Returning to an old WIP – help me decide!

Returning to an old WIP – help me decide!

Who here has started writing a story and, somewhere in the middle, lost interest? Maybe you only got two chapters in and realised you didn’t have enough plot to make a whole story. Maybe you got almost all the way to the end and just couldn’t figure out where to take it. Maybe you got distracted by a shiny, new story which was more interesting.

Help, I’ve got too many WIPs!

I’ve done all of the above. And more. I’ve been a lifelong ‘pantser’ which I do believe makes me more liable to quit on a story, because I don’t know where it’s going. I’ve been working on that, trying to figure out at least the major turning points of a plot – the hook, the black moment and the resolution if nothing else – because I figure that if I know at least the end, I’ve got better odds of finding my way there, eventually.

But what to do about all those stories that got abandoned part way through? The ones sitting in a folder on my hard drive… stashed on a USB stick lying in the pen tray… hand-written in a notebook and abandoned in a desk drawer? Are they salvageable? Will they ever see the light of day? Do they even deserve to, or have I grown enough as a writer to look back at them and say, no, let them gather dust?

I have more stories ‘in cold storage’ then I care to admit to. Honestly, I’m not even sure of the exact number. I’d have to go sifting through quite a few places to figure it out, and sometimes I’m not even sure what would count as a story… would the five pages of plot I sketched out on a modern-day Camelot retelling count as an actual story or is it just an idea I’ll never write? Some of them, I very definitely do plan to finish off, and I’d like to tell you about three of my Austen WIPs (Works In Progress) today… and then ask you to help me decide which of them I should make my focus and try to finish off first.

Lydia and the Colonel

Yes, this is exactly what it says on the tin, a Lydia/Colonel Fitzwilliam story. The basic premise is that the Colonel is sent to Brighton at the same time Lydia is there. He ends up thwarting her attempt to elope with Wickham, but accidentally compromises her (they’re caught out together at midnight) in the process. Of course, he does the honourable thing and proposes marriage.

Where I’m up to: Better than half way through. Darcy and Elizabeth have made it to Brighton and been filled in on what’s happened thus far.

What has yet to happen: A wedding… and then the colonel gets called away with the army. He has to. Lydia’s still 15. Darcy and Elizabeth get married and Lydia spends her time living with them, her mother-in-law, and her parents at Longbourn. There’s a time skip and the colonel returns when she’s 18, to discover that she’s grown up into a woman he likes a lot better than the silly girl who tried to run off with Wickham.

Anne de Bourgh’s Diary

I think I’ve talked about this one before. Anne’s illnesses have been caused by Lady Catherine’s Munchausen by proxy syndrome, aided and abetted by a quack of a doctor. Anne is devastated when Darcy marries Elizabeth, not because she loves him, but because she saw him as a potential escape route. She ends up admitting all to her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, goes to live with the Darcys while she improves. It’s an Anne/Col Fitzwilliam story, though Mary gets a side romance with the doctor who oversees Anne’s recovery. It is written purely in the form on Anne’s diary entries, which has been a fun challenge as deep first-person point of view isn’t really something I’ve done much.

Where I’m up to: Better than half way through. The colonel was seriously injured at Waterloo and is now back in England, actually staying at Netherfield with the Bingleys. Anne and the Darcys relocated there too. Circumstances have made Fitzwilliam now next in line for the earldom of Matlock and Caroline Bingley is trying very, very hard to throw herself at him.

What has yet to happen: Er… yes. This is one where I kind of ran out of plot. Caroline needs thwarting somehow and Fitzwilliam needs to make it clear to Anne that she’s more than just his sickly cousin. (Incidentally, she’s not his cousin. Lady Catherine’s not actually her mother. It’s Complicated).

