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)
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