Because let’s face it, your current project can make you crazy, or it can cheer you through the day. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I assume that most of you readers out there are also actively writing, and that many of you are probably working on a long piece: a novel, a memoir, maybe even a thesis. And if you are, you’ve had those days. You know those days; when you sit down to your computer or whatever your writing machine is, and stare at it waiting for something to come to you, when suddenly it’s bed time and you have nothing new. On the other hand, there are the other days, when you knock out 25 or more pages in a few hours, and you think, “Yes! This is it. This is where I’m supposed to be!”
Oh, if all the days were like that latter one.
The trouble with a WIP is that it’s not done yet. And, worse, you can’t necessarily see a light at the end of the tunnel. But I’d like to offer a few tips that may help you get closer to the finish line.
1. Despite how tempting it is, I recommend not editing as you go. Sure, you may be rethinking that chapter you wrote yesterday, and it’s really tempting to go back and fix what you don’t like. Maybe you’ve changed your mind and would prefer to have Timmy stuck in a cave, because a well is just so cliche. (I don’t know what you’re writing. At least that example made you laugh!) Don’t go back. Just move forward. You can rewrite individual scenes when you’re finished with your first draft, but if you keep writing the same scene over and over, your WIP will always be in progress.
2. Save everything. Not just on your computer and your backup drive. Have a backup for your backup, and maybe even some hard copies. Because the worst thing that can happen is to be 107 pages in, and your hard drive crashes. (This happened to me while I was writing my MS. I got the blue screen of death, and could not remember when I had last backed up. Luckily, I had hard copies of everything, which I found after a long panic attack and a lot of tears.) But save everything for fun too. One of my favorite activities is to go back and read old work. It cracks me up, because most of mine is bad. But every now and then, you find a gem that you may want to revisit.
3. Don’t give up. Make writing a habit. Do it everyday. You don’t necessarily have to work on your WIP, but you probably at least want to give it a little thought. One of my favorite things about journaling is putting my thoughts about my work down, taking notes, and working through problems. It really helps. If you’re suffering from writer’s block (hey, it happens to everyone) just sitting down, and writing out your frustration can help. Where are you stuck? What’s happening in your story that you can’t get out of? What ideas are you putting in your thesis that have got you thinking you’re talking in circles? Write your way out of it. I promise it helps.