Cracking the WIP

Last Friday I typed “The End.”

As a recap… I had two WIPs, lying virtually untouched all the time. Both were about one-third done, and both were good stories. I’ve been blogging for seven months yet writing almost no fiction.

But then a funny thing happened after I wrote my last blog post of August (the one lamenting the fact that I couldn’t focus to write my WIPs): I started writing. A lot.

I joined a small group on Twitter that planned to write 10,000 words over Labor Day weekend (#LaborDay10K). I’ve done these kinds of challenges before and been disappointed. But this time? This time—from Friday to Monday—I wrote over 10,000 words.

And I kept writing. I really got into the story and realized how much I like it; in short, I fell in love with my story all over again. This story, in my head for about 7 years had grown and shifted and developed layers I didn’t think of before. Subsequent to this I’d written Chapters 1-7 and three other pieces that I knew would fit somewhere, including “the ending” (but as it turns out, that became the next to the last chapter).

And I kept writing, encouraged by MEH (My Engineer Husband) who actually wrote a blog post for me during my crunch time.

Honestly, I wrote almost all the time—for 8 solid days. The day before I finished, I wrote for 10 straight hours, so long that I ached.  The story came so fast I couldn’t type fast enough. I had to take notes on a pad next to me to make sure I didn’t forget what else I wanted to write. So distracted by writing that I ate cereal for lunch—and after taking the first bite I found a (live) earwig in the bowl. So consumed with the writing that I didn’t read blogs or go on Twitter for more than a few minutes—and then I just wanted to get off. And I never went outside except for the walks in the morning and evening with the dog and MEH.

And my WIP grew into a full-grown novel: 26 chapters.

And I can honestly say I have no idea why…why was I able to do this after all these years? I don’t honestly know. But…

The blogging really helped. (Which is great, it was one of the main reasons I initially began to blog!) In the past seven months I wrote over 90,000 words for my blog. From February through the end of May I posted every single day. It was a powerful habit to get into. In June when I stopped posting daily, I kept writing everyday and submitting work to various places: essays, short stories, guest blogs.

Which brings me to the second reason I think I suddenly wrote so much: I got some rejections. I know, paradoxical, right? But not right. One of the rejections was from a really good literary magazine. I got a personal note from an editor, and here’s the thing: she liked my story and my voice. She encouragedme to send her another story next month, thismonth.

And, also paradoxically—although we writers (including me) worry about social networking—during all that blogging and tweeting, I made some good writer friends—friends who checked in with me on how my writing was going, friends who I checked in with on how their writing was going. (I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to my good writer friend Melissa Crytzer Fry; she not only gave me support and encouragement during the 8 days, but she also gave me some much-needed pointers on how to approach some difficult scenes I had to write.)

Oh, and it didn’t hurt that while I wrote, I fell in love with my book and all its characters. The day before I finished, I wrote a list of the scenes I still had to write. After I wrote the list, I looked at it and got really really sad. It’s almost over, I thought to myself. When I finish, all these people will be out of my head—and someday maybe other people will know them. At that moment I didn’t like that very much.

The next day, the 10-hour-writing-day, I was jubilant, happy beyond belief: I was almost done with the first draft. And I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. After the day was over, and I was walking the dog with MEH, I had an epiphany about the ending of the book.

And the next morning, last Friday, I finished the last two chapters…including that new ending. It wasn’t a sad ending (although not necessarily happy), but it was important. My Main Character had a moment of self-realization and so had I. 

I got pretty emotional: to be honest, I shed a tear. Honestly, I didn’t want it to end. I felt sad that I would never really know how my MC would end up—for the last 8 days I lived and breathed this woman’s life. I didn’t want to say goodbye.

But, more, I felt sad that my 8 days of intense writing were over.

Is the first draft perfect? Far from it. But I have captured the story. Today another kind of work is just beginning—I have layers and layers of edits I need to make, I still have some research I need to do, sources to talk to, gaps to fill, probably even re-writing of the early chapters. And I can’t wait.

Because now I know: I can get to “The End.” 

What breakthrough moments have you had with your writing? Do you, like me, have times you’re not sure why you are able to write more freely than others? How do you feel when you finish important milestones in your writing? Can you relate to my feelings of sadness?


P.S. You only have a few more days to enter The Great Giveaway! Just leave a comment on the post and you will be entered! Maybe that little house is what did the trick, who knows?? Contest ends September 15!


  1. E.J. Wesley says:

    Doesn’t it feel awesome to be so productive? Like you, my ability to put a lot of words down seems to vary considerably. Sometimes I can sit down for a few hours and knock out several chapters, and other times I’m like to get 6 good paragraphs down. I think the key is that I keep sitting down. 🙂

    I think you’ve hit on a very important thought about taking advantage when the story comes easily. It’s really important to get as much as you can, while you can.

