Would you cheat on your WIP?

Chipmunk

In which I contemplate starting writing a new novel before I finish my current one, and try to take my WIP’s feelings into account.

I know I said I wasn’t going to write about writing too much, but I didn’t say I’d never do it. Today is one of those.

Where my writing is at

I’ve got to that point where each edit of my work in progress (WIP) results in fewer and fewer changes, and I can feel I’m near the end. At least at the beginning of the end. Or possibly getting near the beginning of the end.

Whatever. I’m close.

I began writing the first draft of this book, currently titled RAIN ON DRAGON SCALES, in December 2015, and I spent six months planning before I started the writing. You can see I haven’t hurried to get to where I am–I’m learning as I go and it takes time.

Thankfully I don’t need to feed myself from my writing income, though it would have made me lose weight a whole lot faster.

I’m currently working on the fifth draft of my WIP, plus or minus a few because a draft is not a well-defined object, and I feel like I’m nearly ready for beta readers. This will be the first time I send a whole book out to people whose sole job isn’t to make me feel good about my existence, and it is TERRIFYING.

Like, staring a down a ravenous snow bear while standing on a tight-rope over a pit full of angry cobras terrifying. During an earthquake.

I don’t hold back when I beta and I hope my betas don’t either, because I want to know how I can improve my book, but I can tell even now that when I get feedback there’s going to be a bit of dying inside.

Where to next?

Sorry, I got a bit distracted thinking about how scary this is going to be. What I meant to say was that I also need time away from my book, maybe while it’s with betas, so I can read it with fresh eyes.

I haven’t quite got the timing pinned down, but I plan to keep entirely away from it for at least a month, maybe longer. (It’s pretty long, so I plan to ask betas for a turnaround time of 6 weeks.)

What I’ve been wondering is whether I should start my next novel while this one percolates.

Starting might involve either planning or full-on drafting. Either way, it’s a big move and I need to consider the pros and cons before I leap into it.

Pros

I tend to spend a lot of time solving plot problems. I don’t know why. Maybe my books are too complicated, or maybe I’m just slow. But that means I need to start thinking about what I’m going to write a long time before I actually write it.

So clearly an advantage of starting thinking about my next book sooner is that, well, I’ll have thought about my next book sooner.

Starting will also help me stay in the habit of “writing” (in the broad sense). Also good, because if I lose the habit I might find something else that interests me to occupy my time, and it’ll all be downhill from there.

Cons

Distraction, disillusionment, death.

Melodramatic?

I’m serious. Sort of. What if I get distracted with shiny things and when it comes time to further edit my current book I’ve lost the drive? What if starting the new one makes me realise how many insurmountable problems there are with the current one and makes me want to abandon it entirely?

What if my characters get furious about their abandonment and do me in? I wouldn’t put it past them.

Even if they don’t kill me, I can see them sulking and refusing to share their secrets any more. Is this a risk I should be willing to take?

What if I get the stories mixed up in my head, and transfer characteristics of one world into the other? I’m so terrible at multi-tasking that maybe I shouldn’t even try.

In the end, I feel guilty about abandoning my WIP to start something else. Do I not believe in it any more? Is it not still my precious?

Woodland - goodbye to my WIP
Can I say goodbye to my WIP? Tell it that it’s not it, it’s me?

Which brings me to an excellent point that I read in a writing book recently. Thinking about your first book as the perfect one is damaging and unrealistic and is going to stop you moving forwards. Get over the idea that it will ever be flawless, make it as good as you have the ability to make it right now, and move on.

I need to come to grips with the idea that I’m going to have to move on. Perhaps starting on the sequel will be less painful. At least then I won’t have to abandon my characters entirely.

Do you work on multiple WIPs at once? When they’re at what stages? Does it work well or poorly for you? The people need to know.

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

45 thoughts on “Would you cheat on your WIP?”

  1. Oh, I absolutely start projects all the time! Most of them don’t really catch on, if I’m in the middle of something else, or they wind up on the back burner, but I do start them. I’m most successful with short stories that hit while I’m working on novels… but there’s definitely a hard drive full of things I’ve had on the side.

  2. I have managed to write a couple of short stories while writing this novel, and I have another slightly longer one that needs to be written, but a novel for me takes so much pre work that I prefer not start until I’m fairly sure about it.

  3. 1. Awesome that you feel so close to done! Wow, I’m amazed you spent six months prepping before you ever started writing.

