RWA Blog #6: Cracking the W.I.P

This month, the Upcoming Fabulous & Famous Romance Writers turned their minds to their WIPS.

What is making them tear their hair out? What’s working?

Check out the full blog on the Romance Writers of Australia website here.

Or … read it in full below 🙂


Challenges new writers face with their Works In Progress

Everyone has a WIP on the go, right? A Work-In-Progress? Or maybe you have three on the go, or eight, and a hard-drive stuffed with gigabytes of words you’ll never deem fit to print.

This month, the Upcoming Famous & Fabulous Romance Writers thought we’d share our current WIP dramas and triumphs with you. We especially hope that any newbies out there who are feeling a little flayed will find some encouragement in our words. You’re not alone!


I started the new year feeling pretty cocky (!) about my plan for manuscript #3. I had a plan (which I don’t often have): 27 scenes mapped out, and a schedule to knock out 55, 000 words before March 31.

Well, it’s May 14 and I’m at 22,000. So, what went wrong?

The answer (this time) is plot. For manuscript #3 I decided to detour down the darker narrative alleyway known as Romantic Suspense. Which meant, ummm, something suspenseful had to happen. So I threw in bad guys. A car chase. A drug baron with an Eastern European accent and an unexplained scar. A narrow escape from a crooked customs officer. A backstory steeped in wounded valiance and brooding machismo.

But none of this was working because my underlying story was missing something and it took me a while (weeks) to work out what that missing something was.

My WIP’s plot was missing credibility.

Now that I have worked that out, I have a game plan. I’ve been reading true crime articles based on the same sort of setup as that in my manuscript. I’ve splurged on Nora Roberts hot-cop-in-a-small-town books on my kindle.

The missing 33,000 words haven’t started flowing back down from my head, through my fingers, onto the qwerty keys and into my word document yet … but they’re brewing. And that brewing feeling is a pretty great feeling to have.


Like so many aspiring authors I squeeze writing into the crevices of a busy work and family life. However, events occurred which stymied all good intentions of adding to my word count in the last month: a week-long visit from my son who lives interstate and the passing of a dear friend. As a result the word count has stalled for a little while. And I’m okay with that.

I’m writing category length sweet romance and my WIP is sitting at around twenty thousand words into its first draft. This is my second manuscript. The first one was very much pantsed and this one is more plotted. I started out excited about having an outline and thought that having one would make this book oh-so-much easier to write. It seems this is not the case! And with each week of writing that passes I can look back on the previous week and think how naïve I had been back then. Which causes me to freak out in no small way as to how much lies ahead of me that I currently know nothing about.

I have the occasional good writing session where the words just flow and others where the words are dragged out kicking and screaming but for the most part I plod along at a tediously slow rate. (I’m not so okay with that.) I’ve thought about scrapping the whole book and starting afresh and I’ve thought that if I can conquer it, it will be great. On tough days I wonder what the point is, especially as writing the book is only one part of a very involved process and I have zero skills in the promotional side of things like branding, marketing and, heaven help me, self-publishing.

In short, it’s still a long way off being ready to read but there is progress and though it comes in fits and starts I take encouragement from that.

Thoughts that are my companions along the way include “one day at a time”, “take it easy on yourself” and “you could be writing now”. The last one is currently speaking loudest and as the kettle has just boiled with an hour before heading to work, I must acknowledge this planetary alignment and try to add a few more words to the WIP.


I initially thought this would be an easy blog to write: my thoughts, my WIP, should be easy, right? Except it hasn’t been. This is now my third attempt – the first two dragged themselves out from my fingertips only to be subjected to the lovely delete button.

I’m struggling with this WIP. I have my outline, I know my characters, I’m 4/5 of the way to The End … but I keep thinking my conflict sucks. It’s a royal romance, and my struggle has not been helped by the fact the market is currently experiencing an influx of royal themed romance (thanks Harry and Meghan).