A Loss At Longbourn

The basic premise: Mr Bennet is found deceased in his study the morning after the Netherfield ball. Bingley decides he’s not leaving without saying goodbye to Jane; Darcy accompanies him to make sure he doesn’t accidentally commit and they literally walk in on the household just as Mr Bennet’s body is discovered. Jane’s reactions make it suddenly very clear that she does, in fact, love Bingley, who is definitely Not Leaving now! Caroline and Louisa leave for London in a huff; Darcy decides he’s staying to support his friend. Mr Collins acts like an utter butthead and pretty much announces that Elizabeth is going to marry him without actually getting around to asking her. Darcy lies his head off and tells Collins he asked Mr Bennet for Lizzy’s hand the night before.

Where I’m up to: Maybe… a third of the way through? I have just over 18,000 words down and I planned for a total of 50,000 words.

What has yet to happen: The Bennets are going to get spirited away to London, away from Mr Collins’ control. Though they’re still in mourning, Bingley is going to marry Jane by special license. And then… I think I need a time skip because I want to get them out of full mourning and into half-mourning, so that’s 6 months, which takes us to May of the following year. I’m… not sure about the rest. I think Darcy goes to Pemberley with Georgiana and possibly the Bingleys and Bennets all go to Pemberley together. Or maybe Wickham comes back into play somewhere because I haven’t dealt with him yet. Lady Catherine is going to be Most Displeased if she gets wind of Darcy and Elizabeth maybe-sort-of being engaged. Mr Collins probably marries Charlotte Lucas in a massive huff.

At some point, I do hope to finish all three of these off. I’ve re-read what I have of them recently and the standard of the writing is acceptable to me; I’m happy with what I have so far. I just honestly haven’t decided which of them I should work on next, so please… help me decide! Cast your vote in the poll below!

I’d love to hear any ideas you might have as to where these unfinished tales might take our favourite characters! Please feel free to tell me your thoughts in the comments, and your reasons for your choice in the poll, too!

Which WIP should I try to finish off first?

 

21 Responses to Returning to an old WIP – help me decide!

  1. You sound a lot like me. I have three novels underway, a fourth barely started as well as a short book for children which I’m unsure what to do with. My motivation seems to be stalled. Any advice? At age 72 time is of the essence!

    • If you can’t narrow it down to just one, my best advice is to pick two. Select one and work on it as hard as you can, until your motivation slides or you’ve written to a standstill. Try to get at least one full chapter down. When you’re at a standstill on that one, go work on the other one for a while.

      This is my normal method of working, and what it does is allow me to feel like one of them is always ‘fresh’ and the other one is having a ‘rest’. If I’ve run into a plot issue with the ‘resting’ one, by the time I’ve returned to it, my unconscious mind has often solved the problem and I’m able to continue.

      I use the free program WordKeeperAlpha.com to keep track of word count, which allows me to see a visual representation of how word count is amassing on the two stories. Ideally you want to be in two different phases – so one is in the first half of the book while the other is heading for completion – because again, your mind is on different tracks that way.

      Where things go horribly wrong for me is when I’ve got too many stories and I’m trying to work on them all at the same time. I can’t keep all the plotlines straight and I waste a lot of time reading back over the whole thing so far every time I sit down to it. Two works better for me!

  2. First: The title of this post is misnamed. Should be ‘Returning to Old WIPs – help me decide!’ 🙂 Just kidding, however, this sounds much like what I deal with. I have about fifty premises/ideas for P&P variations. Actually, all three sound intriguing, and I look forward to when you finish them. ‘A Loss at Longbourn’ is probably the one I would most like to read first. I really like the idea of Darcy ‘fighting’ for Elizabeth, particularly against Collins. 🙂

    • Well, I’m planning to try and focus on just ONE of them 😛 Darn my ADHD brain! I do have a lot more ideas, but these are the three which I think I could finish off with least effort. The ones I’ve already spent a lot of time on, too, time I don’t want to see wasted!

      • Join the crowd, my dear. I deal with it as well. It’s a blessing and a curse. But it sure gives us a gazillion ideas for books. 🙂

  3. Catherine Bilson… are you mad? You are asking a bunch of fans what they think? I hope you are ready to be inundated with ideas. Are you sure? Really sure? Well, I have a few ideas and give them to you freely. The first is… please finish ALL the stories but start with Lydia’s story first.

