Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

[Wyrd Words Weekly] Are you stuck in the weeds on your WIP?

Published 4 months ago • 3 min read

Hello Reader,

Last month, we dug into the big-picture details that writers need to establish when creating a blueprint for their book. It was a lively discussion of everything from comp titles to genre to tropes and more. And I could tell some of the participants were in that initial honeymoon stage of a new book project.

Don't you love that feeling? Because when a story's brand-new, it exists in complete perfection in your mind. It's an idea, a feeling, a dazzling tidbit of inspiration. But to get from that idea to a finished book, you have to go through a whole lot of muck, what Anne Lamott, with her typical hilarity, calls the "shitty first draft."

"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” --Anne Lamott

There's no real way to avoid getting down into the weeds to work out all those pesky story details that refine a dazzling idea into an actual reader-ready book. But that doesn't mean suffering, feeling stuck in those awful murky weeks.

Tip One: Chunk it Out!

In another life, I was a project manager and I find I use a lot of the tools of that trade with my creative writing (and my coaching clients). One of the best tips for project-managing your story is breaking tasks into chunks.

"Write 90,000 words" feels like an enormous task. But what happens if you break that up into 700 word chunks? It only takes five weekly 700-word chunks over a period of six months to write a 90,000 word novel.

If you're revising, you can do the exact same thing. For example, if you have 26 chapters, write the numbers 1-26 out in a pyramid with 1 at the very top. Come on, am I the only one who did this to count down the last month of school each year? Seriously? Then mark a chapter off at the end of each writing session. Or better yet, but yourself some fun stickers to mark each chapter off. I recommend gold stars ⭐️🌟⭐️. You'll have a visual indicator of that process to help you on the tough days.

Tip Two: Stare Down the Doubt Demons

It's easy to let the doubt demons creep in when you're in the weeds in the middle of drafting or revising your story. The newness has worn off, but the end isn't quite in sight. That's the doubt demons' favorite place to ambush unsuspecting writers.

They love to tell you lies like:

You can't do this. Your story is boring. You'll never get to the end. No one will ever want to read this.

Those doubt demons prey on your worst fears. And they can even provide you with helpful information about what, exactly, you're afraid of. But they aren't speaking the truth. They are just spewing thoughts and a key tenet of mindfulness practice is that you are not your thoughts. You can observe them, reject them, and move on with your writing. As soon as the doubt demons know you aren't going to listen to their BS, they pipe down and fade back into the background so that you can get on with your work.

I know it's not easy to stand up to those doubts, but one thing that can really help is leaning on your writing community. Who better to ask for support than other writers who have been there? And if your community could use a little boost in numbers, consider signing up for my free critique partner matching service CP Meet Cute. Round Seven closes February 7 so that you'll have your CP Cohort just in time for Valentine's Day.

Tip Three: Add Complications

OK, you've chunked out your story into manageable parts. You've reached out to your CPs for help slaying those doubt demons. And you're still feeling stuck. Now what?

Add some complications. No, not to your own life--that's complicated enough already--to your main character's life. Agent and writing instructor Donald Maass likes to challenge writers to imagine the worst thing that can happen to a character--the disgrace or disaster or dilemma they've spent their whole life trying to avoid--and make it happen to them on the page.

Even if you're not sure how that's going to tie into what you're doing with your story, spend 30 minutes trying this technique out and see if it helps you complicate your character's backstory, motivation, or journey on the page.

Whether you’re writing a fast-paced thriller, an introspective literary fiction, or something in between, adding those complications will help you create the kind of unforgettable characters that help you get yourself out of the weeds and will eventually make your book unputdownable.

I hope these three tips helped you get out of the weeds. But if you're still feeling lost, join me on February 12 as I walk you through even more tips on how to use tips like Donald Maass's to craft unforgettable characters in this informative 75-minute webinar. Register today for the low cost of $25.

Note: All Craft Magic webinars are recorded and available to registrants for 30 days after the event.

Hope to see you there!



Already a subscriber?

Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

Julie Artz helps writers who dream of a life spent telling stories that matter slay their doubt demons so they can send their work out into the world with confidence. An active member of the writing community, she has volunteered for SCBWI, TeenPit, and Pitch Wars and is a member of EFA, the Authors Guild, and AWP. A social and environmental justice minded story geek, Julie lives in an enchanted forest outside of Seattle, Washington, with her husband, two strong-willed teenagers, and a couple of naughty furry familiars. Check out her weekly newsletter, Wyrd Words Weekly, and subscribe today.

Read more from Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

Hello Reader, Whenever indie folk singer Chris Pureka comes to town, we try to grab tickets. This month, we got to hear Chris in a tiny venue in neighboring Carnation, Washington, and as always, it was an amazing show. One of my favorite songs of theirs is "Back in the Ring." It's about bouncing back after a breakup and the mental health challenges that came along with it, but it's become an anthem to me when the inevitable writing rejections come into the inbox. I'll find myself singing the...

3 days ago • 2 min read

Hello Reader, Mother's Day can be a fraught time for many of us. If you've lost your mother, are not able to be with her for the holiday, or your experience of motherhood doesn't match to the Hallmark Holiday ideal, I see you and I'm sending you a little extra love today. This weekend is particularly poignant for me as well because my youngest child turned 18 on Wednesday and graduates in a few short weeks. I've already mentioned that as part of settling into our new empty-nest life, my...

17 days ago • 3 min read

Hello Reader, Each spring, I survive the long, gray Pacific Northwest winters by counting down the minutes until the cherries blossom. This annual occurrence, usually sometime in that March-April window, is when the drab gray skies of Seattle recede into the background at last, outshone by a riot of pink and white blossoms so prolific that they fall like snowflakes all over town. The first spring we lived here, nine years ago(!) now, I waited as the buds swelled on the two flowering plums we...

24 days ago • 3 min read
Share this post