    Big congrats on the note from the editor! That would’ve inspired me too!


  2. Saw your tweet and couldn’t wait to read this, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and rushed right over.

    Julia, words cannot express how happy I am for you. Everything about this post is so deeply wonderful (maybe even the sadness you experienced – what a good kind of sadness, to not want it to end – come to think of it, that’s the exact feeling I get when I’m reading a good book – I think you’re onto something!).

    I’m thoroughly impressed with the sheer magnitude of the writing feat you just pulled off. But perhaps the best bit was this: “I really got into the story and realized how much I like it; in short, I fell in love with my story all over again.” I’m so thrilled you reconnected with your story!! And felt like you were living and breathing your character’s life.

    Your process of writing your WIP is similar to how it happened when I wrote my book. I didn’t have any earwig moments (UGH!) but I did shut out the world and the book just took me over. I wasn’t even intending to write a book – it was triggered by a comment from a friend – if it had been premeditated, back then I would have immediately exclaimed, “I could never write a book!” I think that’s sometimes why we freeze up – because when there’s a big important goal we tend to not believe we can do it.

    I’ll be back to read this post again. Every word was like gold.

    ~ Milli

    P.S. Love your title for this post!

  3. Oh, Julia… this is fantastic! I’m so happy for you! You know, I think there is definitely something to the lengthy, uninterrupted writing sessions/challenges. Last November, during NaNo, I experienced much of the same things you’ve described here (except for the earwig in the bowl ::faints::). For 30 days I dedicated myself to my characters and story, and I was very sad when the month was over. However, over the next several months I had additional epiphanies—and while I’ve never committed to the daily word count since—I still continued to write, edit, and research a little bit each day. In turn, I’ve felt as if I’ve gotten to know my characters even better. It’s like the first 30 days I fell in love, but I had no idea that 8 months later, I would continue to love my characters and care about them even more than I did back in November. We’ve been through so much together since then.

    Your hard working attitude inspires me as always, and I can’t wait to be the first in line (online? ::laments the loss of physical bookstores::) to buy your published novel.


  4. Wahhhhoooo, Julia. I am so happy for you that words can’t describe it. But what you’ve done is achieved that sense of “flow” that I once blogged about. You were able to get in that creative state of mind without distractions and go for it.

    What a wonderful feeling, and tremendous accomplishment. And thank you, humbly, for the shout out. It definitely wasn’t necessary, but is appreciated.

    I have no doubt that you will soar in the editing phase, too. And mega congrats on the literary journal encouragement. This is your time, girl!

  5. I’m so happy for you, I almost shed a tear reading your post! No more earwigs ok? 🙂

  6. E.J., I think you’re right–the key is to keep sitting down, which I think I learned the hard way! Thanks for the congrats, but of course (as all we writers do) I’m taking it with a giant grain of salt! xo Julia 🙂

    Milli, Thanks so much, and I know you know how I’ve struggled with this…. so I very much appreciate your kind words about the “magnitude of the feat.” That’s how it felt, no question. It’s nice to hear others know what this feels like, sans earwigs, of course — my SPECIAL flavor to the experience! 🙂 xoxo Julia

  7. Barb, THANK YOU! You are one very very loyal reader of this blog, and I honestly can’t wait to read your comments, so thank you! Glad you understand via NaNo. I’ve never done that, but may try this November with WIP#2, we’ll see. It’s good to know it was successful for you! And I’m glad to hear you’re still in love with your characters 8 months later! As for buying my novel? Thank you for the sweet added inspiration! You’re the best! 🙂 xo Julia

    Melissa, What can I say? I would’ve gone a little nuts w/out your encouragement. So, that shout out *was* necessary for me, even if not you. As I sat solitary in my self-created world, I knew there was SOMEONE else REAL out there who I could check in with. Which was huge. Thanks again. xo Julia

    Sara, I plan on no more earwigs. I HOPE needless to say I dumped the whole bowl of cereal out. Haha, maybe I should’ve been explicit in the post. 🙂 Glad to know you’re out there rooting for me, Sara, next time DARN IT you WILL shed that tear! 🙂 xo Julia

  8. Oh, Julia! I am so happy for you! How funny is it that revealing your frustration with your WIP was exactly what you needed to dive right back in? Thank goodness for your precious MEH who supported you during that time. We are blessed to have our husbands, aren’t we? 🙂 I can’t wait to read this work! It’s going to be powerful. Hugs!