    Lydia and the Colonel:
    I love this premise. First question… did a maid go with D&E to Brighton? Just making sure they were chaperoned. This is really going to be a Lydia transformation story and I love those. Her spending time with D&E, her M-I-L [the Countess will certainly tell her what-is-what], and then to be back at Longbourn should be very telling for her. You have three very different households and it has to hit her eventually that something has been terribly lacking in her upbringing. The first time she tries to pull one of her shenanigans on Lady Matlock would be really funny. You know the one where they either told her she was no longer out, or that she wouldn’t be attending society [balls, parties, soirées, etc.], that one. Then the love story begins when our dear Colonel returns. Oh, my. He will get to woo his wife. I’ve always felt that she was as passionate or more than Elizabeth so that should be good.

    Anne de Bourgh’s Diary:
    This will be heartbreaking as we watch this child who has been terribly manipulated by her mother. I like that you gave it the proper label [Munchausen by proxy syndrome]. Grrr! I want to beat Lady C with her own cane. I can’t wait to read how Anne escapes. Would that be with the help of our dear Colonel? I like an Anne/Colonel love story. They are good together.

    Anne is very observant and there would be a lot for her to see while she recovers at Pemberley. She could describe how she finally found peace [for the first time in her life] as she drinks in the atmosphere at Pemberley. She would be able to observe the love between D&E [a worthy couple and an excellent example for her… for what does she know of love?]. She could then observe the growing affection between Mary and her doctor. Cute!

    Now… I don’t know how you got the injured Colonel to Netherfield… unless he couldn’t travel to Pemberley, as it is too far. Something terrible must have happened to the house of Matlock [death of the earl and the heir]. I am wondering how Darcy would be next in line for the earldom. That is usually passed through sons and Darcy is related to the Earl through his mother. Our Colonel should be next in line as the second son. If they were looking at another branch… it would still be through sons. I know you have something planned that you cannot say here so I will leave that research to you.

    Caroline is always good reading fodder as a conniving shrew looking to compromise or throw herself at anything in pants with a huge… estate or title… what did you think I was going to say. Gosh!

    Anne not being Lady Catherine’s daughter, is brilliant. That would explain a lot. We have several options, the child was stolen, Anne is Louis de Bourgh’s bastard by a mistress/or servant, or she was a product of his first wife thus making Lady Catherine his second wife and jealous of Anne and the spectre of the first wife. Anne would be a de Bourgh but not a blood relation to the family Fitzwilliam. Oh, I hope you do something really cool.

    A Loss At Longbourn:
    Yes, send the Bennet ladies away and somewhere where the younger girls will not be out. They are in mourning and should not be out anyway. Someone needs to rein in Mrs. Bennet and explain things to her. We rarely see anyone explaining to her how things ‘are’ in society and how they should be with regard to the younger girls. I know you have already written most of this but… just saying.

    Yes… time skip… is always good. I agree they should get Mrs. Bennet and the younger girls out of London and away from temptation. Perhaps the reason they go to Pemberley is because of some Wickham scheme/encounter. Once he learned the news in Meryton, he would try to thwart D&E being engaged and/or try to do something nefarious. Would Mrs. Bennet have enough sense to know he was trouble? Oh, it is Mrs. Bennet we are talking about.

    Surely, now that they are under Darcy’s protection, and Jane & Bingley are married, she would calm down and realize she doesn’t have to ‘get’ the younger girls married off so young. She could relax, but would she? Those younger girls need to be in school. Mary would like that as [I hope] would Kitty [for her art]. I’ve always disagreed with Darcy’s stance or what I call his ‘failure to inform’ Mrs. Bennet and Lydia regarding Wickham’s half-truths about the loss of his inheritance. I hope you can fix that. She and, I hope, Lydia would act differently if they knew the truth.

