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Tell Me About Your WIP! -- by Elizabeth Rhodes

I have a friend who is working to create his own board game.  It's got a medieval dark fantasy setting, a modular board setup, takes inspiration from various board and video games and has a complex combat system.  I know all of this, and more, because the concept and mechanics for this game are the subject of every third thing out of his mouth.

And there's nothing wrong with this.  He's excited about it, I'm looking forward to it, and several of his friends and acquaintances are excited for the games as well.  It also keeps him motivated to continue working on it.  This isn't just another passing interest of his, but he has a genuine desire to see it through to the end.

Last night he asked me about my own works in progress, and why I don't talk about them nearly as much as he does.  He brought up a valid point in this conversation by suggesting that the more people aware of your project, the more motivation you have to see it through.  While this may not be true for everyone - if there's one thing I've learned from hanging out in writers' communities, it's that every writer is wired differently for inspiration, motivation, and the like - it may be so for me.  While I was active in forums and NaNoWriMo events, I freely talked about the project of the day and my productivity soared.  Once I started to pull back from the community, taking a break whenever I felt tired from work or life, I wrote less.  

Now I look at my current draft of Jasper and feel lost.  Where am I with this story?  Where did I want to go with it?  Before long a lot of my comments on the progress of Jasper were something along the lines of "I'll write a scene today... no I won't."

There were reasons why I was hesitant to share my ideas.  I like to think that I come across well and coherent in a written medium.  The advantage there is that I have plenty of room to edit and reword my thoughts before I hit the "send" button.  Not so in face to face conversation.  I stumble across my words and find it difficult to verbalize my thoughts sometimes, especially when it comes to stories.  It's possible that I'm not as bad at this as I think I am, but I'm still self-conscious about it.  And with me being unable to talk about my stories coherently, I'm worried that other people won't think it's as great as I do or understand it as well.  I'm scared of being judged on my ideas before the project is finished.

I honestly shouldn't worry about that.  After all, if I can't handle that now how can I have the courage to present my finished novel at the end?  And if I'm showing complete strangers my chapters and entire novel for critique, I shouldn't be afraid to have a friend take a look too.

Do you share the progress on your WIP?  Do not share as much as you should?  Does sharing have a positive or negative impact on your progress?

(And also, if you want to tell me about your current WIP as my title suggests, feel free!)

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes 28 Jun 2014 at 03:00
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Responses to this blog

Kazahari 29 Jun 2014 at 01:35  
For me, it depends on the person I'm talking to. If they're engaged and asking questions, I tend to talk about it more freely. If it's clear that they have no real interest...that may well be the last time I bring it up. I feel ya, on the "has trouble with spoken words in the moment" shtick; that's me in a nutshell. I'm more coherent and organized (most of the time) when I write it down...but talking about it helps me spot the flaws in the fabric of plot and character. The eyes can sometimes skim; the ears never do.

As for my current WIP, it's a supernatural thriller/murder mystery/sci fi (with dabblings of three or four other genres) that's looking to be two or three books long, because the series premise alone is too complicated to be written well in one book. The primary question that everything else revolves around (and that they spend the first 1.25 books discovering) is this: what if mankind discovered a coercive resurrection spell that cannot be resisted (unless the soul is dead or radically changed) in a universe where every option we've ever thought of and then some is a possible afterlife—and they don't understand either the spell or how the afterlife works? The first volume introduces the MCs, who all have psychic abilities of some kind. There are two basic ability types: mental abilities and those that affect physical reality. Mental ones are broader in scope, but cannot be proven; society doesn't believe in them. Those that have physical effects are accepted by society, but their usage is tied to natural law, and function as a personal energy transfer. Basically, they're physics-based, and carry an often fatal price for overuse. You can, for instance, burn a large object or person with the right powers...if you're willing to lose your life over it. If you're very lucky, you might survive as a cripple. Some people can read the future, but they will most likely lose touch with reality in a society that is less than tolerant of such things.

