The WIP and I Take a Roller Coaster Ride

I am about half way through the first draft of my WIP, a Middle Grade adventure about a boy with learning disabilities who has left a science project until the last minute, the last minute being a family reunion during Spring Break at a castle in Switzerland.  I entered a contest on the first ten pages.  Didn’t win but the review was favorable.  I’ve taken it to several different critique groups with mostly favorable comments.  And I decided to farm it out to some teachers and a parent familiar with the learning disabled population.  On that last move I got very mixed reviews.  All of which sent me into a tizzy (wouldn’t you?) and also got me thinking (that’s the good news).

So here’s the thinking part.  I DO have some choices right now.  I could

a) scrap it (as one of my readers suggested)

b) rethink some very key parts like all the characters, the plot, the hook, and the voice (same reader’s suggestion)

c) write all the way to the end of my story

On the blog Adventures in YA Publishing  author Stacey Kade recently made the case for that last option, not stopping to “fix” until you have a beginning, middle, and end.   We writers can too easily become our own worst enemies as fear and compromised self-judgement stifle our work.  Kade says “give yourself permission to write a crummy (stronger word used) first draft.” Buoyed by the encouragement in the aforementioned post I am going to write to the end and then see where I have been and where I need to go.  Writing the following poem helped me sort out my thoughts and decide to keep forging ahead.

I couldn’t put it down
Stayed up until 2:00
There’s just a few little things…
The purpose of the book
is not well defined,
parts just don’t flow
or make sense.
The contest scale 1-10
Engaging character 8
Hooks reader 7
Voice 7
The characters are
just not very interesting.
There is no hook,
the protagonist is a dufus.
Scrap the whole thing,
write what you have knowledge of,
something closer to home,
something you have passion for.
I’m so glad
the lap latch held
this is
too much



The WIP and I Take a Roller Coaster Ride — 13 Comments

  1. Sounds like a great plan! Unless you just love roller coaster rides ( I hate them) and bruised egos, it might be wise to let those creative juices flow from the birth to the completion of your project, not asking anyone else’s opinion until you are completely satisfied with the end result. I doubt that even Michelangelo’s “David” would have received rave reviews, if the critics had viewed it it in mid-progress, and only caught a glimpse of part on an arm or ear.

  2. Yes, I agree with Vick! Great comment comparing a WIP to a painting without an arm or ear!!
    Also, it makes me wonder if the reader who suggested you scrap it and start over was a writer, because writers understand that it’s all a process (and a lot of hard work) and helpful feedback does not translate into: throw this in the trash and start over.
    So, good for you, for not letting the critics get you down! Keep going, revise based on your instincts, and then send it to trusted critique partners who are there to support you and help you whip the manuscript into shape.

  3. Addendum to my comment above: My son won the North Carolina MTNA woodwind competition in January, with awesome reviews by the judges. In March he entered Regionals, where he placed 5th. Two judges loved him, but one was so harsh that he indicated that my son shouldn’t even be playing. He, however, has great faith in the Lord’s calling on his life and in his God-given ability to play music, so he ignored the bad review,and pressed on. Two months later he was accepted to two major universities, with scholarships, to pursue his Masters in Music Performance. Any art form is completely subject to “the eye/ear of the beholder.” So to travel the artists highway, means to accept criticism, both positive and negative, develop a thick skin, and have enough confidence in yourself to press on,no matter what.

  4. First, I’m SO glad that Stacey’s post was a help! She will be thrilled to hear that.

    Second, I’m excited to hear you are writing on. I know ALL about doubt. I’m the queen of doubt. But until you know what your book is about, you have no way to how to change anything. And you can’t know what the book is really about until you have written it.
    (Unless you are some kind of super-genius, or your book is one of those cold-blooded blockbusters that relies purely on high-concept plot without room for serendipity. And mind you, I’m not against those. I just can’t write them. I try, but in the process, of trying to write to plan, the characters come to life, and what I thought the book was about becomes something secondary, and I realize that the characters have something entirely different to say. Which is the thing I like best about writing. The magic thing.)

    But here’s my point. Yes, finally! What I want to say to you is that we all have our own processes, and those can change for every book. The trouble with early feedback is that it has nothing to do with where the story will ultimately go. It can only be about what is on the page right then, and about what the person reading it sees — which is often more about them than about the story. Especially if they are fellow writers.

    Which doesn’t mean I don’t love and value readers. All readers. Especially the non-writer ones, who often come at the story from the perspective of what is wrong with the story as opposed to what they would fix in the story.

    But until YOU think the story is ready to be read, trust yourself enough to keep writing it. Putting those early critiques aside is smart. You’ve already proven you have skill, and talent, and perseverance. You’re getting published!

    You’ve got this draft. This next book. Trust yourself and give it a chance.

    End soap box. 🙂 Sending you big hugs!

    • Martina, I really appreciate all the great insight you have into this process. And I totally can relate to that “magic thing” that happens when the characters just sort of take over and practically write the story themselves. There was a great article in Writer’s Digest not too long ago about writing organically, and I think that’s what we are talking about. After all this discussion I feel I can move on and just let it happen.

  5. well, I’m joining this party late, so I can add nothing more than to say, Glad the latch is holding firm!! ANd glad you have the cheering section of the bleachers saying, “Onward!”

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