Making Up With My W-I-P: A little time, love, and tenderness goes a long way

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: March 22, 2012
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Comments: 2 Comments


I’ve recently had a fight with my Work-in-Progress, and it hasn’t been pretty.

You see, I’ve been neglecting it these past few months…well, since the end of October actually.  It doesn’t understand how I am a writer and a teacher and a mother and a wife and have only a certain amount of time in my life.  It doesn’t accept that I’ve had to apply and interview for overseas teaching jobs that start in the fall for the last four months, and to do that takes time, all of my writing time in fact, and there was little time for anything else except caring for my family and working at my school.  Even my sleep was neglected.

It’s been hard.  I’ve missed my W-I-P dreadfully– my characters and setting,  turning in new pages of my W-I-P at my Scriva meetings, and actually doing the writing.

“Those Scrivas really get me,” my W-I-P would whisper in my ear late into the night, when I was trying to get some much-needed sleep for a 5 am Skype interview with a school in Europe.  “They love seeing me, reading me, fixing me up and rearranging me so that I’m all shiny and polished.  They want the best for me!  And you…” My W-I-P would turn to me and grimace. “You just toss me aside.”

It’s true.  I did have to toss my W-I-P aside for a little while, but I always knew I would come back to it.  And at the end of February, it was time for us to get reacquainted.

This was easier said than done.  What helped, you ask?

Keeping my toes in the children’s book world during the time I wasn’t writing definitely helped.  I kept on reading other middle grade and YA, even while flying across the country to teacher recruitment conferences (the plane is a GREAT place to catch up on reading).  Critiquing Scriva manuscripts and attending some of our meetings all helped, too.  Yet, when the time came for me to come face to face with my W-I-P again, I was scared.

Really scared.

Questions bubbled from my brain, like a comic strip character with multiple thought clouds extending from her head.  What if I can’t get into my story again?  What if I don’t remember key details in my plot?  What if the story doesn’t make sense to me anymore?  What if I read it, and I end up not really caring about my W-I-P anymore?

What if we have to break up?

Luckily, none of that happened.  But I didn’t just open my laptop and dive right in, either.  I progressed slowly and took baby steps getting back into reconnecting with my W-I-P, starting with getting back into the mindset of being a “writer” instead of  a“teacher.” Four months is a long time for me to be away from my W-I-P.  I needed to reacquaint myself with what it felt like to be a “writer” again in order to do the writing.

I began by following my favorite writer/author/agent/editor/children’s book blogs again a little bit each day at home.  I wanted to know what I’d missed in the world of children’s books while I’d been out of touch.  I had known and cheered for Hugo while watching the Academy Awards after having read it to my two boys and seen it twice at the theatre, but that had been the extent of my knowledge of the children’s book world since November, so I had a lot to catch up on.

During my blog perusals, I came upon Nathan Bransford’s excellent post about the exact same topic that I was going through– I was thrilled and recommend it to anyone who has been away from a W-I-P for a time and needs help getting back into the swing of things.  I followed his advice about starting with writing something small, like a blog post or a journal entry, and then going from there.  To not get on yourself and expect too much the first time you go back to your W-I-P and really start to write something for it.

After commenting on a few blog posts, I really felt the need to get back to my story.  But a broken relationship needs some quality time, so I took my W-I-P on a date to our favorite place, a place where we have gone through thick and thin together, where I have fallen under its spell of forgetting all time and space, where I have become totally immersed in my story.


Not just Starbucks, but Starbucks at 5 am, when maybe one or two elderly gentlemen are there reading the newspaper, when it is quiet and peaceful and smells of coffee beans and hot chocolate.  Every relationship has its special places—places you go on anniversaries to, places where promises were made and memories created—and, scary as it is, Starbucks is my place with my W-I-P.

Many a scene has been written there at the early morning hours, sans kiddos asking me to break apart Legos or cut a hole in a cardboard box so that they can make it a boxcar like in the Boxcar Children (both equally important and fun activities, but not when you want to dive back into your W-I-P) .  I still thankfully have many Starbucks gift cards from the holidays (thank you family, friends, and families of students!) and I decided to write there for two hours one Saturday morning—just my W-I-P and me.

But my W-I-P would not have it.

“What?  You think you can just open me up on your laptop and start writing?  After what you did to me?  Think again!”

So I did think again, and I followed some of Nathan Bransford’s advice about not being too hard on myself the first time.  I began with looking at old “photo albums” that I had created with my W-I-P in mind– research notebooks and art from the period of my story that I had collected to help immerse myself in my setting.

I listened to our favorite music of the period again that I had downloaded with my headphones.

I reread my story and did a bit of revising.  I reread and revised my synopsis.  I started giving my W-I-P the proper time and nurturing it needed and so desperately wanted.  And then, clicking down to the end of where I had left off four months earlier, I started writing new material.

I didn’t write much– maybe a couple of paragraphs, but it was something and, remembering Nathan Bradford’s comment about not being too hard on yourself the first time you go back to working on your W-I-P after a long break, it felt good.

I knew I had to treat my W-I-P again to another date AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to keep up the momentum, so a few days later I scheduled another early morning writing time at Starbucks and wrote again, this time a whole scene!

Then, serendipity followed, as it can so many times with artistic endeavors, and I found a fabulous research book at my local library’s used bookstore upon which, while reading it, flooded me with new ideas and areas to take my story.  I had nurtured my W-I-P with a gift, and it had paid me back two-fold with inspiration.

This weekend, a few weeks after reintroducing myself to my W-I-P, I have taken it to the beach with my Scrivas on a writing retreat, and I find myself writing again.  Writing and creating a novel can really be like a maintaining a human relationship.  It takes time, energy, nurturing, patience, persistence, and even love to keep the relationship going, and I am so glad that my W-I-P and I didn’t break up, but made up instead.


Here are some ideas that helped me make up with my W-I-P.


–       read Nathan Bransford’s blog post!


–       Feed your writer’s soul by going on an “artist date” or a “writer’s date” just like described in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”.  Go to a favorite park, the beach, the mountains, a bookstore, the library, a museum, anywhere you get inspiration.


–       Take your W-I-P on a date to where you can give it 100% of your attention.  If you can do that in your office at home, great.  Just make sure that there are no distractions.  I have many, many distractions at home, so I need to get away from the house.  A favorite coffee shop, the library, the park, anywhere you can.  Reread what you have written, if not all, but enough to remember where you’re going with the story.  Reread your synopsis.  Reread maybe comments from your critique group.  Peruse research and notes on your story, if you have any.


–       Take your W-I-P on a date AGAIN and very soon afterward, since I bet during the first time out after a long break putting words to paper didn’t come very easily.


–       Be easy on yourself the first time out, then keep on trying to give time to your W-I-P.  Try not to go away again from your W-I-P for some time, if you can. Make a schedule, even if it’s once a week for two hours.  Your story and your writer’s soul will thank you for it.


Happy Writing!


-Nicole Marie Schreiber (blog)

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.

2 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. ScrivaAmber says:

    What a great post! It is excruciatingly hard to get back in the groove, but so worth it because once you’re there then real progress occurs. Thanks, Nicole!

  2. […] Nicole Marie Schreiber recently posted on how to reconnect with your WIP after a long absence from it.  She spoke about nurturing the love affair with your book.  It strikes me that I’m anticipating the break-up with my WIP and that’s why I feel so clueless about writing. […]

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