Developing Your WIP Without Writing

Writing is a process. And sometimes part of the process means taking a step back from writing. Besides writer’s block there is also the challenge of writer’s burnout, where you have the words and ideas, but you just can’t get them out. When you experience writer’s burnout, sometimes the best thing you can do is just take a step back.  When this happens, you can take a few steps to still develop your manuscript without necessarily having to write.

Contemplation:

It is quite simple. Sometimes just sitting and thinking about things like your character/plot and events that haven’t happened can help move forward with your WIP. 

Create Visuals:

Make things related to your story such as family trees, mood boards, or research fashion trends of specific times that might be related to your WIP – basically get creative without writing. Creating all these visuals can help you think about your world and better understand the fantastical world that you’ve created. And this will help you to better understand your story. Fully knowing your story inside and out is a great combatant to writer’s block. But taking a break from writing and doing something related to your story and creative is a great solution for writer’s burnout. 

Re-read Old Work:

Okay, this can be quite cringy and I will be the first to admit that. However, there are some benefits to going back and reading your old writing. For starters, it can be pretty motivating to see just how far you’ve come in your writing journey. But it can also provide some interesting ideas for characters or plot points. We all have a least a couple WIPs that we know are never going to be finished. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t use their bones to build up the current story that we’re working on. 

Author Interviews:

It can be helpful to watch, read, or listen to interviews of your favorite author or a famous author. They will often address how they got their inspiration or how they write, and it can be so inspiring as well as insightful to hear other writers’ writing process. 

Elements of Foreshadowing

The definition of foreshadowing in literature is a literary device that is used as an indication of events to come. It can be used to create suspense, unease, or curiosity with what is to come in the future. Personally, I love foreshadowing. It really can ramp up the tension in a story.

There are several types of foreshadowing:

Chekhov’s Gun

This comes from the playwright, Anton Chekhov, who famously said that if there is a rifle onstage in the first act then it must go off in the second or third act. Of course, this principle doesn’t just apply to firearms, but any object, skill, or idea. While it aligns itself with foreshadowing, it can also be used as a way of streamlining your plot as it gets rid of anything that isn’t relevant or useful in a story. Chekhov’s Gun is a great reminder that if you’re not going to use it, then lose it.

Prophecy

This is one of the more popular elements of foreshadowing. A prophecy is a statement made to a character or the reader that gives a clue as to what will happen in the future. Sometimes the prophecies are unclear at first, but over time they become much clearer.

Symbolism

Using symbolism – like objects, animals, or images – can be a more abstract way of adding foreshadowing to your story. 

Flashbacks

Sometimes, certain important information needs to be shared, but the events surrounding it doesn’t quite fit into the current timeline. This is where flashbacks can be handy. Of course, you can also use flashbacks as a method of giving the read hints of what could possibly happen in the future. The only thing with flashbacks is to remember to use them sparingly so as not to confuse your reader. 

Red Herrings

This is when you deliberately mislead your reader with false information through clues that trick your reader into thinking what you want them to think. Then, later when you reveal the truth, it feels like a giant plot twist to your reader. While these are mostly used in murder mysteries, red herrings can also fit nicely into other genres. 

Tips for foreshadowing:

Don’t be too obvious– show don’t tell. And don’t make it too easy for your readers to piece together the events to come, you don’t want them getting bored with the story before they’ve finished. The whole point of foreshadowing is to keep them guessing.

Keep your promises– remember Chekhov who said that if your rifle isn’t going off in a later act then get rid of it? The same idea applies to foreshadowing. Whatever little Easter eggs you plant in your story you need to do something with them at some point, otherwise they’ll just be loose ends and your reader will be disappointed they were never tied up. 

Timing– if you’re going to foreshadow, then you need to get the timing right. If it’s going to be a giant plot twist, then you need to start building it up a little earlier in the story. You don’t want your reader feeling like it came out of nowhere. But at the same time, you shouldn’t begin foreshadowing right away because you want to build it up rather than have it be a spoiler. 

Moderation– don’t overdo it on the foreshadowing devices. Keep it all subtle but effective. 

Beta readers– having someone else read over our work is always a good idea. But it can be particularly useful when working with foreshadowing. Sometimes we might think we’re being obvious with our foreshadowing but that is only because we are too close to the world we’ve created, and we know the storyline inside and out. Using beta readers can be a wonderful resource to make sure that our foreshadowing is actually as solid as we think it is. 

Writing Resources

As writers, we often find ourselves needing a little bit of help to navigate the task that is crafting a story. But sometimes, we don’t always know where to turn when we need a little bit of a creative boost. It is usually in those times of need that we turn to the internet for some inspiration. And below, I have put together a list of my favorite online sources for when I need a little nudge. 

Writing resources:

Fantasy Names Generator

Have you ever found yourself completely stuck as to what name you should give a character, or what to call a new piece of technology in your world? I’ve been there a few times and that is how I discovered Fantasy Names Generator. If you haven’t already discovered this website, then you really need to go check it out. It has literally a category for everything from troll names to steampunk city names to actual human names from the 20th century – chances are this website will inspire you if you’re ever stuck for a name. It’s also got a generator for character descriptions or story prompts so if you’re experiencing writer’s block a browse usually helps to give the creative wheels a turn in the right direction. 

Artbreeder

I love creating visual representations for my characters. There is something about seeing them come to life that makes their story that much more tangible for me. Unfortunately, I did not inherit my mother’s fine art skills. Instead, my repertoire for “fine art” is limited to questionably symmetrical star doodles and lopsided stick figures. And turning my characters into stick figures isn’t exactly inspiring. Thankfully, that is where Artbreeder comes in. It’s a free website where you can create characters. And it’s so much fun! Another app that I like to use on my phone is Dollify since it gives you more of a cutesy/anime look to your characters. 