    2. Your pros win for sure. Might as well get started and stick with the routine of #writerslife

    3. About getting distracted and abandoning your current WIP: Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. You don’t want to forget it entirely, but the more distance you give yourself and the more you continue to write and grow as a writer, the more likely you will be to find issues that need fixing in it. For example, maybe this is the best thing you’ve ever written and you can’t improve it more right now; but what will you think 10 manuscripts from now? Will it still be the best thing ever with no problems? I imagine you won’t even realize some of the finite ways you can tweak it until you’ve got more experience under your belt. Because each new project will teach you something more about minor specifics about writing.

    4. Good final point! Moving on is good. It isn’t abandoning. You can always come back to this one and revise again.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I’m super excited to be where I am.

      I absolutely know that writing more will teach me more. This book is light years better than my previous book, which was a great deal better than the one before. I hope the next will be half as much better again.

      So finish this edit! Plan the next one! Upwards and onwards!

  4. I also tend to have a slow writing process and complicated plot. My manuscripts need to simmer for a while, like soup 😉 While I may have multiple WIPs at once, I work on them in chunks because I like to focus all of my energy on one thing at a time and think deep thoughts. But sometimes I can work on two at once if they are in different stages. For example, I’m about to start revisions on one, but I’ll likely be first drafting another one. It helps because they are very, very different books.

    Otherwise I’ll focus on one project for a chunk of time (a month, or six weeks), until I meet some goals and then I’ll switch gears.

    The more I write, the more I find my best working style/habits. I think every author has their own rhythm.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks for your comment! This sounds a lot like something that I’ve been thinking might work for me. My brain isn’t very good at switching gears quickly so I expect trying to work on two things on the same day/week would be a bad idea, but chunking into months or until I reach certain milestones sounds entirely feasible.

  5. I have to brainstorm for a while before I start writing, too. Possibly a year or two. So I have to have multiple projects in multiple stages or I would lose my mind between books. I’ve been writing novels for a looong time though. In the past year, I drafted in between rounds of edits, drafted alone, and now I’m drafting something else while the other story sits awhile. And I’ll probably edit that by itself before this next draft is done. I’m also actively brainstorming a couple of different ideas right now, and I’m prone to starting opening chapters several months before I come back to them and actually finish them up.

    I never considered it cheating. My characters understand either way. They want me to finish their stories, and I have a history of finishing stuff I’m crazy about, so they can wait. If any of them pitched a fit, they know I would throw their story in the trash bin, because I’m crazy. 🙂

    All this said, I can only draft one story at a time. And edit one story at a time. And I can’t usually draft and edit on the same day. But I can do it in the same week. I say, go for it! You gotta do something while the story sits and something else while you wait on beta feedback. ^_^

    1. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who has to think about a book for a long time before starting to write it. It sounds like you’ve figured out a system that works well for you and doesn’t lead to murder by character. I think you’re right – I should go for it. 🙂

  6. I have a main WIP, but that doesn’t stop me from plugging in ideas, lines of dialogue, backstory, etc, into the others. I think we can get stale being mono-focused for too long. 🙂

    1. That’s an interesting point. And moving away from a single focus might help me be more objective about my writing as well because it’s not the only thing I have going.

  7. When I first read that title, I thought of “cheating” in terms of like cheating on a test. And I thought, well hey, if there’s some way of cheating to get it done, bring it on. I’ll at least hear it out.

    But alas, you mean “cheating” like infidelity, like having a little fling on the side with another project. Ideally, I’d say I like to keep things neat, and I like to finish one thing before starting another. Truth be told however, I suppose I’ve been guilty of this on a few occasions. I don’t like to do it, though. If I drop something for too long, it gets cold, and then it’s damn hard to pick up where I left off.

    1. If there’s a way to cheat and write a brilliant book with minimal effort and no ethical issues, count me in! Maybe next post. 😉

      You cheater, you! Well, it sounds like you’ve already been punished with a cold draft, so justice is served.

  8. I’m so excited that you’re close to the end! 😀 Remember to reward yourself properly for getting this far. The tight-roping over the cobra pit part is terrifying, I agree, but I think the first time is the hardest. It’ll get easier. Thanks for sharing a bit of your writing journey, I’m really interested in how other writers plot their stories and what their writing process is (I loved reading the comments to this post too). Everyone is so different.

