My WIP is a Hot Mess

So, during the submission process of my first novel, I was pretty much going crazy (OMG, the submission process quickly morphs from complete awesomeness to the most terrible thing in existence. It’s brutal. It’s crushing. It will make the fetal position your new norm). Anyway, I tried to be cool, didn’t blog or tweet about it, and just suffered silently, but it was well…uh, kind of tough. Anyway, in an effort to not be a total nut job, I started working on something new. And this new story was so cool and fun from the onset, that I almost, almost didn’t have submission on the brain 24/7.

But something happened in these last 20,000 words. Suddenly, my seemingly vibrant and full of life characters became paper cut-outs of themselves. They don’t move or say things as easily as they did before. They’re like blobs. They want to stay home instead of go out and when they do go somewhere, they’re like okay, we’re here, now what? And my plot and conflict and subplot, well the truth is I think I still don’t have a clear vision of what exactly is going on. But of course, being the stubborn person I am, I’ve just kept writing, waiting for something to happen. Except, it seems that for all my effort, I’ve basically been rewarded with 20,000 words of…poop. I know, I know, first drafts are mostly poop, but man…sometimes when you keep coming back to the same poop day after day, well you just can’t stand it anymore. So, I’m in this place where I just hate this manuscript. I don’t get it. I want to trash it. I want to print it out, just to tear it to shreds. I want to tie it down to a track and cackle like an evil mustachioed villain. I want it to grow arms and legs and put it in the stocks for a year. Ugh, yes. It’s that bad.

I’m trying to keep in mind that somewhere in all that…uh, poop, there’s something. I mean, I know these characters have a cool story to tell, I just have to dig it out (yes, I do realize this is pretty gross considering my analogy). Maybe I’m just being lazy, avoiding the hard work because, well, there’s just so much to sift through.

Wait…maybe that’s just it. Here are all these words, all this stuff that I really should organize in order to move forward. Maybe my character are so lifeless because I’ve buried them in all this junk. Maybe my plot and conflict and subplots aren’t coming together because of all the unnecessary things I have going on. But now it’s like trying to organize a hoarder’s house. *gets smacked on the side of the head with an epiphany*

YES! That’s it! Scrap the poop analogy. My WIP is a hoarder’s house and I’m the hoarder. I’ve dumped all this material in one place, without bothering to organize it or separate the good from the bad because that’s mostly how I write. If I start editing too much as I go along, I never get past a certain word count. So I’ve just kept coming back to it, dumping more and more and more. And now, there’s so much stuff, it’s like I can’t even see the floor.

*looks around at the mess* Oh. Man.

But I guess this mess is part of it, right? I mean, this is everyday writing. Creating this pile of awesomely, messy, terrible writing is part of the process. And coming back to it to clear the mess, throw out the garbage, bring in new, shiny ideas, organize and polish, is part of it, too. So, as much as I hate cleaning, I think just realizing I should stop dumping and start cleaning kind of helps and actually makes me feel a little better.

So what about you? Ever feel like abandoning your WIP and having it condemned? What makes you come back to it even when it’s a hot mess?

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13 Responses to My WIP is a Hot Mess

  1. Oh, yeah. total hot mess here, except I’m on the revision already, so all that “I’ll clean it up later” crap? Yeah. It’s later.

    Good luck with your mess, and I’m going to try to fight the urge to throw mine on the pyre! 🙂

    • Hey Elissa! Yeah, I think that’s my problem, too. I keep saying eh, I’ll fix it later. Now I have multiple versions of everything going on. Anyway, so awesome that you’re on revisions already and good luck to you!

  2. erikamarks says:

    Oh Jenny, let me count the ways…there is nothing quite as freakish-feeling as having the big love for your WIP, standing at the sink, giddy as you do dishes, recalling those gorgeous passages, those luscious characters and then, one day, maybe even that SAME day, you sit down and look at it like some kind of mold that’s been growing in your shower while you’ve been away–HUH?!