The world is an AU futuristic Earth-like, and the roles of science and faith are flipped in some regards. Religion rules both society and government, striving to at least seem altruistic...but like most, there is a dark side. Because the existence of deities has been proven in this world, faith now requires evidence before they will accept things. Science is still respected, but it isn't the end-all, be-all anymore. Because of that, it has become more flexible. Scientists now look for ways to provide proof of things like psi powers...ways to measure and quantify things so that the primary religion can accept them. It remains skeptical about many things...such as the resurrection spell.

The female lead is a post-cognitive clairvoyant/ghost whisperer; the guy who's shaping up into the male lead has visions of death. The inciting incident of the first novel is the murder of the FMC's cousin/best friend by a pack of serial killers...and her ghost returns to stop her own resurrection. Book 1 focuses on stopping the serial killers and the FMC coming to terms with power that she had a society that doesn't believe she has them and wants to lobotomize her to relieve her insanity. Books 2 and 3...still working on them. I'm halfway or more through writing Book 1.
Rellrod 29 Jun 2014 at 02:49  
I agree that talking about your WIP (a) is hard to resist when you're really involved in it and (b) helps keep your own interest up. But Amanda's right that it depends on the kind of feedback one gets. For example, my current WIP is a character-driven science fiction space opera/romance. The genre(s) is/are mainstream enough that most people i describe it to can relate at least enough to project a polite interest. But for people who just aren't into that sort of thing, the interest may be only polite, and depending on how it's expressed, the result may be more to erode my confidence than to build it up.

There's also the worry about turning into a bore who can't talk about anything but his eccentric private hobby. World Cup, anyone?

I know what you mean about being afraid I won't be articulate enough on the spot to do justice to my own story. ("No, really! It's much better than I made it sound!") But I also feel that trying to encapsulate the appeal of the story to someone who hasn't heard of it before is good practice. At some point I'm going to have to pitch the thing to editors or agents, write a blurb, and so forth — and that's basically the same thing, though more formalized. By the time I've explained the tale to a dozen or so friends, acquaintances, and chance-met strangers, maybe I'll have an idea what the story really is about and be ready to write that blurb!

It is fortunate that tragedy can never kill comedy and that the two can run side by side. —G.K. Chesterton

Kusterer 29 Jun 2014 at 17:04  
Where I live, half the people have some creative WIP—memoir, story, nonfiction, work of art, construction project. Most won't finish. Until you finish, you are not as interesting or unique as you think.
So therefore:
1. I share all with interested pros: authors, editors, agents.
2. I don't mention it in social situations.
3. If someone asks, I give them the one-sentence "elevator pitch."
4. Intimate friends and family get the two-paragraph query-letter summary.
5. Persistent people get, "It's not published yet. When it is, you can read it, and I'll be happy to talk about it all you want.
Insertname 29 Jun 2014 at 17:34  
What my books are about is one of the great mysteries of the universe. Pretty much everyone in my life knowS I write, and that I write novels, but no one besides CPs/beta readers and my agent actually knows what they're about. I greatly dislike distilling anything (film, book etc.) down to its elevator pitch and it seems even more horrendous in relation to my own work—especially because I write kind of strange, dark YA fiction.
Imjustdru 29 Jun 2014 at 18:27  
I haven't gotten to discussing my WIPs with anyone outside this circle. Now that I think about it, I've shared my comics being about werewolves, ghost whisperers, and the other is about a college coed becoming a superhero mixed Egyptian mythology.
Edwin 1 Jul 2014 at 01:15  
I find I vacillate on this subject. Some days I'm all over explaining my story, the next I don't know what to say. Either way I'm leery about saying too much or hogging the lime light. It becomes easier if the other person actually asks questions or otherwise encourages me to continue.

My in need of further evaluation core plot statement for my close to publication ready WiP sits at:

Swept far from friendly space, Ensign Nivpul Exavent must learn to break out of his shell and came to grips with the ties that bind him to the enigmatic Lieutenant June Trynamour, if he is to survive the journey home.

