Here Lies Deserted WIP’s

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After finishing up a bit of writing this evening, I did something I hadn’t done in a really long time — I looked through some old files in my writing folder on my laptop. And there, nestled inside, I found stories I had started once upon a time and either forgotten about, gotten to a point where I was unclear where the plot should move next, or I had convinced myself weren’t good enough.

And, not to toot my own horn or anything, but most of them were good ideas in my opinion. But as I’ve blogged about before, as a writer, it is so incredibly difficult for me to silence my inner critic while writing. Some of my best friends asked me the other day what is the most difficult part of writing a first draft, and that’s what I told them. It’s not the writing itself — if it’s flowing, that’s the easy part. It’s that nagging part inside that’s constantly shouting, “oh my God! That chapter was lousy! You need to fix it right away before you go any further!” I wish my inner voice was a tad more supportive and maybe even a little too nice, at least at first. It would make things a hell of a lot easier!

As I was opening the different Word docs and reading the first paragraphs of stories past, it made me both sad that I’d left all these characters hanging, but also more determined, because if nothing else it reminded me one simple, easy truth: I am a writer.

And, when I can silence that damn critic long enough, a good writer, too.

It’s Sequel Time! (Note to Self: Don’t be Afraid.)

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Recently, I have ventured into unknown writing territory. I am writing a sequel to the manuscript I poured my heart, soul, and sometimes even tears into, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

I also couldn’t be more nervous.

It seems that when it comes to movie sequels, the most common review is something along the lines of, “It wasn’t as good as the original.” And for the most part, I’d have to agree. “Ghostbusters II” is good, but the first is much better. (My brother was a HUGE fan of this series growing up, which made me one, too.) I haven’t seen “Dumb & Dumber To,” but I’d bet money that the original is far superior. Don’t even get me started on “Halloween II” (or 3, 4, 5, 6…) And the list goes on & on. Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule. For instance, in my humble opinion, I thought “Catching Fire” was a bit better than “Hunger Games.” And honestly, my favorite of the HP movies would be “Prisoner of Azkaban” & “The Deathly Hallows” (1 & 2).

When it comes to books, though, it’s hard for me to think of a sequel I preferred over the original. In YA, I’m drawn to a fair share of stand-alones, but give me a interesting, thought-provoking trilogy any day. Over the past few years, I’ve swam alongside the dystopian wave, and most of those, if not all, tend to be trilogies. Three particular series really stuck with me, and I was sucked in from the first installments through their conclusions. I have to say, in each of these three series, the first books were my favorites, the second books held my attention and were good but not quite the same, and the final installments felt satisfying for the most part, though I usually found myself disappointed the author didn’t explain or wrap up subplots X, Y & Z. Of course, I would imagine most readers might feel this way with conclusions to series, and authors shouldn’t have to explain every little thing. Maybe sometimes they want us to think between the lines and make up our own minds about certain aspects of their stories. Maybe they want to leave us with permanent question marks floating above our heads. This, I believe, is one of the reasons I prefer the first parts of series — nothing is concluded yet, and most of them even end with a surprise twist or cliff-hanger I really didn’t see coming!

As far as the manuscript I just completed goes, my hope is that I ended it with the kind of hook that would have readers dying to read the sequel to find out what happens next. And since it’s a duology, the second installment will also be the conclusion. I can’t help but feel anxious about it, knowing the original will probably remain my favorite of the two. But at the same time, I’m excited to try something new, and I plan to give it my all just like I did with the first one. Who knows, maybe it’ll be like Empire Strikes Back and will be better than the first! It could happen, right? (My brother was a Star Wars fan, too. And I may or may not own a Wicket stuffed animal.)

“Make New Friends, But Keep the Old…

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“…One is silver, and the other’s gold.” Yes, I’m a dork for quoting a saying I’m pretty sure I learned in Girl Scouts. 😉

Corny thoughts aside, I think this saying is extremely fitting for writing, too – as writers, we constantly have to “make new friends” (read: create new characters). Each time I begin a new story (unless writing a sequel, of course, which I hope to one day accomplish), I have to come up with a brand new protagonist, who I hope will become not only a friend, but a best friend. I learn everything there is to know about the character – including her strengths and flaws, her deepest and darkest secrets, etc. – so that I can accurately tell her story. Not gonna lie, sometimes I fight with my protag. and disagree with her decisions, just as I sometimes do with my real friends. But no matter what, I care about her, which makes me sad to get to the ending of her story – to say goodbye.

That being said, I have to remind myself that I can always visit my previous main character again – can relive her story any time I want. (Hey, I created her, after all!) “Keep the old,” right? But when you finish revising and polishing a story, the logical step for any writer is to move on to the next story inside you – to give a new protagonist her turn in the spotlight.

And this is where I am right now. I just started a new WIP, which means I’m getting to know a new protagonist. Since we just met a couple weeks ago, we’re not exactly besties yet. But she’s slowly starting to open up to me – more and more each day – so I’m crossing my fingers that will soon change. 🙂

On your mark…get set…GO!


On a WIP I recently started that I workshopped in class this semester, one of my classmates suggested that I actually start the story at the end of my first chapter; he felt that everything leading up to that last moment was mainly backstory that could be weaved in later on. I thought about it and have decided he’s right — the story doesn’t really “start” until then.

As writers, we have to make sure our first 5+ pages are amazingly awesome. They need to grab the reader (and potential agents!) immediately & not let go. So if your story starts out slow with backstory and other build up, a reader might not be pulled in the way we want/need them to be. I know more than one professor in my program has said how we need to start in the action — don’t just lead up to it.

My thesis started where I always pictured it starting. Though I completely overhauled a huge chunk of the narrative, that is one constant that never changed draft after draft after draft. I didn’t realize it before, but now I see how incredibly lucky I was to know where that story needed to start. Now, in not only the WIP I just started but also one I’ve been working on for a few months, I’m curious if I’ve pinpointed the right starting place yet in either. I do plan to take my classmate’s advice, though, so hopefully that’ll lead me in the right direction.

So now I have a question for my fellow writers out there: how do you figure out where your story actually begins?