Let’s get this out of the way. WIP stands for work in progress. I cannot tell you how many times people ask me what that abbreviation means in the comments of my Instagram.
Now that I’ve clarified that, I’ll talk about how to stop picking up new WIPs when you already have one.
In a creative art like writing there is no better trait than the ability to come up with new and creative ideas. Being able to constantly create new ideas to contribute to your novel is a gift that many writers envy.
The problem comes when those new ideas direct you towards a completely new WIP. All of a sudden you become drawn to abandon your current WIP in order to write this new one instead. Maybe you convince yourself you can write both at the same time, but you know that won’t happen.
I know how hard it is to resist the temptation to pick up a new WIP. I’ve actually given into the temptation on multiple occasions. That is exactly why I feel I have a good idea of how to stop the temptation.
Admit You Have a Problem
I feel like it’s a cliche to say the first step to stopping a problem is admitting it exists.
The thing is admitting you have a problem and acknowledging the severity of it is really one of the biggest steps to solving it.
The key here is to be as honest with yourself as possible. To provide an example of true honesty, I will talk about my experience with picking up new WIPs.
Five years ago I began work on my first WIP. It was an intergalactic adventure series based on the adventures of my childhood toys. The name of the series was Deaphar, the last name of the family the series centered around.
A month after beginning the series I came to the realization that my writing skills weren’t strong enough to depict star systems and alien cultures. In order to improve those skills I made the decision to take up a new WIP.
The second WIP was about a not so ordinary teenager, Joshua, who goes on a space adventure after an alien kidnaps him.
Three months into messing with that WIP I came to the realization that it wasn’t taking me anywhere so I let go of it, permanently. In its place I took a comedy about a zombie apocalypse. As you can imagine, I dropped it within months.
If you think this is bad so far, stick with me, My habit of dropping WIP’s got way worse.
When I turned 15 I was working on a story about the meaning of intelligence in the presence of artificial intelligence. Surprise! I chose to drop that WIP for a new novel about the aftermath on an alien planet after the discovery of a meteor set to destroy all life on their world in twenty-four hours.
Somehow, I actually stuck with that one for 20,000 words before I abandoned it for a story about a superhero who loses his mother.
I would start three different versions of the superhero book, which recycled Joshua from the second space adventure that I wrote as the main character before I actually went back to Deaphar.
Believe it or not, it still gets worse from here.
I told you I was an expert on picking up new WIPs.
At age 16 I returned to the superhero WIP, the Exo-Tron series, and stuck with it for the entire year. However, I still hopped from WIP to WIP somehow. As dumb as it sounds I was alternating between writing the first and second book of the Exo-Tron series. In my head the idea was to finish them both at the same time.
I know its dumb, but hey I promised you honesty.
Those of you who have followed my Instagram from the beginning will recall the time I was working on the Exo-Tron series as I would post about it until I suddenly stopped. To my surprise working on two books in the same series at the same time was too hard.
When I stopped working on the Exo-Tron series it vanished from my feed. In its place I switched over to fan fiction where I write fanfics on the Avengers, 13 Reasons Why, Star Wars, and Planet of the Apes.
I did not finish any of those either.
Now I don’t know if this counts, but from fanfiction I actually jumped to the episode app where I tried to write a chapter story with my dialogue skills there. I didn’t finish that either.
Finally after briefly returning to Deaphar I finally returned to Exo-Tron once again and completed the draft. I was finally able to convince myself to stay focused on one WIP, and it paid off big time with my first complete draft.
While my example seems long and excessive there’s a reason I went through it the long way with all the painful details.
When I first started writing this post I could only think of two or three WIPs I’d ever abandoned. Only when I look back can I grasp the severity of my WIP hopping problem. This is the type of self-reflection and awareness you need to have if you want to face your WIP hopping.
Infact, after you read the rest of the post, it might be a good idea to hop to the comment section and list all the WIP’s you’ve abandoned.
Understand All Ideas Look Amazing at First
When something is new it looks special. However the more you’re exposed to it the more you get used to it.
Think of how hyped up people get when a new phone is released. You’re so excited to get your hands on it. Once you finally do get your fingers on it all the features feel absolutely amazing.
Fast forward a few months. It’s just another phone. It’s not that the phone is any different, it’s just that you got over the excitement of the new features. It’s the new normal for you.
Your new idea for a WIP is different in your eyes. You just thought of it, and like many fresh idea’s it seems perfect to you. Compared to the current work in progress you’ve been fighting with for weeks this new one seems super appealing.
The reason it looks so appealing is that you haven’t put any of the efforts into it yet. In your head this new idea brings nothing but a sense of fun. On the other hand, your current WIP makes you think of work because it takes an effort to put an idea onto paper.
Furthermore your idea for a WIP seems perfect because you haven’t had to flesh out the details yet. Every scene you think of for it is completely fresh and therefore exciting. You’re not writing it yet so you’re not thinking about how all your ideas fit in the new plot. You haven’t gotten into the nitty-gritty aspects of writing it.
Have you ever come up with an idea for a scene that you thought was incredible only to delete it later? After thinking it over it wasn’t as incredible as you first thought. The truth is when you first come with an idea you will often get over-excited about it.
You once had the same feelings for the idea of your current WIP. Keep that in mind and stick to your current WIP.
Save It For Later
This is the best reason for you not to abandon your current WIP. There is no reason that you can’t pick up the new WIP after you finish your current WIP.
Open up a document and put notes down for new WIPs when you come up with them.
You can save these ideas for later without completely dropping your current project.
For example once I completed my draft for the first book in the Exo-Tron series I began to work on the zombie comedy again.
The beauty in this is if your new WIP idea is truly worth writing you will still have the desire to write it when you’re done with your current WIP. Great book ideas don’t expire.
The fear that if you don’t write your new WIP right away someone will steal it is illogical. No one can write your story the way you can.
Now that you’re armed with this information stick with your current WIP till you’re done. Only then can you start another.