Paplu12 1 Jul 2014 at 15:50  
I LOVE to talk about my stories. The degree of interest from the person I am talking to makes a big difference in what I say about it, however. I tend to feel like talking about the story makes me more committed/responsible, obligated to finish it. Currently I have been discussing a new idea with a couple of friends and they seem to ask questions that really make me think about the stories in ways that I never would have before. They have helped significantly in fueling the progression of the story. My current main WIP is a little different scenario because it was originally a short story that I had published in a college arts magazine. When it was written originally it was restricted to a certain page count though it always lent itself to a novel length piece. After rereading it around the Christmas holidays I dove in and have written over a hundred pages. I also enjoy talking about this piece, especially when someone has read the original short story because they have insight into the full breadth of the story. The creating of the full length piece has become an exercise in character development, giving greater depth to characters who were only allowed a few sentences here or there of development in the original piece.

WIP #1 - Better to Pretend. This story was written for an arts magazine and went on to win the Fiction award for that year's publication. It is about a girl whose parents have recently divorced and is forced to follow her mom to a little town called Elbin where they are to live wither her mom's sister. Elbin is a small town, a little cliche', and very set in their ways. They don't like newcomers and the only reason Jenna and her mom are accepted is because of their relation to Jenna's aunt. Jenna gets a chilling dose of the town's treatment of newcomers from the kids at school on her first day at Elbin high. The kids, let by bully Gruntz, have a weekly ritual of throwing rocks at old Mrs. Stokely's house in attempts to break the windows. Through a series of events, Jenna befriends Mrs. Stokely and starts a war against the locals. She also builds a relationship with a boy named Cory, who despite her better judgment she falls for. The story escalates in a push and pull of what is right and wrong... I could continue, but it would spoil the story...

It has been a fabulous experience expanding a world that was created so narrowly. This story is mdoern YA fiction and a far cry from my usual writing realm (fantasy) but I have been drawn to these characters and this story more than anything I have ever written. It is the first piece that has really effected me as it is written.
Rhodes 3 Jul 2014 at 21:35  
Thanks for the replies, everyone! In spirit of the post, I'll go ahead and share a bit of my WIP.

Jasper is set in the far future, after a war and natural disasters reduced the world's population considerably and reduced North America to a dust bowl. One city has been rebuilt on the bank of what was once the Mississippi River, but the population has sort of stagnated.
The two brothers had a plan to make it into a utopia based on their religious beliefs, but the plan fell apart. Now one brother is an outlaw, suspected of killing his family, and "adopted" a few street children while on the run. The other brother has voiced intent to have him hunted down and killed. And there's one soldier, recently appointed Captain of the City Guard, who is tasked with tracking down the outlaw personally. But it turns out that the relationship between the three is a bit more complicated than originally assumed.
Itr 4 Jul 2014 at 17:23  
I'm surprised that some people are unwilling, afraid to share info about their WIP.

Self-conscious, about how well we present it, perhaps. I tend to be hesitant because I think most people really aren't that interested in what I'm writing (exceptions being family, who have to listen when I talk about it ). And some may be afraid someone will steal their idea, or, will destroy their enthusiasm by poking holes in their story or character, or sully their art, so to speak.

On the other hand, the least polished writer of my local writing group never fails to annoy me when he rambles on and on enthusiastically about his WIPs, because 1) he does this all the time, 2) his genre is not one of my favs, 3) he doesn't write well, 4) his WIPs are always full of logical holes.

Sorry; that last paragraph may not be the most encouraging of posts.

Smeyer 15 Jul 2014 at 15:48  
I find it depends on the people I'm talking with at the time. For instance, if I'm with fellow writers, I'm anxious to talk about my wip, to get ideas from them perhaps on a difficult spot I don't know what to do with. But if I'm with people who don't know I'm writing or who don't like to read or write, I tend to keep quiet about my process. Give me an editor, fellow writer, publisher type, and I'll go nuts with my sharing!

Currently, I'm revising the first draft of a memoir.
Davian 15 Jul 2014 at 23:59  
It's fun reading all your descriptions of your WIPs and also your reactions to when people ask you to describe the WIP. I'm one of those who prefers not to talk about it because I feel most people really aren't too interested, merely polite.