  9. Wow, Julia! I am so excited and beyond impressed that you wrote so much in such a short time. It must’ve been lovely to have the muse take over like that. Huge congratulations! I really can’t say enough how happy I am for you. Not just because of the productivity (which is a huge accomplishment in itself) but because you are obviously glowing from this, on a writer’s high, and that’s what it really is all about. Can’t wait to hear what happens next 🙂

  10. Jolina, You are so right! Thank goodness for MEH — certainly could not have done it without his support in so many ways! So very very blessed & fortunate to have our husbands, that is so true! I hope it will be the novel I want it to be when I finish — thank you for your support! Hugs back, xo Julia

    Natalia, Thank you so much! You’re a big inspiration & so supportive! It was a surreal experience — crazy writing 🙂 I am still on the writer high but fighting to get my feet back on the ground for the work ahead! Feels great! xo Julia

  11. Pet says:

    I would feel so proud if I were you. I used to challenge myself with number of pages and the like. Now I think I wouldn’t find the strength.

  12. JM Merchant says:

    I am so so pleased for you that you’ve achieved this. Though the subsequent editing process can be immensely frustrating at times, there will be plenty of moments when you feel that joy again, when you feel all those little bits that needed just a little more TLC suddenly come right.

    I’m staring at my calendar right now, and the note “Complete Novel Outline” marked for the 30th is scaring me a lot right now.
    Hopefully some of your writing buzz will make it’s way across the pond 🙂
    Jo x

  13. Ann says:

    Julia I am SO happy for you! I KNEW when your hubby wrote the blog post that you hit your stride! I am just thrilled! I hope we get to read your story soon!

    I guess my stories are easy. They’re a recipe and they always have:
    A beginning (deciding what to make and shopping)
    A middle (cooking – yay!)
    An end (dinner – double yay!)

    The hardest part for me is finding the beginning. Although, it’s also one of my favorite parts…reading cook books and researching recipes.

    Occasionally, I don’t want to cook…it’s rare, but when it happens NOTHING can get me in the kitchen and hubby literally takes me out for EVERY meal until it ends (which is usually about 4-5 days in a row).

    The end…I never have a problem with eating it!

    Congratulations again…I’m SO excited for you!

  14. Kimberly Brock says:

    I’m so proud for you!! And I truly can’t wait to read the finished novel. You inspire me and light a fire when I need one. Xoxo

  15. Susan Okaty says:

    WOW! Wowy wow! I am so impressed and happy for you! I have never been able to write like that, but I’ve been able to write non-stop for a few hours when the characters become real and write their own story. I know you know what I mean. Sometimes my characters talk so fast, I can’t get it all down. Okay, one time. That happened one time. Again, way to go!

  16. That is FANTASTIC news. There’s nothing as wonderful as a draft to mold (IMO). I love to edit and sort of hate getting the draft down—even for blog posts. Once the draft is done, you can get your hands really dirty and do the “fun” work. I’m SO SO SO thrilled for you! (And jealous!)

  17. Pet, Thank you so much! 🙂 The challenge only works for me sometimes, so I know exactly what you mean! So happy to have your support and encouragement! xo Julia

    Jo, THANK YOU! No question the editing will have its frustrating moments, but I’m determined to finish this! I’m rooting for you with your 30th “complete novel outline” deadline. YOU CAN DO IT!!! Thanks for your support! xo Julia

    Ann, I KNEW you suspected 🙂 I hope you will get to read my story soon, too…. I’m plugging away with that firm intention in mind! I love love LOVE your formula for your stories. And your husband is as supportive as mine — how sweet to take you out to dinner when you hit that wall! Thanks for your congrats; it means more than you know 🙂 xo Julia

  18. Kimberly, THANK YOU so much!! I’m glad to provide you with inspiration; I’ve gotten so much inspiration from all of YOU! And I hope you do get to read it someday soon! xo Julia

    Susan, Thank you so much for your support, encouragement and kind words!! And you are TOOO FUNNY with your “one time” comment. hahaha. I appreciate you being on my side; I love my blogging buddies! xo Julia

    Nina, Thank you so much! This was my first adult novel draft (have 3 middle grade novels), so it was a big thrill and relief. Oh good, I can do it. Thank you so much for your support and kind words. (as for the jealousy, I’m flattered — you are a fabulous writer with a couple of novels under your belt!) xo Julia

  19. Isn’t it a high to get that first draft done? Is this the first first draft you’ve ever completed, Julia. If it is, I really think that’s a special moment. Although I’ve heard the fear that we won’t be able to do it again occurs with each one. So maybe they will all feel like that.
    So happy for you. Now…on to the rewrites woman! 🙂

  20. Lisa Ahn says:

    Julia — WOW! That is wonderful news. I think sometimes we need to get really frustrated with ourselves before we find what we need to move ahead (or maybe that’s just me!!). In any case, I’m so glad that you were able to set aside that time and use it so well. Big hugs to you!
    ~ lisa

  21. Nancy Kelley says:

    Wow, Julia!! I’m so happy for you! Now see who the productive one is? 😉

    Also, congrats on the personal notes from the editors–that’s huge. I know that, even though I’m not pursuing traditional publishing formats.

