scab-picking is a disturbing but highly accurate analogy. Good luck with your story! (I keep telling myself mine *wants* to be told, too!)

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  5. 45,000 words on a book last year. it mocks me. great voice, so-so plot. great characters, but too much going on.

    it seems like so much waste, and yet it's not wasted. it just wasn't a book that wanted to exist. plus I was trying too hard to make it something instead of letting it be.

    Not sure it was trying to kill me though. maybe I should apply the Bible Code to see if there's a secret message in there!

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    1. Or maybe it's a book that doesn't want to exist *yet* -- This is what I keep thinking regarding my WIP. It has so much potential. Maybe one day I'll get the correct version of it on paper. :)

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  6. Erin, I love, love, love this post. I think it articulates so well what so many authors feel. Recently, Elana Johnson posted the mantra, "Write Through It."

    So true. Don't let anything stop you. The doubts? The revision? The creeping insecurities? Write through it! :)

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    1. "Write through it" is a fantastic mantra. Right up there with "writing is rewriting" if you ask me ;)

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  7. I don't know I would say mine is trying to kill me, but it is definitely taking the scenic route in getting finished, lol!

    Angela

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  8. Erin, you certainly haven’t lost your ability to express the reality of the process and the desire to bring a work to its fullest potential. You say it exactly. I’m heart-deep into my second novel, and I’ve experienced all of the above (including the joy of birthing my debut). I’ve also experienced some small but significant faith-restoring occurrences: rising out of a half-sleep with a solution in mind; taking a week-long break to discover that, on seeing it again, it wasn’t as cluttered and aimless as I thought, that I can indeed rework it (and rework it, rework it, rework it…), that it’s worth all the work. Mostly, I saw more clearly what I wanted to do.

    I always come back to this: What do I want the reader to experience with my book?

    Thanks for sharing. It’s helpful to be reminded it’s the same for most of us, perhaps all of us.

    Your WIP isn’t trying to kill you—it’s trying to squeeze the life out of you so it can stand up and breathe on its own.

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  9. Erin, you know all about my nemesis manuscript. That thing is out to murder me. Murder me dead. And then it's going to wear a red dress to my funeral and dance on my grave.

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  10. There is an endless amount of stories that go untold from me due to the fact I could never complete them. So, I decided to make a blog and write them in pieces! It's probably the best idea I had in a long time, but coined only by my fiance. Having someone along the way with you while you're writing is such fantastic inspiration. If you'd like to check out my work go to gimbleexpress.blogspot.com

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  11. After 23 months of writing my own MG manuscript I could feel each of your words as if they were my own. When I arrived at the story I always wanted to tell it took at least a dozen critiques of the various versions, letting the words rest anywhere from a few days to several weeks,and generally having it consume my thoughts day and night. What did the trick? Perseverance, reading blog posts like yours, and realizing I am a re-writer not a writer. Keep at it and enjoy the long process. You'll thank yourself you did.

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  12. I read your post thinking, "glad it's not just me!" I can relate, and I love your point that the story wants to be told.

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