I started this novel last year, before the wedding was announced, but that shouldn’t really matter. I think my real problem – is me. I am self-sabotaging. When I carve out writing time instead of just getting words down I procrastinate … Facebook, oh I haven’t posted on Instagram for a while … what are people talking about on this group, twitter threads anyone? Submittable … where I can see my partial request for this WIP is still ‘In Progress’.I have actually learnt to hate those two words

I also at times feel guilty about finding time to write. I’m a stay-at-home mum, so if my girls are happily entertained I wonder if I should be doing the laundry or vacuuming instead of doing something fun such as writing. It’s a balance I’m struggling to find but am enjoying the foray into a new career. Reading how other mums with young kids make it work is amazing and inspiring.

Now if I could just get this first draft finished!

This image is making the rounds, but I felt it perfectly summed up my writing process. Picture credit Gemma Correll for Evernote


I’m not the most coordinated person and with living in my head most of the time, let’s just say I became very good at developing elaborate excuses to get out of PE at high school.

I struggle throwing and catching one ball at a time, let alone juggling, but increasingly I’m beginning to feel like a juggler with four works in progress on the go at once.

The first is my debut novel. I’ve been working on edits with my amazing editor and publisher.

Another manuscript has had a Six-Million-Dollar-Man like overhaul with structural edits and is currently with Beta readers to determine if my surgery has worked any miracles.

A third manuscript is 25,000 in and I’m still in that new-WIP-love phase.

And the fourth, well, it’s just a series of random names and words written on the backs of envelopes and a true crime book sitting on my bedside table for research.

At times it can be a little overwhelming with so many balls in the air. It can be challenging to know which piece to focus on when I have time to write, and hang on, was this character the one with the sister in London or was she an only child? (Checks backs of envelopes frantically).

However, the upside of juggling multiple pieces is I’m hoping I’m not standing still and if one piece isn’t working or I’m waiting for edits or feedback, I can move into the next piece and keep up the momentum.

I’d love to hear how many works you are juggling and any tips to keeping them all in the air at once without them crashing down on you.



Right now I’m working on my WIP or should I say WIR (Work in Regress) – possibly soon to be RIP. I want to give up! Ever feel that you might be suffering from chronic writing flu, or author’s arthritis? George Orwell observed, ‘Writing a book is like a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness.’

Hah! For me (and please forgive me if you are a sensitive soul) some days it feels like gastroenteritis, I’m literally pouring the crap out, and the next it’s like passing a pineapple, each word a nobbly, arse-ripping struggle. Either way, when I look at what I’ve managed to write more often than not I’m plagued with doubt and disgust: it’s ripe with clichés and riddled with the sort of detestable adverbial and phonic tics – words like  just, angrily, miserably, turned, so and feel –  slack words that don’t pack any muscle, and that’s not to mention the acne of exclamation marks that somehow wriggle their way into my writing when I’m not looking. Oh joy. Some days it seems the best, the only solution  is to flush my writing down the pan. But it seems I’m not alone.

Stephen King wrote in On Writing, ‘Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.’ Sound familiar? Time to remind myself that writing crap  on the page is better than no crap at all. Our mess can always be cleaned up later. This WIP is my first draft. I’ve been through this process before. I know it’s painful but I need to nurse myself through the process, swabbing fevered brow and urging myself not to give up.

So how do I encourage myself to keep going? My husband (bless his cycling socks),  a practical, results-focused business coach, upon witnessing my ‘condition’ handed me a non-fiction book called The One Thing by Gary Keller. It’s proven useful. I’ve set myself goals and I’m much more focused on ONE thing at a time. Also, at the recent Bayside Literary Festival, A.S.Patric, (a creative writing teacher and awarding winning author of Black Rock White CIty), expressed the view that writing courses were unnecessary and wannabe writers should  think of writing like swimming: regular practice was all that was necessary to improve performance. He advised writing a minimum of 200 words a day without fail. That doesn’t seem so very hard does it?

Whatever our personal writing goals, perhaps the key is to take the plunge, focus on the end of the pool and keep doing laps until we reach our goal destination. That may also sound like a ‘horrible, exhausting struggle’ but at least we can take it one lap at a time and congratulate ourselves for getting writing fit in the process. Time to go flex a little muscle…


So our take-home soft-serve feel-good message to you is this: even the slowest, murkiest, plot-addled WIP will grow eventually. It just needs a little sunlight and a little discipline. And who knows? You, too, may find yourself juggling a cornucopia of WIPS one day.


Happy writing

The Upcoming Famous & Fabulous Romance Writers


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