    Plus! I edited through to the end of my draft last night! I still have two more crit partners getting back to me with more notes, but I’ve gone through once. I am so happy.

  22. Good for you, Julia! I’m so impressed you were able to conquer the WIP. I admire your commitment and what you were able to accomplish. You’ve inspired me to kick my WIP in the butt!

  23. Cynthia, Although it’s the first adult novel I’ve completed, I’ve written 3 middle grade fiction (about 1/3 to 1/2 the length of this one). This is the first time I’ve experienced this amazing thrill, perhaps because of the rush at the end, or maybe because I’m just so excited about the story… Thanks for your support and kind words! And now, as you say…. on to the rewrites!! woohoo 🙂 xo Julia

    Lisa, Thanks so much — and I think you’re so right… I was so frustrated with myself and in part that’s why I was able to get motivated. Thanks for the hugs (and support and encouragement! xo Julia

    Nancy, I honestly think you were one of my role models through all this. Your work ethic is phenomenal! So exciting for you with your editing progressing on — it sounds like the end is in sight!? YOU GO! Thanks for all your encouragement and support! xo Julia

    Leah, Thank you & so sweet of you to admire me! And if I’ve helped inspire you, all the better! To me, that’s the best best best thing about being in the circle of online writer friends like you (and all my supportive commenters!). p.s. kick that WIP into shape!! xo Julia

  24. I’m so glad you shared this exciting news with me the other day, and I’m still super excited and proud for you! What an amazing effort, Julia.

    Don’t feel too bad about the separation from your character… she might have more adventures to share with you, yet! 😀


  25. Ashlee, Thanks! I so appreciate your kind words and writing support! Looking forward to seeing you soon on FB, that was fun! As you say, who knows what further adventures my MC may share with me… especially as I edit and revise! xo Julia

  26. Julia, this is great. Congrats on finishing the first draft of your book. I always feel so much better when I have all the words on the page and can then focus on editing. I hope to read the final product someday.

  27. Isn’t it funny how rejection can inspire you? Good for you. And 8 days is incredible. Congrats!

  28. Woo-hoo! Nothing like that buzz when you get in the flow, and the words rush out.

    Good for you for heeding the call – and I am 100% with you that blogging can totally help us with our WIP. And can also be a distraction. The trick is knowing when to turn it off and write.

    I, too, recently finished the novel I’ve been working on forever. Next up, the edit, with I anticipate with both glee and terror. Giving myself a few days off in between so that I can look at it – still with love, but perhaps not with intoxication.

  29. Jen, Thanks! It really is wonderful (and daunting) to have the words/story down and be able to focus on the editing. Here’s hoping you WILL be able to read the finished product some day!! xo Julia

    Kelly, Rejection (at times) is a wonderful inspiration. Thanks so much for the congrats! 🙂 xo Julia

    Beverly, That is EXACTLY how I’m feeling about the edit: anticipation with glee and terror, captured perfectly! I too am focusing on other things for a few days for the same reason! Nice to talk to someone who’s going through the same thing at the same time — thanks so much for your comment and keep me posted on how it goes! xo Julia

  30. Congratulations, Julia! That is fabulous. I hope the revisions stage goes well — keep us posted…

  31. Congratulations, Julia!! This is excellent news, and that is one hell of a finish. Everything you described is familiar to me, from the ambivalence of the novel, to your lightbulb moment, and the white-hot writing period.

    I finished my first novel in a similar way, over a 24-hour period (I wrote in a notebook in an IHOP just before I finished, lol).

    Anyway, this is a huge accomplishment, and I look forward to knowing more about it, 🙂

  32. Amanda, SO lovely to see you! 🙂 I will certainly keep you all posted as revisions & edits go… thanks so much for the congrats xo Julia

    Mahesh, I have to say it was one of the most exciting writing experiences I’ve had — somehow the rush at the end of a technical manual was never quite the same (nor even the juvenile fiction)… this was amazing, and I love hearing from other writers who have experienced it. As you say “one hell of a finish.” Exhilarating. Thanks for the support & encouragement! 🙂

  33. Ado says:

    Woot-woot for the completed WIP!
    Big congrats. Huge.

  34. Ado, THANKS! Huge. But huge-er to come… gearing up for the edit! 🙂 Thanks again!

  35. Way to go on such an amazing achievement! To finish a draft is hard work and you did it like you were in a triathlon!

    You know you have it in you now and there isn’t anything you can’t do.

    So proud of you.

  36. Hallie, Thank you so much!! I love the triathalon metaphor! I feel like I completed the swimming part of the triathalon and now have the biking & running ahead of me. You are a wonderfully supportive and encouraging writer friend, and I think writing friends like you are what made me believe in myself! Thank you so much! xo Julia