I'm working on my third rewrite of a historical fiction - the untold story (up to now) of a girl whose mission was to deliver the fourth gift to a child born king.
Bfulk68 20 Jul 2014 at 06:49  
For me it depends on the person I'm talking to and how well I know them. When its my fiance and one of my coworkers I can talk for hours about my novel and all of the ideas in head about it and they bounce those back, positive or negative, and offer their own ideas. With both of their help my writing flourished and I finished my novel.

My WIP is set in modern day Seattle but the city is divided into 4 major territories; werewolves, vampires, weretigers, and humans and about 20 smaller factions outside of those 4. The protagonist, Tyler Morgan, is under the protection of the wolves and she uses her powers over fire, earth, and metal to help them try and keep the peace among the major powers of the city and anybody else who threatens the fragile stability.
Sunonme 23 Jul 2014 at 16:27  
Jasper sounds like a cool title! I like it! When I don't want to write (and it really does feel like work.... if I only wrote when I wanted to I'd never get anything done lol) I set the timer for 15 minutes, and tell myself I can get up after that. It really helps!

My current WIP is a sequel/stand alone (that sounds weird... the books are connected but can stand alone) is called Lost No More. The first book is called Ghost No More. I am at the exciting stage right now- nearly ready to send it to the editor. I am riding cloud nine because I was sent the cover last night (wooohooo!)

But there have been many days where I think I write like crap, and want to chuck the whole thing. I think all writers feel that way. It sounds to me like 15 minutes will work, and you will have your book done. Remember- don't read it picturing what anyone is saying about it. Don't write with "anyone looking over your shoulder" in your imagination. I have a good feeling about your work! I want to hear more!
Rickalpha3 7 Aug 2014 at 00:48  
Ahhh writing, I wrote for 31 years but because I was a teacher of Electrical Physics it was technical writing. I was very good with many articles published in industrial magazines. Of course the motivation to write was the position I held and need to prepare for the classes.

Deep within I had this desire to write stories that had nothing to do with electrical physics, but about me. I haves had a very colorful life and many people told me that I really needed to write stories about it. But teaching soes not really offer much time for personal writing.

But now I am retired and upon retiring I found that time no longer exists. Well of course time exists but not in the same aspect as working time. No longer a time to be some place or to get something done. Now, time belonged to me and as such I found all the timeI need to write for me.

Do I talk about my writing? Every chance I get. I like to look into the faces of my friends as I tell them about what I am working on and the reaction of people I have met who ask what I do. Seems that writing stories is a big thing here in the Philippines. (Oh yeah, when I retired my wife, a Filipina, and I decided that the Philippines was where we wanted to be rather then New York City.)

What stimulates me to write? My ego. For sure I am very aware of my ego and I know that ego is fed not from yourself, but from the comments of others. I have written many short stories but have never really found a place where true critics could be found. There are so many sites but they all lean very heavy to poetry and haves very little desire to read short stories. But here at Critique Circle, well it seems I have finally found the type of writers I haves been looking for. Writers who are not afraid to sit and read a 8,000 word story and enjoy the ability to share their writing and know that we will all give our honest critic.

Meowbeth 25 Aug 2014 at 15:05  
When I'm going good, ideas flowing fresh and words almost magically appearing on screen, I will yatter at practically anyone. If they are genuinely interested, I will go on forever. But I have no trouble talking, to anyone. When I'm having troubles, I don't tend to talk as much about it. A special few get to hear about my troubles, but the general public doesn't.

I think this is because I do get motivation from people's interest, but I also then feel obligated to write. And if writing is going well, I write even more, but if I'm having troubles then I feel bad for not being able to write.

My work in progress is a collection of short stories revolving around two main characters and two side characters, which focuses on their interactions with each other. I have the feeling it will become an interconnected novel at some point, but currently not all of the stories are connected. It takes place in a post apocalyptic world where robots have taken over the world. The two main characters are a robot that is trying to figure out if he is sentient or of his programming is just that good, and an android who thought she was human but just found out she isn't. The side characters are the cyborg who is in charge of the robots and another android who is the previous model of the main character android. It's probably overly complicated and I love it.

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