How to Not Cheat on Your WIP

I’ve been faced with a conundrum over the last few days.

I have a certain science fiction writing project that I’ve been working on for a while. It’s fairly far along in the first draft. I might put it at 70% done. That’s pretty exciting, but it’s also very frustrating, because instead of using that excitement to increase my momentum and just finish the damn thing, I’ve been distracted by another project that’s been on the back-burner for about two years now.

I don’t know why I’m so distracted from this WIP that I love and that I’m excited about and that I want to finish.

Maybe I’m intimidated because I’m so terrible at writing both action and strong emotions. I’m coming up on the climax of the story which is nothing but action and strong emotions.

Maybe I’m just suffering from a bad case of spring fever and this fantasy project is more spring-fever-y than my science fiction WIP.

Maybe I’m just bored.


Regardless of the reasons behind my temptation, this is something I’m going to have to figure out how to handle if I’m going to be at all productive in the next couple of weeks. I know for a fact that I’m not the only person who suffered from Too Many Ideas Syndrome. So here are a few of the ways I go about working through that particular conundrum.

Reread your draft.


There is plenty of advice for writers out there that take a firm stand against rereading your draft before you’ve finished it. These folks are worried about getting caught up in an endless feedback loop, which is a valid concern. No matter what, you’ll catch things that need fixing or editing or maybe they just need an axe or a torch, and you’ll be tempted to change them.

Resist! That is how you get stuck in that endless editing feedback loop I mentioned earlier. You’ll never get anything done that way!

However, hopefully you’ll also find bits and pieces here and there that shine and that remind you why you love your characters, why the plot excites you, and why you’re telling this story in the first place. When that happens, it can help keep you from being a low down cheating ho and working on another project.

Bury yourself in the genre.

For me everything is about… ambiance? Emotional landscapes? Vibes? I don’t know how to put it, but the color of my mindset is important when I work on a project. So what I do is surround myself with similar works that have already been created to keep me on track. Every time I experience a really excellent story, I find myself running around, yelling:


And then I try to do it. Try, being the key word.

The project I’m trying to hard to be loyal to right now is science fiction, which means I should be immersing myself in fictional universes like Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and Mass Effect. Watching/playing these things will help get my mind back to the color it needs to be to successfully work on my science fiction project.

This piece of advice is particularly poignant at the moment because, now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve realized something. The project that is tempting me is an epic fantasy story with a little bit of Western flair. Well…

I’m reading The Fellowship of the Ring with my English class.

I’ve spent the last few weeks talking about nothing but Game of Thrones with a friend who just started watching it.

The Dark Tower trailer came out yesterday and I am ridiculously excited for that movie.

I’ve been surrounded by nothing but fictional fantasy universes for weeks now, so of course my mind is gravitating in that direction.

I guess it’s time to watch some science fiction. Good thing it’s Star Wars Day 🙂

Listen to your project playlist.

At some point I think I’ll write a post about how important I think it is to have a playlist dedicated solely to whatever writing project you happen to be working on. For now, I’ll say this–I have a playlist titled Wayfaring Stranger (the title of my current science fiction WIP). It’s filled with epic instrumental music from artists like Audiomachine, Two Steps from Hell, Revolt Production Music, and Ivan Torrent–you know, movie trailer music–and I listen to it when I’m writing, planning, or just thinking about my WIP. Some of the songs even line up with scenes I have planned in my head and when I listen to them, the scenes play out like movies. It can be a great source of inspiration, and listening to the playlist usually does the trick and gets me in the right mindset to work on that particular piece of work.

Write a blog post or six about your WIP.

What I’m doing now doesn’t really count. I mean that you could write about your current project. Choose whatever form you want, but blog posts are cool. Answering the following questions is a good place to start:

  • When did the idea for your story first come to you? Was it a eureka moment? Or was it gradual?
  • What other books or novels inspired yours?
  • Talk about your characters: Is there any particular character styled after a real person? Do the characters have personal meaning for you in some way?
  • Talk about your setting: Is it a real place? Why did you set your book there? Does it have any personal meaning?
  • What research did you have to do for your book? Did you enjoy the research? What did you like about it?
  • Talk about your journey to publication. How do you think you might get your book published? Traditional? Indie press? Self-publishing? Wattpad?

I found this to be a very nice way to get back in the groove and jumpstart my stalled brain. In fact, on Saturday I’ll be starting a series of posts based on these exact questions!


All these tips are good, and these are nice too, but sometimes they just don’t work. I’ve spent the last several days wanting to work on one project, but stressing out and feeling guilty because I know I should be working on another. I ended up working on neither of them. I wrote absolutely nothing.

So maybe it’s ok to ignore some really famous and good advice. Maybe it’s ok to listen to your gut and cheat a bit on your main project because, at the end of the day, writing something is better than writing nothing.


I’d love to hear how these strategies work for anyone who uses them! I’d also love to hear any other advice people might have on how to avoid the temptation to cheat on your WIP.

4 thoughts

  1. Love this! I so agree on the “color of my mindset.” When writing a genre, I read that genre….and I try to make iTunes or YouTube playlists that carry the same ambience. If something doesn’t fit the vibe, it’s out the window—largely because I’ll get a thousand ideas for ANOTHER writing project (unhelpful). Cool that I’m not the only one!


    1. Haha I’m glad the whole “color of my mind” thing made sense to someone! I couldn’t think of how to phrase it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s