Tried and Failed #WIP Wednesday

Hey, everyone. It’s already the second week of April, and it’s been a while since I wrote a WIP Wednesday post. This one is more of a WIHW (What I Haven’t Written) story.

I thought by now I would have already written tons of words this year.

Wrong! So far, 2022’s word count is shaping up to be as bad as 2020. I don’t even want to think about that year. I believe most of us would like to forget it, so we’ll not go there.

But what happened with 2022?

I had high hopes for this year—publishing a book of thirteen short stories in the spring and my second Legends of Madeira novel in the fall. With my upcoming retirement in August, I had the audacity to think I might squeeze in a third project. I planned to submit more stories to Vocal.

After completing six of the thirteen short stories, I pretty much took the month of December off, except for a new experiment. Convinced the way to complete stories more quickly, I outlined the remaining seven short stories.

That’s right. The panster (planster) was going to become a planner. When I say outline, these were still what I call skeletal outlines. I just don’t understand those writers who plot every chapter and every scene of their book. To me, that takes all the fun out of writing, but some swear by it. They don’t understand pansters.

I even had one die-hard planner say I needed to start over with my first novel because I didn’t outline it. By that time, I was 75% into the first draft. No way was I going to begin again, only to write the same things. I finished and published Unseen Motives in 2016. Without an outline!

When January arrived, I was excited to begin writing again. It was hard to decide which of the seven remaining stories I would begin with, but I decided on one with the working title of Sterling House.

I liked the first draft of my opening paragraph:

Tendrils of fog drifted across the winding road—shades of gray against an ink-black night. Devlin Adams gripped the steering wheel tighter as he slowed the car. The sense of unease that began as a tiny seed when he left home this morning had grown…

January started out good. Over 700 words on the first day, more than 600 on the second. Then came day three. Sixty-five words. Things went downhill from there. Days and weeks passed without me writing a single word on the story.

There were a few triumphant moments—a 1300-word day in February. Another 2300 words in early March. But all of it was forced writing. I was determined to stick to that outline. Even though it wasn’t working, I refused to move on to one of the other stories, perhaps out of fear the same thing would happen.

It took until the end of March (and a fantastic post by Beem Weeks at Story Empire) for me to figure out I needed to put aside the story.

My original idea for Sterling House was ghost fiction. Since I plan for the collection to be mixed genres and had already written two ghost fiction pieces, I turned Sterling House into a modern crime story with an amateur sleuth.

“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

Planning and outlining didn’t work. I felt stifled. So, I ditched the 7200 words and resolved to start over. It may take me a while to get back to this one. I’m still recovering, but I plan to keep and revise that opening paragraph.

So far, April has proven to be a better month. I’m writing again. I may even use some of the ideas for Sterling House in another short story where many of them are better suited. I’ve started editing some of the already written short stories. I’ve scheduled my Mystery Monday and Legends and Lore posts through July. And I’ve written a few scenes for the second Legends of Madeira book.

Writing is tough. If you’re an outliner and it works for you, stick with it. But if you feel stifled, then stop. Reflect. Put the story aside. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), you’ll realize what’s wrong.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill (disputed by some)

38 thoughts on “Tried and Failed #WIP Wednesday

  1. So frustrating, Joan, isn’t it? One of the things I love about chatting with other authors is learning about how different our creative processes are. I’m an avid outliner, but also rather loose about it. I can outline a 300-page book in about twenty lines, no scenes, no chapters, just an outline of the plot. Enough that the characters know what they have to accomplish. How they get there is mostly up to them and subject to change. I admire your tenacity and your attempt to try something new. But good for you for recognizing when it wasn’t working, and for returning to your roots. Here’s to a productive summer. Happy Writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your method of outlining is something I did for one of my earlier books. I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish – didn’t even have the events in order. It worked for me. With everything I write, I know what I want the ending to be. I think the problem with this story is trying to make it something I hadn’t originally intended.

