Sep 18, 2011

Why WIPs die


We all have them. Paper ghosts in drawers or digital phantoms that appear, vainly waving their titles every time we search for a file. They are the Ones Who Never Were, the ideas we chased fervently, half-heartedly and then not at all. They lie in the WIP graveyard of lost hope.

There's a saying that every author has at least four failed MS in a drawer before getting good enough to publish. This is definitely true for me. Four is a low number, actually. And at the beginning of my fiction attempts, I couldn't figure out why my WIP ideas petered out half-way through an impressive word count.

So after intense naval gazing reflection, I came up with the following six reasons our shiny ideas tarnish in digital drawers.

1. No clear idea of the ending. Yeah, this seems obvious but I've been known to get so excited about a concept, I just dove right in and figured the ending would unravel itself the closer I got. This HAS happened to me ..but it's the exception.

2. Premature feedback. I was in the middle of a very cool supernatural WIP when an online critique site opened for beta testing. Totally jazzed at the idea of fresh eyes adoring my new creation, I threw it up there...and got stuck revising the beginning so many times in response to criticism, I lost enthusiasm for the whole thing.

3. Wrong setting. If our setting doesn't call to us, we don't want to go down the writing rabbit hole. I find all kinds of excuses not to go. I had this happen with one of my current WIPs - figured out I didn't want to be where the book was set and changed the setting. Voila! In love again.

4. Affair with a new idea. I'm currently fighting this one. A dystopian I started based on a really interesting concept is now taking second place to an action/adventure story set in Israel. In my case, this kind of goes back to #3 bc right now, with an Alaskan winter looming, I'd rather be in Israel in my head. When summer comes again, I'll long for Maine, the setting of my dystopian. Or so I hope. *fingers crossed*

5. Boredom. If this list was in order, this would be #1. The story doesn't sizzle. It lays there limply in the pan like a piece of wet bacon. There are so many issues with the MS - plot holes, weak characters, dead-ends, crossed genres - it's easier to walk away.

6. It's too big. Your idea requires so much research or draws from an area of expertise you don't have, that you write yourself into a corner. Your WIP is an unwieldly monster threatening to overwhelm you so you consign it to digital darkness.

This is a short list, so please share your WIP killers, as well as what's helped you overcome your WIPs death throes, in the comments. I'll be taking notes!

13 comments:

Cheryl said...

I think with my earlier tries, the ideas just weren't big enough. I started out on short stories lots of years ago and when I started on the first novel, I thought of it in the same terms, only bigger. It didn't have enough of a plot to carry it past about 35,000 words. The next one managed 45,000 before that petered out. My current WIP is at 97,000 and I'm on the first editing pass after finishing the first draft. This time I came up with an idea with enough meat to last a whole novel. Now I just have to see if I can get it into shape.

Freya Morris said...

Great post - very familiar with the "naval gazing". : )

Sarah Pearson said...

4,5 and 6 I know very well :-)

Juliemybird said...

I'm glad that you put up "premature feedback." This tempts me all too often.

Angelina C. Hansen said...

A similar book is published and hits it big time. . .

Lisa L. Regan said...

Numbers 1, 4 and 6 are the big ones for me, especially number 1. I'd say that is the number one killer of my WIPs!

Rachel Morgan said...

I love that line about the piece of wet bacon just lying there limply in a pan! Haha! I do hope none of my stories ever come to that...

Melodie said...

Cheryl: great addition to the list. an idea that isn't big enough for a novel is usual a good choice for a short story, tho.

Angelina: that is a killer. too bad we can't do anything about timing. :(

Lisa & Sarah: at least you only have a few on this list!

Freya: yup, I'm prone to overthinking wayyy too much! glad to have company.

Julie: I'm being tempted with that right now, actually! *must resist*

Rachel: If they haven't come to that yet, I want to know your secret!!

Deana said...

I think I have to agree with all of them. For the crit one I started filing away the crits until it was time to revise. That has helped a ton.

E.R. King said...

Number six is my nemesis. I wish I could be distracted by another idea. I envy those writer's!

E.R. King said...

Sorry. "Writers" is what I meant. My editing brain needs a nap. ; )

Theresa Milstein said...

I can see how premature feedback can kill momentum. And I know what you mean about boredom. If I lose interest after chapter 1, I'll never pick it up again.

Melodie said...

Deana: great idea! I wish I had the self-control not to look at crits right away...but I must peek!

Emily: too many ideas are a pain, also. Esp. bc of #1.

Theresa: boredom is a hint of what Cheryl mentioned - too shallow of an idea.