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WIP It #1 – On Believing in Yourself

What does WIP mean? Work in Progress. My current book project. The one I tentatively titled AVATARS which then changed to THE ENHANCERS and will definitely change again (my agent said it sounded like a nutritional supplement and she’s right) that’s my WIP. In this once-a-month series, we’ll talk about what’s working and what’s not to give you the sense of my writerly process.

So, how is it going? Great! I pitched the premise to my agent and guess what she said? “Oh goody, I can come up with all sorts of loglines to sell that.” (She might not have said ‘goody’. People from New York don’t say goody, but that’s what I heard. Goody. And she talked about loglines because that’s how you SELL a book!)

And guess what? I had been struggling before that phone call. Why? Because it’s a big book and I was losing the faith. You have to keep the faith. Nothing will kill a book faster than self doubt. I often have to tell myself to write through a slow part in a book and come back in the rewrite to punch it up.

A quote often attributed to Ernest Hemingway is “The first draft of anything [is not very good.]”

So get the first draft out. You can’t fix a blank page. Good writing is good rewriting.

After the phone call, I went back to my computer and started writing at 1,000 words an hour. That’s fast for me (too fast, I’ll have to throw most of it out) but it was like a dam broke and that dam was all in my head.

Part 2 in my writing process can help me keep faith in a project. I write the back cover copy.

That’s right, more marketing materials. “When can I start writing?” You ask? Anytime you want, just know that you might have the wrong point of view, or be starting too early in the story. You may have to throw out a lot of your work. Stay with me. The back copy acts as a touchstone when I get low. And it’s a reference point for when I get a little lost in the story.

For back copy I want two or three paragraphs that boil the first third of the book down. Why the first third? Because that’s Act 1. Act 1 ends with the protagonist committed to action and that’s where you want to leave your reader and the writer, committed to reading and writing the book to find out what happens next!

The back copy sets me in the right direction, if I have a good act 1 of a book I’ll have a good book. So if I can’t nail the back copy something is wrong.

I have a special challenge with mine. I have three equal protagonists. Three points of view. That can make for confusing back copy and I’ll have to be careful.

Here’s my attempt:

Devo has been kicked out of three schools for hacking. Janus works to keep enough pizza on the family table and hates black hat hackers like Devo. Borg has quadriplegia and hasn’t come to terms with his disability.

Devo, Janus, and Borg have only met online. And their exclusive e-school teacher, Cir, has gone missing … kidnapped by someone wearing an exoskeleton and willing to kill to keep the reason secret.

To save the only teacher who ever believed in them, the hacker, the maker, and the gamer will need to qualify in the world’s first competition for augmented athletes. And learn what it means to be human. Or die trying.

Aside from the last two lines, this represents Act 1, or the first 30,000 words. Entering the competition after qualifying is the ‘crossing the threshold moment’ a point of no return for our heroes as they accept their quest. What’s ambiguous in this current version is the antagonist. Ambiguity isn’t good. In this case it’s a mystery who the antagonist is and why they want their teacher, Cir. Is that okay? Mysteries keep readers glued to the page so that’s a plus, but it makes for weaker back copy.

You give it a shot! If you post in the comments below with your back copy, I’ll respond with thoughts on what’s working for you. If you struggle, go to your local book store and read the back of all sorts of genres of books. Which ones work for you? Which ones don’t? Why?

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