How I Dive Into New WIPs

Photo credit: Justin Ornellas on Flickr
So I’ve written a post about my plotting process and also vlogged about how I plot, but I haven’t actually talked about the step between drafting and plotting, where I start putting down the words. And the truth is, those first couple thousand words of a manuscript are super volatile for me.

Even though I’m a plotter, when I start writing, I don’t really know everything about the MS. My characters are, perhaps, the most vague of the information I start with—I generally know what they look like, their names, how they are marginalized (if at all), and while I’m plotting I usually start to get a sense for their personalities. But the most important element to me—the voice—is still very much out there and I don’t usually know much of anything about it until I start writing.

Which, for me, is the dangerous part. Because I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve started and abandoned because the voice just didn’t click with me. But for me, discovering the voice is very much a sink or swim experience—it either works or it doesn’t, and I usually know a couple thousand words in. Sometimes, if a voice is especially strong, I’ll know after a page or two that it’s going to stick. Many times I stop two or three or five or seven thousand words in because it just didn’t manifest into something that’s clicking with me.

This is why I tend to be so secretive about my WIP ideas before I start drafting—I don’t tell anyone, not my CPs, not my agent about those initial ideas until I’ve written at least 10,000 words and decided that the story is definitely going to get completely written. Once I get into the Safe Zone, so to speak, then I start being a little more open about what I’m working on. But before that, talking about it feels too risky, since my rate of abandoning projects early on is probably around 50%.

So starting a new WIP for me tends to be a scary thing. I mean, the blank page is always somewhat intimidating to me, but knowing especially at first that whatever I’m working on might not make it past 5,000 words feels a bit like walking along the crumbling edge of a cliff.

Last year I was too busy revising trunked manuscripts to start anything new, but this year I intend to write a new project. I don’t know what it’ll be, not yet, but I know I’ll be walking along some cliff sides and hoping for the best.

How about you?

Twitter-sized bites:
How do you start writing a new WIP? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)  
Author @Ava_Jae talks voice, character development & more when it comes to starting the first draft. (Click to tweet)

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