Pinterest

Okay, I will admit, this one is pretty obvious. Most of you probably already use Pinterest for creating mood boards. But I thought I’d include it just incase. I cannot state enough how much I love mood boards. And Pinterest is my favorite place to search for and create mood boards. Not only have I found mood boards to be a great way of plotting out scenes or reinvigorating myself with creative energy when I hit a writer’s block, but sharing them with your followers on social media is also a great way to drum up interest in your work. 

Grammarly

Yes, regular spell check on your computer is great. But if you want that little bit extra, Grammarly is excellent. It will catch things that the regular spell check on Microsoft Word might not. And if you are choosing to do some self-editing of your manuscript, I highly recommend getting Grammarly, it’s worth the money.

Facebook Groups

If you’re stuck looking for like-minded people, look no further than Facebook. Especially in today’s current climate with the COVID-19 pandemic it’s not like we can just go out and attend writing workshops and stuff in order to meet fellow writers. So, going online and finding a Facebook group is a great way of still being able to get the benefit of having a writing circle but also remaining socially distant. And even during non-apocalyptic times, online Facebook groups can still be a great way to connect with other writers in your area or from around the world. I am personally a member of several, my two favorite ones being the Fantasy and Scifi Writers and the NaNoWriMo group. The F/SF one is great for obvious reasons, since it’s right within the two genres I tend to write and read the most, the members really understand the struggles of being a F/SF writer. And the NaNoWriMo one is another great resource as there are writers of all genres in that one. And it gets particularly busy around November, so it’s a wonderful support system to have if you ever participate in the NaNoWriMo challenge because it’s literally thousands of other writers going through the exact same struggle as you trying to finish 50k in 30 days. 

What are some of your favorite writing resources? Let me know!

Writing Multiple POVs

Writing a story means deciding what point of view to take. Personally, I prefer singular points of view. It’s easy to keep track of everything that is going on. But at the same time, it can be a little limiting if you want to bring in certain reveals or plot twists, etc. Because of this, there sometimes can be benefits to having two or more points of view for the narration of your story. But keep in mind, you shouldn’t bring in different points of view just for the sake of having multiple voices. There should always be a reason. 

And below, are several tips for writing multiple POVs:

Each POV should add to the story: Your readers should care about the characters that they’re reading. Therefore, if you’re going to use different POVs, each character should serve a purpose. Not only should they help propel the story forward, but they should all be strong, interesting voices that your reader wants to root for.

Understand the story before you write different POVs: Whether you have one POV or more, understanding the story you’re trying to tell is the key to success. While you can kind of get away with figuring it out as you go along while writing from only one perspective, you can’t do this with multiple POVs. It will be entirely evident that you have no idea what is going on in the story. That is why you should know the plot inside and out before attempting to write different POVs. 

Separate your chapters: Don’t put multiple voices into one chapter – you will only confuse your reader. But more importantly, giving each of your character’s their own gives your reader a chance to properly bond with them and get to know them. Plus, it’s another way to add tension to your story because you can do things like leave one of your characters in a cliff-hanger of a situation, while moving on to another chapter – a great way to keep your reader guessing and wanting to continue reading.

Each POV should have a distinct voice: There is nothing worse than reading a book that is supposed to be multiple POVs and it reads all the same. Not only is that confusing for the reader, but it’s boring as well! Developing distinct character voices isn’t just about their dialogue or actions, it’s also about coming up with their internal thoughts and motivations. In fact, their internal thoughts and motivations can be quite powerful in creating a deep sense of who the character is. And once you’ve created your character’s voice, stay true to it. 

Be selective of which character is the narrator: Don’t just throw in several narrators just for the sake of having two or more voices. Much like my first point, each narrator should add to the progression of the story. What I like doing is look at the chapter or scene that I’m writing and then decide which character has the most at stake, what am I trying to convey story-wise, and which character’s perspective would make the most impact. Based off these questions, you can come up with the appropriate narrator. 

How do you handle multiple POVs? Do you like writing multiple POVs or do you prefer only one? Let us know!

Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Writer

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But I have only been seriously pursing it for the last four years since graduating from my master’s program. And in the time that I’ve been trying to be a “serious writer,” I have learned some valuable lessons that I wish I’d been told before becoming a writer. And in case you need a little reminder, here are the five things I wish someone had told me before I took the plunge. 

Time

Writing is very time consuming – especially when you’re doing it with an end goal in mind. And as a result, you’ll probably see a dip in your social life or sleep cycle occur. But that is what caffeine was invented for. While this time consumption can be quite isolating at times, it does help to find some like-minded writer friends who understand your same struggles and can help motivate you when the time commitment just seems overwhelming.

Outlining

This one took me a while to finally figure out, but having a clear outline is everything! If I could go back in time to my eighteen-year-old self, I’d tell her to get on the outlining train ASAP and avoid years of unfinished manuscripts because halfway through, they were so chaotic and riddled with plot holes that they were tossed aside. Seriously, now I even outline my short stories. It makes a world of difference. 

It’s Okay to Suck

Writing is something that takes time to perfect. You will suck at first; there is no avoiding it. I just wish I’d known this sooner. But in order to suck less, you just have to keep practicing your craft, as well as embrace the editing process. All first drafts will be cringy and that is okay. 

Don’t Rush

Patience is a virtue, and you need to be patient with yourself. Writing a book is a long and arduous process. It is going to take time. Don’t get upset with yourself if you’re not writing “fast enough.” Go at your pace, take your time, and remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint. 

Don’t Forget to Live

Yes, writing takes up a lot of our time. But you can’t forget to make time for real life. It’s okay to step away from your fantasy world and back into the real world from time to time. In fact, I have learned that a little break from your manuscript every once in a while is healthy and restores your perspective on it.