      And thanks for the productivity wishes. Can you believe it won’t be long before summer begins?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that beginning, Joan. I want to read more! I’m an outliner–usually 75 pages before I even start writing. I plan to outline all three books in my next trilogy before writing a word! That I have never done before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t help but wonder if part of my problem is that I know I’ll have much more time to write come September. But things have been hectic at work for a few months now. Soon I won’t have that excuse. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, John.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally relate to the panster vs planner dilemma. I was determined to try and plan a three-book series and started on it, only to ditch it for a 1940s historical fiction that got my passion ignited again. By now, I had planned to have at least 20,000 words, but I’m barely at 10,000. Oh well. The best laid plans. No one is twisting our arms forcing us to write these stories. And what works for one might work for another as far as writing technique. I am most definitely a panster. I am not sure I could be patient enough to do a full outline. At any rate, I know you are looking forward to retirement and wish you the best with all of your projects!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jan, I’m definitely a panster. Only a minimal outline for me. Blessed that I don’t have to depend on writing books to make a living (otherwise, I’d be homeless) but I do love to write. I’m looking forward to your 1940s-era story. That time period fascinates me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved your opening paragraph. I would keep that for sure.

    For me, I am a planster. I do a very (and I mean very) sparce outline. it is usually words, and a phrase I might like. I add places where I want the action to take place, but that is about it.

    I haven’t written anything except work related items this year. I need to get my butt in the seat and do some writing. It’s been that kind of year. Things will hopefully settle down soon. Then, I will have no excuses.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really like your opening paragraph for Sterling House. I’d keep reading the story! I believe very strongly (adamantly!) that writers should not tell other writers what writing process to follow. Everyone’s brain works differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love that opening bit. Too many people don’t understand the writing lessons aren’t iron clad. I’ve done strict outlines, loose storyboards, and pantsing. Hard to tell how I’ll write my next story. Don’t let someone else’s idea of how it should be done stifle you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The fastest full-length novel I’ve written so far is Unknown Reasons. Maybe it’s because a certain character “begged” me to tell his story, or that I was uber excited to write it. I pretty much pansted through it, but I did have a list of notes for certain scenes for the story. But I too have found the writing process for each novel or story differs somewhat – save for having a detailed outline.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I intended to try to work more on my WIP this year, and I did start working on it back on February, I think, for a couple of days and got a few hundred words done…and haven’t been back to it since. I hope I will back to it at some point soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I haven’t had a good year since the first half of 2019. Believe me, I feel your pain. But I think what you’re doing is working for you (even if you don’t like your pace). Your opening to Sterling House is fabulous. Cheering you on! 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The past few years have been rough on a lot of us. I recall you and me saying (every year), “Next year will be ours.” I’ve stopped saying that. I am going to revisit and rewrite Sterling House.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I am an outliner, but everybody’s brains work differently, so if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work! I like the opening lines to the defunct Sterling House. Maybe they’ll show up in another story.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Joan, I love the title Sterling House. That alone would entice me to read the story without knowing anything about it.
    I’ve heard a lot of writers say they’re struggling this year. I think the state of the world has to be part of that, and the ^#@!( pandemic is still hanging around. I’m actually having a good year for a change with writing, but it goes in spurts. Sounds like you are determined to finish your projects, and that’s what matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mae. I love the title and the opening paragraph. That’s about it. But I am going to rewrite it. Yes, this pandemic has been rough for a lot of people. So happy you’re having a good year. I’m determined to get over this slump and move forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I think many of us are finding this year tough … I wonder how much is the after effects of the last two years? You’ve done well to ditch and start again, Joan. That in itself is tough. I’ve found I get most stifled when I try and outline … it’s just not me. Sending hugs and encouragement 💕🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny thing, I almost wrote a post for Story Empire about “An Experiment” in switching from being a panster to outlining. Glad I didn’t. The pandemic has affected a lot of people in more ways than one. That one reason that I never plan to write about it. Living through it is enough! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The last two years have been hard for everything, Joan, but our good intentions still remained!
    I prefer a gentle outline when I write, but my sister Anita writes freehand, straight to paper and her stories are amazing…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jaye, I wrote my first novel on notebook paper when I was seventeen. I didn’t realize it at the time, but even then I was a panster. If I do any kind of outline, it’s only a skeletal one. I need to allow the story to breathe, so to speak.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s been a rough year for writing for me too. I’m even struggling with blog posts. It was smart to set aside what wasn’t coming to you and move on. I’m hoping once I get my book published things will start to flow again. At least I have my short story collection to work on in the mean time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If it wasn’t for my Mystery Monday, Legends and Lore, and Book Review posts, I’d be silent this year. Wishing you all the best on your short stories. I’m determined to get my collection finished as well.


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