Writing Your WIP

Writing Your WIP

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Turning an idea into a published book entails a long journey. One requiring much time spent on what writers refer to as their work-in-progress, commonly abbreviated WIP. Perhaps you wish to write fiction and boost cerebral palsy representation in literature. Or maybe you plan to pen a memoir, aiming to inspire others with your true-life experiences. Whatever your motive, a single fact becomes inevitable. Challenges will arise.  

Trust me, I understand. I encountered these obstacles when penning my first cerebral palsy memoir Off Balanced. Note I said first because yes, I am working on a second memoir. Although, for too long the actual “in-progress” part to my WIP existed in name only.

How long exactly? Years! My forthcoming memoir aims to inspire readers to pursue the “unreasonable” in their lives. A task I intend to accomplish by detailing my own victory over the “unreasonable.” Becoming a marathoner despite my cerebral palsy. A feat I originally completed in 2017. Nonetheless, here I am in 2020 the project still a WIP. 

Why you ask? Just like trekking 26.2 miles, writing a book involves navigating various obstacles. Since I know multiple individuals with CP aspiring to publish books, I wanted to offer my experienced insights. These insights remain the reason my WIP went from 6,000-plus words back in January to over 50,000 words currently. To risk sounding self-congratulatory, tremendous progress! Admittedly though, getting this far entailed persevering past numerous failures.     

Real Talk

Now my admittance to failure might cause you hesitation. Leaving you to wonder, “Why should I listen to him?” Simply put, you should listen because I failed. My setbacks ensure you receive hardened wisdom. Oppose to say, theoretical fluff. Advice which works in theory but collapses under reality’s pressures.

Allow me to demonstrate. I decided to write this blog post months ago. Initially I planned to advise “Making progress on your WIP, all starts with a plan.” Sounds great in theory. However, once life decides to go off script, and life will, what happens? Your plan goes astray, stalling any progress on your work-in-progress.

With that said, do not misunderstand me. I am not dismissing plans as useless. The right plan supplies a foundation. Emphasize right.

The Right Plan

Unfortunately, I am unable to layout “the right plan” in precise detail. My inability to do so correlating to the fact such details vary per writer. For example, many writers go from work-in-progress to complete manuscript in November. Or as writers know November as, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Those who commit to NaNoWriMo, task themselves to write 1,667 words a day each day in November. A successful NaNoWriMo leaves a writer with a 50,000-word manuscript.

Back in 2018 I committed to NaNoWriMo. A commitment I floundered to uphold. Writing 1,667 words daily without days off overwhelmed me. Rather than a complete manuscript, I ended the month sick.

My NaNoWriMo efforts included working on my WIP in Appletree Books' storefront window.
Working on my WIP in Appletree Book’s storefront window.

Nevertheless, through my failure I learned a valuable lesson. The right plan proves not just measurable, but also sustainable. Most progress I made on my WIP in 2020 occurred because I applied what I learned from my failed NaNoWriMo attempt.

During Ohio’s statewide COVID19 pandemic shutdown, I re-committed to my WIP. Successfully writing 500-1,000 words a day, Monday through Friday. To prevent overwhelming myself, I took the weekends off. This schedule placing me on the steady path to finally finish my manuscript. Then I received the call to return to work.

Reassessment

Returning to work brought my WIP to a screeching halt. I knew I needed to reassess my approach. Ideally, I wanted to maintain my 5,000 words a week pace. As I contemplated how to achieve this, another two months passed. Thankfully, I eventually underwent a breakthrough! I would write 2,000 words a day on my off days.

Almost instantly, I felt tempted to dismiss the idea. Intimidated by such a hefty goal. To counter the intimidation, I reminded myself “It would only be two or three times a week, not daily like NaNoWriMo.” Feeling reassured, I pushed forward.

Quickly my new plan went awry. I continuously missed the 2,000-word mark by 1,000-plus words. Further destroying my productivity, I found myself working six days straight. Exhausting me to the extent I chose to merely rest on my off day.

Yet despite my failures, I kept progressing. Constantly reassessing my goals. Totally eliminating the unattainable 2,000 words a day goal. Replacing said goal with another. Consistently work on my marathon memoir. Defining consistently as at least twice a week. This might mean working on my WIP before or after a shift, or even on my breaks! Regardless, I conquered my new objectives. Success fueled by a particular attribute.                      

Accountability

Tasks gain greater urgency when you attach accountability. Making yourself culpable to someone else. Giving yourself someone to celebrate your achievements with. More importantly, answering to the same person when shortcomings occur.

Personally, I am obligating myself to public accountability. Documenting my WIP progress via a video series “Making of a Memoir.” The key remains honesty. Owning defeats as quick as touting victories.

If you watch a few “Making of a Memoir” episodes, you may notice another attribute. Evident in my voice and overall attitude. A characteristic powerful enough to keep me persevering past the multiple failures already mentioned.

Determination

Despite the consistent setbacks, I am staying the course. Determined to finish my WIP. A determination I only discovered once I clearly defined my priorities.

See, in the past I struggled to progress on my WIP due to prioritizing haphazardly. My desire to post regularly to my Youtube channel and blog here distracting me.  Keeping me away from my work-in-progress.

Everything changed however when I asked myself one question. “If I die tomorrow, what will I regret?” Dramatic, I know. Simultaneously, also incredibly effective! Suddenly I possess a relentless urgency to complete my WIP.

Quick side note, please do not let my “relentless urgency” worry you. I am quite healthy. Still, freak accidents happen. Treating each day as a precious gift compared to a mundane guarantee stands the best approach to live life. Or, at least in my opinion. Anyway, I held no intention to turn this post into a philosophical discussion. Let us return to the subject at hand.

Writing Your WIP

Whether you want to boost CP representation in fiction or inspire others with your true-life experiences, I hope my experienced insights shared today assists putting the progress in your work-in-progress. To recap, design a measurable and sustainable plan. Find a way to stay accountable to said plan. Reassess your approach when necessary. Then prioritize to build determination and ensure you continue progressing on your WIP.

For additional work-in-progress advice, comment below with your specific questions. I will happily answer the best I can.

Until next time, remember. Don’t blend in. Blend out!

-Zachary   

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