    Me, I’m terrible at multitasking. I have a hard time splitting my attention between multiple projects, so when my WIP is with beta readers, I tend to beta read for others, make marketing plans, work on my platform, etc. I still have so much to figure out. But I think in your case starting to outline the next book might be a good idea. A six-week break from your book sounds like the perfect opportunity to start your next project. A sequel would be great! I’m sure your characters can’t get miffed if you’re working with their older selves. 😉

    1. I’m excited too. I’ve finished books before (okay, a book), but I’ve never got one this polished.

      I’m sure you’re right about sharing getting easier. When I started blogging I had a total freak-out every time I pressed “publish”. I was like, omg, somewhere out there someone might be reading something I wrote! (Goes to hide under the desk.) Now it’s much less of a thing. Though I do hope sharing my books gets easier before book #50, because that will take a really long time.

      Good point about keeping my characters happy with a sequel. Though they might be irritated at me for throwing them into a pile of trouble when they only just got out of the last mess.

  9. I have a cycle:

    1. Send Book A to betas.
    2. Start writing Book B.
    3. When betas come back, edit Book A.

    By #3 I’m usually far more interested in Book B than A, which makes editing MUCH easier. I don’t feel any pain slashing bits that don’t work, and if people don’t like it I’m like, “I don’t blame you. This new one is SO much better.”

    1. You make it sound so simple! I love the idea, but I’m guessing there might be a few unseen holes in the snow. 🙂 I guess I’ll find them when I fall in them.

  10. How exciting! And, yes, terrifying, but awesome that you’ve come so far with it!

    I muddled around with short stories and a new book idea while I let my WIP rest – it kept me in the writing mind-set, although I’m not sure the new idea will come to much (which is unfortunate, as I’ve written about 30,000 words on it…). But you could look at it that the characters might quite like the break. After all, you’ve been looking over their shoulders and shouting at them for AGES. They’re probably saying, phew, she’s stopped checking on us every five minutes. Shall we go for a long lunch somewhere?
    😉

    1. Haha, I’m not sure my characters are the type to go for a long lunch somewhere, but they might go for a long ride.
      “Let’s go see what’s on the other side of that mountain range.”
      “That sounds like fun, but I’m not riding.”
      “You’re not still scared of horses, are you?”
      “I was never scared of horses, I just think they’re for weaklings.”
      “We can walk if you like. You are a pretty bad rider.”
      Punches him. “Fine, we’ll ride.”

  11. I absolutely understand. I think it’s a great to being a new project while the other one is out. It does use a differently part of your brain and keeps you moving forward. Then when you get the MS back, it’s like seeing it with completely fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed at what you see.

    PS: You site loaded pretty quickly for me.

  12. I have several works in progress (short stories, thinking about a novella or novel–just not sure where it’s going or how long it should be). The problem is, I’m so far removed from them because life did that pesky intervening thing and I lost my edge. I haven’t looked at them in months now because I’m terrified I’ve lost it for good and all that hard work I put into them will lead to nothing. Then again, if I do nothing with them, it’s the same thing.

    But I’m pulling them out this weekend while I have to work overnight (and have a lot less distractions, and the coffee pot all to myself). I will find all my notes and put them in the box with what I have, and take my time reading and see where I was going.

    And maybe I’ll jar something loose upstairs with that major WIP that’s been in my head (and on scratch paper) the past year.

    1. Life does that sometimes, and I know how much it sucks. But it sounds like you have a good plan. I hope something sparks over the weekend and you find your groove again.

  13. Dont’ worry, if your WIP is worthwhile it won’t abandon you. I have several open projects… Every time I go back with a fresh mind it provides such interesting and unique perspective, the time away is invaluable. It is as close as I can get to reviewing my work from somebody else’s point of view. I would say start up your next project and have no fear! Plus you can use everything you learned writing your last book and apply it to the next one from the beginning. Excited to read your book someday!

    1. Yes, I’ve been surprised in the past how much difference a fresh perspective gained from time makes. I’ve loved aspects of my book I thought I’d hate and vice versa.

      I’m definitely excited apply the things I’ve learned to a book that’s fresh and clean with no mistakes in it yet. 🙂

      Would you be interested in beta reading my current book? No pressure, but if you are I’d very much value your opinions on it.

  14. Congratulations on the progress with your WIP! I’ve been told getting to a first draft is remarkably uncommon – getting to beta is even less common. Alas, surviving beta with the book intact (not needing major revision) also isn’t common. At least it wasn’t for me.