    Oh yeah, I’ve been there. I restarted my latest WIP no less than five times, because somehow, magically (or not magically, as the case was) I would hit around page 75 and decide it was the most hideous, most tragic thing I (or anyone on the planet!) had constructed.

    But of course, you move through it. That’s why I think first drafts should be treated as indelicately as possible. Ram ’em out, get it down and then at least you have the comfort of knowing you CAN see the story through and things can be fixed. This is what I tell myself, anyway:)

    • Yes, Erika, exactly! It’s just so terrible right now! And I’m a little sick of my characters, too. When I started I thought they were so cool and now they seem so generic. Oh well, I know I’ll get there. I have enough love for it that I know it’ll turn into something.

  3. Ghenet says:

    Awesome post. I’m in the middle of the first draft of my WIP and I totally understand what you’re saying. For a while I had a tough time adding to my word count because I kept focusing on how messy my draft was so far. Now I’m trying to ignore the mess and just FINISH. I love the hoarder analogy. I think it’ll be fun to organize everything once my draft is finally done. I like organzing in real life. Unless the mess ends up looking like an episode of TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive. Then I might not like organizing it so much. Let’s hope it’s not that bad! Ha. 🙂

    • Push on, Ghenet! Even though that first draft is always a mess, it is quite an accomplishment to get it done. You feel great and think you are THE MOST AWESOME PERSON ON THE PLANET (until you go back and read it and want to crawl into a hole and die, hehehe). Juuuuuust kiddingggggg (sort of).

      Take care and don’t get buried alive!! 😉

  4. I loved ALL the analogies in this post 😉

    I’m feeling much the same way about my WIP right now. It’s coming fast and furious, but I am DREADING revision time. Talk about a hot mess.

  5. Ugh, I know, the idea of digging in all that muck is always unappealing. But actually, yesterday I started a little clean up. And honestly, it really wasn’t that bad and actually even a little fun. Still lots of junk all over the place, but 1 square inch looks slightly cleaner.

  6. Stace says:

    But Jenny, you’ve already done it, so you KNOW you can do it again. I hear this feeling is really common, and I wish I could remember the link to where I read Neil Gaiman writing about how he still gets gripped by the doubts – every single time he’s writing something of length – and how his editor nods and listens and reminds him how he told her exactly the same thing last time…

    If you discover any secrets to getting past the hot mess, I’ll listen carefully, since I’ve never managed it. Part of that is because I enjoy writing short stories I guess. I’m trying to trick myself into writing something of length by writing a series of interconnected short stories.

    • You’re right, I have heard most times writers have a heck of a time with a second work. It’s a good thing the writing community is sooooo supportive and we cheer each other on, or I might be hiding in a hole somewhere.

      I think the only thing you can do is keep at it. Sounds so deceptively easy, doesn’t it. And I really love the idea of a series of interconnected short stories.

      By the way, have you gone on New Pages? Lots of literary magazines listed where you can get a feeling for the tone of a particular magazine and idea of what they publish. Check it out…and KEEP AT IT!

  7. There is nothing to say to this post except YES. To all of it.

    There are few things I hate in life more than first drafts. Except of course, sometimes I’m writing the first draft and some insane part of me is saying, “Oh, my God. This is brilliant. This is the ONE.” Days later, the rest of me will actually get around to reading what I wrote and the crushing blow of reality/perpetual crappiness of first draft will hit me. Will feel like moping and talking like Bridget Jones.

    The only way I’ve found of getting around it, even slightly, is to do what you did. Start working on something new. Then by the time I’m ready to read the draft of the first project again, I’ve usually had a little bit of distance. Enough to cross things out with flourish and write stupidly optimistic notes to myself like “Make this funnier!”

    Will go eat chocolate now and count caloric units.

    • Oh, you’re right! First drafts are such deceptive little suckers. Same thing happens to me-I think to myself, “genius, pure genius” as I type an especially clever line, only to discover its true terribleness later on. It’s the worst!

  8. Pingback: In a Melancholic State of Mind | Read. Write. Suffer.

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