Coming back to a WIP after time away is hard. There’s no reason to sugarcoat that.
No matter how long it’s been since you last cracked the spine of your notebook or fired up the document, no matter what stage of the writing process you’re at, it’s tough.
You have to reorient yourself in the world of your story and reacquaint yourself with your characters. Getting your bearings takes time, and it sometimes also involves realizing that there is much more to do than you thought.
It can be very daunting to say the least.
My schedule at the day job and other things happening on my side of the screen have drastically limited my writing time. I’m working on this blog post after sitting down with Bound to the Heart for the first time in three months (closer to four if I’m being honest).
I’m working on a complete rewrite from the ground up that’s caught in a limbo between being a brand new draft and the umpteenth round of edits, focusing primarily on delving deeper into my protagonists’ contemplations and fine-tuning the narration in a way that brings my own voice back into it.
I was only a handful of chapters in when I left off, so I ended up going back to the very beginning and starting over. Additionally, I restarted edits on the physical copy because it has been so long—almost a year in some places—since I scribbled down those notes and I, for the life of me, could not remember the reasons behind a lot of them.
As a whole, reorienting myself within Bound to the Heart has become an unexpectedly formidable undertaking.
Have I felt like giving up during this process? Not quite. But there were plenty of moments where I wasn’t exactly champing at the bit to take the plunge back in.
At times such as this, there’s one phrase in particular that seems to be thrown around quite a bit: Remember why you started.
From this sentiment came my idea for the “I Love You List.”
After all, remembering what inspired you to take on the venture is helpful, but it’s as important to remember the things that keep you going. Why you are choosing to stick with it, even when it gets tough and you feel discouraged or frustrated.
The “I Love You List” consists of little notes and things I love about my WIP, ranging from scenes or characters to smaller details like lines of dialogue or descriptions that make me smile (or feel whichever way I want my future readers to feel).
Without going into the spoiler alert zone, I want to share some of the things on the “I Love You List” for Bound to the Heart. These are just a few examples in no particular order:
• I love the bromance between Zach and Fenton. The way they’ll come to each other’s aid when shit hits the fan, no questions asked, no besmirching opinions held.
• I love Eve’s determination to follow her heart no matter what. That she is unwilling to relent to her mother’s expectations and instead wants to marry for love in a society prioritizing different matters when determining what is a successful match.
• I love the progression of Mrs. Chavasse’s character. From overbearing mother archetype in Draft One to a more complex human being grieving the loss of her son and her husband all while trying to ensure the best for Eve’s future in the wake of tragedy. Even though she certainly takes things too far, Eve is always at the core of her motivation.
• I love the split conversations between Eve, Zach, and St. John as they dance and the way that scene is executed. It does a great job of setting up how Eve is torn between what each represents: St. John being her mother’s intentions for her and Zach being closer to what Eve wants and almost a personification of her love for reading and books.
• I love Henry’s sarcasm. So many of my favorite bits of dialogue come from him.
• I love Henry’s coming-of-age subplot, and how Zach gradually accepts that his kid brother isn’t a kid anymore.
• I love the parallels I’m starting to draw in this latest draft between Henry and Percival. Henry is the age Percy was when he died, and exploring Eve’s yearning for what could have been has made for a beautiful challenge. I love how through this romance with Zach, she is able to regain a sense of familial connection with his siblings.
• I love the bond between Eve and Abigail, and it’s one I frankly don’t give enough credit. Although they maintain that employer/employee boundary, I love how Eve truly values Abigail as a confidante and friend, and Abigail’s balance between reeling Eve’s imagination in to a realistic expectation while also supporting Eve’s ambitions as best she can.
The “I Love You List” can take many forms. Sticky notes on a wall. Written on slips of paper folded into stars and kept safe in a wooden box. Or simply scribbled down in a notebook.
Having the “I Love You List” to browse through when I feel drained creatively has become one of the things that made coming back to my WIP—and writing fiction in general—a tad better, and I hope others find it helpful, too.
Because writer’s block and getting stuck are certainly things the majority of creative souls know all too well.