    I started my first novel in April 2015. Finished the first draft in April 2016. Did two significant revisions to get it down to a reasonable size. Then I had two beta readers go through it. They both, independently, had the exact same comment which means a major revision to the one of the main character arcs.

    I’ve let it sit since then. But with no sense of guilt at all, I wrote another story (300,000 words) to learn to write in first person past tense (the first one was third/past/limited – which I still prefer) and experiment with various types of scenes. I also read a couple hundred books and wrote some fan fiction stories to practice various things. Now that I’ve had time to process the whole thing, I decided the main character in the novel is worth the revision, so I’m going to turn it into a trilogy with the subject character arc taking place over three books instead of one. I’m hoping the writing practice while it sat will make the trilogy development (flow charting for basic plot lines across the structure of three volumes) go faster and my recent experience allow the draft of volume one to come together in half the time or less.

    I’m looking forward to what’s next. My plot genie is ready for the challenge.

    Fitch

    PS: I’m not supported by my writing either. I’m 75 and retired. I write to keep my brain from turning into oatmeal (use it or lose it).

    1. Thank you! I did start a number of novels before I ever completed one, and I have to say the thing that made the biggest difference was knowing generically where I was going before I started writing.

      I don’t mind if my beta readers find something that means a major rewrite will be necessary – better for beta readers to find it than the public after I publish, and I’m sure anything big beta readers find will teach me a great deal. It sounds like your beta readers taught you something important. And they agreed on it! 🙂

      That sounds like an exciting challenge you’re taking on, turning your draft into a trilogy. I hope it goes well and your plot genie is happy. 🙂

  15. It looks to me as if you’re so far into your WIP that you’ll never abandon it for good, you’re bound to finish it off good and proper when the beta round is done. Sometimes a break is very very good and I say go for it and start project B! I’m a bit like you, takes time to sort out plots in my head, but that’s a period of discovery which is super fun and exciting. I like to write random scenes and stuff just for fun to ‘discover’ the plot. It’s a process, after all.

    1. I think you’re right. I have zero distance right now, which makes it impossible for me to see which 20k words can get cut. Starting something new is a lot of fun, but also intimidating. I need to stop being a wuss. 🙂

  16. How long is your manuscript, out of curiosity? Now, I do multitask -badly. But I do it.The only way I can break properly from one manuscript is to totally cut ties and to start another one. BUT, it really isn’t for everyone. It can be frustrating and cause time delays because once I start, I’m not good at stopping until a ‘draft’ is complete. I say experiment – try cheating, see what happens. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. You could always plot out your next one but not start it?

    1. My manuscript is currently just over 160k words. My hope is to get it down to 120k words, but I could (possibly) live with 140k words.

      My biggest fear is being finished with this book, sitting down and thinking, now what? And then not writing for six months while a plot for my next book slowly forms. Giving it a go is a good idea, even if all I manage is some plotting.

  17. I would be happy to be a beta reader if your manuscript, if you are need of any more! I started on some short stories while I was giving my manuscript the first time perhaps a shorter project might work? I am terrified of sharing my story with anyone too. It doesn’t feel ready yet, but I need to figure it out soon!

    1. Thank you so much for the offer. I plan to send out a draft to one group of beta readers, respond to their feedback, and then send the revised version to a second group. I would love to have you in one of the groups, and of course I’d be happy to beta read your book as well.

      Sharing is terrifying, but we can do this! 🙂

  18. I cheat all the time! Mostly I just flesh out some plot bunnies to give my brain a break, but I also have this yuuuuge WIP that’s actually a spinoff of my main WIP that I like to tinker with in odd moments. It’s a total mess but I’m not going to actually sit down and fix it until my current one is done. I like keeping the spinoff close because it’s set in the same general universe but doesn’t have the same characters or plot, so I can take a break from my WIP without leaving its universe.

    1. Cheater!! 🙂 I can see the attraction of working on a second story set in the same world, because there’s enough similarity to stop you feeling entirely lost, but you still get a break. I might have to try that.

      1. I’ve found it enormously helpful…plus, this way, when this book is done, the next one’s basically drafted!

  19. All the time. I cheat so much I’m not even sure which book is my actual WIP. I have so many ideas spinning around, I write whatever is moving me at the time. Not something I’d recommend, but there you go.

    1. So that would make you a serial cheater, then? 😉 I suppose as long as you establish expectations with your new WIPs that you won’t be monogamous then they can’t complain too hard.

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