    Lady Catherine… it is always so much fun watching her discover that Darcy is NOT going to marry Anne. I hope Anne is not too upset.

    Yes, marry Collins off to Charlotte, bless her heart. I always hate that for her. However, she’s smart enough to know she will have Longbourn Estate and that should be enough for her. When her father dies, her mother and younger siblings could come and live with her as her brother would take over the running of Lucas lodge. That would be revenge enough on Mr. Collins. HA! Sorry, I got carried away there. You may have something completely different in store for that part of the story.

    Have fun finishing these stories. I am so looking forward to whatever you do. You are the author and have the final say. I love reading JAFF stories. I just can’t help myself.

    • Wow, what a fabulous response! I can see you really put some thought into it, so thank you!

      LatC: Mr Gardiner and Jane go with Lizzy and Darcy to Brighton. Both Mr and Mrs Bennet are already there. Lydia’s had a heck of a shock already because the Colonel told her some home truths about Wickham, but yes, she has a lot of growing up still to do. I’m really looking forward to introducing her to Lady Matlock, actually 😀

      AbBD: Yes, the Colonel is the one who helps Anne escape Rosings. Lady C is mentally ill and that has to be dealt with. Anne is Lewis de Bourgh’s natural daughter by a servant after Lady C failed to conceive after 10 years of marriage. The succession in the Matlock lineage is a mess; the first Countess had an affair with LdB and the older son isn’t the earl’s. It takes a lot of straightening out. And yes, the colonel ends up at Netherfield because the London hospitals are overcrowded and unsanitary but Pemberley or Matlock is too far.

      ALaL: School for the younger girls! Yes, I love it. That gives me some Ideas. Still working out how to get Wickham involved, but for sure he would be, especially once Mr Collins opens his fat mouth (because he’s constitutionally incapable of keeping it shut and also he’s hoping Lady Catherine will intervene and forbid Darcy from marrying Elizabeth).

    • Haha, honestly the problem I’m having at the moment is my ADHD brain is trying to finish off all three but what I’m actually doing is flitting like a butterfly from one to the other. I’m trying to make myself knuckle down and do just one until it’s FINISHED!

  4. They all sound interesting, Catherine. I like the idea of Lydia and the Colonel, and ODC joining forces to make things right in Brighton. But I especially like A Loss at Longbourn; I’d love to read how the characters step up (or don’t step up) after Mr. B’s untimely death. Can’t wait to see which WIP you choose!

  5. I am only interested in D&E stories. But, that’s not to try to sway you; just what I prefer to read. My feeling, though, is that if the scenarios are like you describe in your first paragraph, I don’t think you should force them. Maybe you lost interest for a reason. I’m concerned that forcing a story to be finished, just so as not to waste what you have, could result in only a so-so story.

    • I’ve got several I’ve abandoned which I don’t think will be picked up because there’s not enough ‘meat’ to make a real story. These three, though… I’ve got something.

  6. As far as the Colonel is concerned the only P&P variations I want to read are when he marries Mary Bennet, not that interested in Darcy and Elizabeth stories. But love it when Bennet dies he really is a bad husband and father

  7. I went between Anne and Longbourne. I think they will all be good when you are done, good luck with your progress!

  8. I voted, but it was a tie between Anne and a Loss for me. I am fundamentally against any story in which Lydia gets a happy ending. Years of reading of her being self centered and foolish have conditioned a dislike of her so deep that I would never want her to be with my beloved Colonel!

    • I think a lot of JAFF readers are biased that way. There’s a lot of ODC in the Lydia story, actually, because everything is thrown for a loop when Elizabeth receives the letter at Lambton which says that Lydia TRIED to run off with Wickham. Darcy decides he needs to go to Brighton to solve the Wickham problem and takes Lizzie and the Gardiners back to Longbourn (with greater resources at his disposal, their journey is faster) and then on to Brighton. It’s not until then they discover that Lydia’s new fiance is Col. Fitzwilliam, and that of course is where things get MESSY between D+E.

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