How to Keep Track of Multiple WIPs - Part 2

2:56 PM

*a very disgruntled blogger looks at her blog post page...especially at the last published post date*

Well shoot.

Another whole month has gone by.

Without a post. Or even consistent commenting.


Here's what happened......I was drafting this second part in between work, my offline life and my "other" blogging commitments; which I had intended to use as the ending to this mini-series. But as I continued to grew longer, and longer and longer. There was so much detail that I was having trouble condensing it down.

So, after I finished writing out all the parts, I broke it up into another two posts. So, this is part 2 of three of.....

In my last post, I elaborated (or I should say...rambled) about how important organization is for keeping track of multiple WIPs. And then proceeded to make a hypocrite of myself by showing my messy, half finished renovation of my own organizational system. I'm sure I lost a few readers in that jungle....(don't worry, guys, the search parties are out!)

Keeping everything organized is only half the battle, though.

Which brings to my second big "trade secret", which is......

Develop WIPs by Custom-Tailored Aesthetics, Themes and Characters

Distinctness is super important to me as a writer.  I'm not above sharing some images or musical pieces between WIPs, but after my disaster with Apple in the Snow, I now think twice before reusing or sharing large numbers of aesthetics, themes or character descriptors from old WIPs.

I'm also a person that needs specifics on top of specifics. So to keep the 8 WIPs from getting all mixed up, I spent a lot of time developing characters, aesthetics, and themes so that when I go to draft them, I can easily familiarize myself with the story once more.

Because I've now split up this post, I'm going to break down that "trade trick" above into two practical takeaways....the first being:

Instead of using general playlists/aesthetics, tailor everything to the WIP itself.

This tip is more for music playlists and Pinterest boards, so that is what I'll focus on for this post. I'll tackle characters and theme in the final part.


When I first began to use Pinterest, I only had "general" story inspiration boards. I would stick in images that reminded me of a story....just a story.

Then as I collected more and more pins that were relating specifically to my WIPs, I realized that they were becoming lost in the shuffle. So again, separate spaces, in the form of boards for each WIP, was a mind saver.

And then when Pinterest created the option for "sections" in boards, it really was a gamechanger for me. Now I could organize pins by character, country, research, or whatever!

One trick that I learned from the writing/blogging community, was to "Base your character aesthetics on one person/actor/phenotype". Having that consistent model helps when you need a face reference for emotions, I find.

I've also starting to apply that principle to my setting aesthetics too. Each place has it's own unique features, so every story should have it's own landscape pictures. Like for example, I've got pictures of Nevada mountains only for my reference to the Fihells Sidabras. I don't really know what's different about them than from any other mountains, but it's a way to stay consistent in my descriptions.

Other than that, I use Pinterest like any other writer would.

Now music, on the other hand.....


Music is the biggest "aesthetic" that I work on when creating my novels, since music is so intrinsically linked to my creative muse.

While I do have a "general" writing music playlist, I find that I have better success if I have a separate playlist for every WIP. Listening to the same set of songs while I craft different stories doesn't have the same power that a specific playlist has.

Usually, I'll have one song or album that triggers the actual story itself. Call it the "main theme" if you will. I'll then build the rest of the WIP playlist around that particular piece of music.

For example, for "Shattered Chandelier", my main musical influence is Phantom of the Opera. Which is probably pretty obvious, considering that "Shattered Chandelier" IS a story centered around Phantom of the Opera. Building around POTO, I've added several songs from Damian McGinty (for a contemporary/soft/romancey feel) as well as this song from Abby Anderson:

I then try to find music that resonates with my characters, my story plot and my story world. I do not create character playlists, but I do try to keep track of specific songs for characters by creating a small list on the character profile sheet.

When I look for songs to put in my playlists, I'll play a random piece of music and listen to what emotions are being conveyed. Those emotions will then, hopefully, transpose me into a character's mindset and a scene will often play in my head.

Sound weird? Maybe this will help.

You know how if you listen to a movie soundtrack that you can "play" the scene in your head? It's that same concept except I'm pairing a piece of unrelated music to a scene in my head.

Oddly enough, this is why I rarely use actual cinematic music, unless it was a film I had never seen. I connect music to visuals and emotions at a ridiculous level; so unless the emotions can cut through, it's almost impossible for me to separate the soundtrack from the film in my mind. 

Instead, I'll use pieces from lesser known artists, such as Arlene Faith:

One thing that I make absolute sure of is that each WIP playlist is unique - even for those works which are a series.


Because sequels are almost never in the same time period as the previous story, and the story location can change. And we are dealing with different characters and a different story most of the time.

Remember, the style of music is influenced by several things: location, emotion, people's values, time period, etc. There are even regional differences within a country's music. Building playlists with this in mind can really help differentiate WIPs.

For example, my playlist for From the Cave features a strong "Celtic" influence and features artists like Adrian von Ziegler, Brunuhville, David Davidson, and others. This is because Aistaraina's culture has strong "Celtic" roots.

On the other hand, my playlist for The White Rose features a Celtic/Nordic/Medieval influence, and features artists like John Powell, Erutan, Antti Martikainen, Aryeh Frankfurter, Danish String Quartet, among others. The White Rose is set in Duventoliel, and it's set about 20-30 years before From the Cave. Duventoliel is more of a melting pot, but their near neighbors Ravndal and Aistaraina have a big influence on their culture. And, there is more acoustic music because of the "older" time period.

So, using almost completely different music, it sets a completely different tone and feel to the story. Which, in theory, will aid in not getting the stories mixed up!

Next up......

In the next post (which will hopefully appear sooner than a month this time....), I'll delve into the second takeaway by talking about characters and themes and how subtle differences in each of those can help differentiate WIPs.

So, now I'm you find that specific playlists or images help, or do you take inspiration from things in general? Who's prepping for NaNo??? And is it really possible that it is now October (sure doesn't feel like it....) 

Scribblingly yours,


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  1. You're baaack! *dances about in ecstasy*

    I love getting glimpses of your organized mind, Catherine. My organizational skills are sorely lacking. :) Your whole playlist system in particular is so cool! I enjoy making playlists for my stories, but have never become incredibly attached to them.

    It IS weird that it's October already--and NaNo's right around the corner! Eeeek!

  2. Yay she posted again!! This is really cool! I sorta kinda have playlists for my WIP?? But it's more of "Oh this reminds me of so-and-so let's add it." For some reason (and this is kinda odd considering that I am a musician) music doesn't really "trigger" my creative juices. I can literally write listening to anything ('cept audiobooks of course). I find pictures more triggering for some reason. But music does sometimes make me go, "YES YES YES *writes*"


  3. Yay, Part 2 is here!

    I . . . don’t really use aesthetics as much as I should. Usually, I pick out songs that either have a title that correlated to the story, or the music makes sense in a specific scene. But I really should make some!


    I love using music to describe my characters and scenes. :)

  5. One of my favorite parts of my WIPs are the Pinterest boards I've created for them. <3

    I also love making playlists that fit. But you're way more specific about it, and I like that idea. Like what you said about using the music to play the scene in your head, just like a movie... Genius.

    I am really enjoying this series, Catherine!! :)

  6. The "sections" feature of Pinterest is the next best thing since chocolate with caramel filling. I was so excited when they set that up, like YES NOW I CAN ORGANIZE EVERYTHING EVEN MORE!!!

  7. Good to see you posting again! :D

  8. YOU ARE BACK!!! YAY!!! This post was really helpful! I would say I draw on inspiration from everything around me. XD I'm really hoping to do Nano this year!!! We'll see how everything goes, (and I probably won't win this year), but I would like to have some motivation to write. :-D


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