How to Make Real Progress on your Work-in-Progress

Hi everyone,

Recently I’ve been making more progress than ever on my WIP. I’ve finally managed to get myself out of the rut that I fell into after my writing degree, and it feels so good to be back. I am definitely not a planner when it comes to writing. For some reason, I just can’t come up with decent plot points in the planning stage. My planning consists of lines I might use, characters, and moods, but never plot points. This has undoubtedly lead me into some dead ends, but it’s something that I haven’t been able to change, no matter how many hours I’ve spent trying.

In the past month or so, I have been focussing on how to get back on track, and I discovered how to work with my process, rather than against it. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you to get out of a rut and make some significant progress on your work-in-progress.

 

1  Only stop if you know what is going to happen next

I used to only write until my inspiration fell flat, and then pack up shop for the day. Don’t do that! Stopping at a dead end meant that the next time I sat down to write, I felt defeated before I even wrote a word. Now, whenever I reach my writing target for the day (more on that later), I make sure that I know exactly which scene I will write the day after. I know that I said I’m not a planner, but I’ve found that right after reaching my target, I’m able to make a tiny, one-scene plan with the momentum that I still have from the writing session. This way, it’s much easier to slip straight back into it the next day.

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
― E.L. Doctorow, Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews

 

2   Set flexible and realistic writing targets

Obviously we need to push ourselves if we ever want to finish anything, but I think it’s important to avoid being too rigid. I’ve found that for me, the best writing targets are small, attainable, and flexible. I feel so much better about my writing and myself if I manage to reach my goal every day. I keep my targets flexible by giving myself both a word target, and a time target. This means that every day, I will either write at least 1000 words, or work on the manuscript for at least three hours–whichever comes first. I’m not saying that you should only write when you feel inspired; I’m saying that if you’re not reaching your goal every day, you need to check in and see if you’re not working hard enough, or if your goal is simply unattainable for your lifestyle.

 

3  Find your routine and treat yourself!

Discover the power of a hot cup of tea, or the right song (try calming classical), or the perfect writing spot. Try to really enjoy the time that you set aside for your writing. My writing time is the only time that I can get out of my own head and live in someone else’s for a while. I have found that, by creating the ideal environment for my writing, it feels less like work and more like a treat.

I think it’s important to experiment a little to find out what works best for you. Are you a morning writer or a night writer? Do you work best at home or at the library? Are you a planner or an improviser? Once I really got to know my process, and worked with it rather than against it, I started making real progress on my manuscript.

 

I hope this has been helpful to you, and I wish you all the best.

Talk to me in the comments! What are you working on?

 

Thank you so much for reading,

Tamara Drazic

 

Dealing with Rejection

As a young writer, I have a pretty big collection of rejection letters cluttering my inbox. I’m a very sensitive person, but over the last two years I have developed what I like to call a writer’s shell. It lets the rejections bounce off of the outside, and lets me keep in all of my positive thoughts, ideas and creativity. Before I started regularly submitting work, my creativity levels were directly related to the feedback I received. If it was positive, I would write for days and have endless ideas; but if it was negative, I wouldn’t write anything, for fear of it not being perfect. As you can imagine, that way of thinking was extremely unproductive. I had to get out of it if I was ever going to get something published, so I decided to follow my own advice, and the advice of my amazing tutors and lecturers. Below are a couple of tips that I use to help me deal with rejection.

*Remember that it’s normal – After getting a couple of rejection letters in a row, it’s easy to start doubting your writing ability. You have to remember that rejection is just something that comes with the job. Every single writer has been rejected.

*Don’t take it personally – A lot of the time, your piece just doesn’t suit the other pieces in the issue, or the market at that point in time.

*Do keep improving – In response to the previous tip, it’s equally important to never stop learning and experimenting. If you’re getting multiple rejections, and you just keep sending out the same piece, maybe it just isn’t quite finished. Take advice, make drastic changes, and kill your darlings.

*Honour your rejection letters – Ok, so you don’t have to frame them and hang them on the wall, but I think it’s important to not just disregard your rejection letters. If the editors have taken the time to give you feedback, use it. Keep your version saved, but also make the changes that the editor suggested and see what happens. Even if it’s a generic letter with no feedback at all, keep it and remember what that particular literary journal or publisher does not want.

*Don’t compare your successes to those of others – You are on your own path to becoming a better writer. You have your own style, voice and goals. Try to be happy for fellow writers when they succeed. Don’t look at someone else’s success and think you will never achieve what they have achieved. Comparing is a sure way to kill your creativity.

*Write a blog post about how to deal with rejection – This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Remember that you are emotionally invested in your rejections because making it as a writer is something that is important to you. That means it is worth trying for. I know the feeling. I’ve also found that the closer your piece gets to publication, the scarier the thought of getting rejected is. One of my pieces is currently on a short list, and I feel like I’m going crazy. I don’t know if this feeling changes once you’re an established writer, with pieces in every major publication. For now all we can do it keep doing what we love to do, and just keep submitting.

Best of luck to all of my fellow writers out there!

– Tamara Drazic