Guest Chick: Carolyn Wilkins

The Chicks are pleased to welcome author Carolyn Wilkins as our Guest Chick today. In her book, Death At A Seance, Carolyn taps into her experience as a psychic medium. The author will give away PDFs of her new short story, A New Year’s Hex to five lucky commenters. The short story features psychic Carrie McFarland, the protagonist in in her recent mystery, Death At A Seance.


I am an orderly and methodical person. I do not waste time, nor do I waste money. I pride myself on being efficient and well organized, and rarely leave a task undone. Yet, when it comes to writing, I’ve left more projects unfinished than I can count. If I add to this list the novels, stories, poems or songs I did manage to finish but never shared, the amount of work in my scrap pile is staggering.

Some abandoned projects gather dust in my desk drawer, piled under loose scraps of paper.  Others exist in the bizarre twilight world of obsolete technology, composed in outmoded software and stored on floppy disks. Then there are the scraps piling up on my computer – scores of aborted stories, preliminary sketches, and similar bridges to nowhere.

My Inner Calvinist tends to scold me about this state of affairs. She claims my inability to finish projects reflects a lack of commitment or, worse yet, a streak of downright laziness in my character. Is this creative clutter a natural concomitant of the writing journey?  

In search of clarity, I took to the Internet to see what other writers had to say:

In the Writers Write blog, Suzanne Bennet encourages us to reread our old projects regularly: “Even if you don’t find the information you need,” she says, ”your abandoned manuscripts will probably set off your imagination. Reading these ideas is a great way to get you out of writer’s block.”  

James Scott Bell of agrees. “Don’t ever leave a project without jotting down all the key plot points in that fertile imagination of yours,” he advises. “Even if you jump to something else, you may come back to this one, even years hence.”

“If you write a bad story,” author Brenda Ueland advises, “the way to make it better is to go back and write three more. Then go back and look at the first one.” 

In her book How I Write, best-selling author Janet Evanovich encourages us to hold on to our abandoned projects. “Maybe your book was a real stinker,” she says. “In which case, you can put it in a drawer, get on to the next one, and save the first one for when you have a big hit, because then they’ll come crawling for it.” 

Evanovich has a point here. Frustrated with the first draft of his novel Carrie, Stephen King threw his manuscript in the trash. Although his wife persuaded him to keep working on it, Carrie was rejected thirty times. However it was eventually picked up by Doubleday and went on to sell over a million copies. 

Encouraged by my research, I decided to revisit an old story about a young girl’s initiation into the African-American magical practice of Hoodoo. Although the manuscript still needs a lot of work, it’s a lot better than I initially thought.  I’m happy I didn’t hit the “Delete” button when I first became frustrated with it.

Moral of the story? Don’t give up on your scrap pile! It just might contain buried treasure.

Carolyn Marie Wilkins is the author of  Death at a SéanceMelody for MurderMojo for Murder, Damn Near White and They Raised Me Up. She is a psychic medium, a Reiki Master and a priestess of Yemaya, the African goddess of motherhood.  A Professor at Berklee College of Music Online, Carolyn has performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony and toured as a Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. State Department. Connect with Carolyn on Facebook.

Tell me about the unfinished projects kicking around in your (metaphorical) desk drawer. Which ones might be worthy of a second look? Have you ever resurrected a project that had been sitting in the back of a drawer for quite a while? Share in comments

33 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Carolyn Wilkins

  1. Expert advice, Carolyn!

    I found my file cabinet stuffed with hidden material that never saw the light of day. I love Apple devices and discovered the free Notes app offered a way to go digital. Over several years, I stored my writing tips, book ideas, and even home appliance manuals in easily queried notes folders.

    Now, when reading web articles, I often clip entire PDFs for later reference.

    To date, the app contains over 3,500 notes, and best of all, I frequently use the material for a variety of writing projects.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks, Jennifer. Apple Notes has saved me hours of work hunting for prior research. The process enables me to learn once and reuse the lesson many times.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Grant! I am also a huge fan of the Notes App. It’s very convenient and easy to use. I keep my To Do list there as well as my creative ideas for new projects.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful advice, Carolyn! I have a private detective story I started a few years back that I had to abandon due to deadlines for other books. I’m looking forward to a time when I’m not on deadline so I can get back to it.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I started my novel The Legacy of the Unborn (written as Silas K. Henderson) over 30 years ago as a scenario for the RPG Call of Cthulhu. I thought the idea had a lot of potential and would make a great novel. However, I had never completed a novel before and had no idea how hard that was. Swamped with the difficulties of work and family, I put the book up, but never quite forgot about it. After I had completed several novels in my Natalie McMasters series, I thought about Legacy again. I had a strong beginning, I thought, and I knew how it would end–it was just that pesky middle I had to figure out. But the difference was, I knew I could figure it out. After all, I had done it several times before.
    I published Legacy on Amazon in June of 2020. It’s currently got 60 ratings, over half of them five stars from many H.P. Lovecraft fans.
    Now there’s an outline on my hard drive for a book called Pickman’s Destiny…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. This is exactly what I’m talking about. You never know when an old project (or at least part of one) will come in handy!


    1. So glad this post has been helpful. I tend to get down on myself for not finishing things. It’s good to see that there are other ways to approach the problem.


  5. Carolyn, thanks for visiting us Chicks today and offering such inspiration! I don’t have much abandoned writing lying around to revive, sadly, because I tend to reject things within the first few pages. If I find them or a bunch of jotted notes at a later point, I usually say to myself, What the heck is THIS? The character’s voice has to grab me or I’m toast. But there is one exception: I did keep a ms. that I kept trying in different POVs–third person, first person, YA, adult, different/multiple main characters–until (I think) I finally got it right. Fingers crossed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What an interesting idea, Lisa. So you rewrote the story several times with different POV each time? That’s a great exercise. I think I will try that myself. Could be a great way to break out of a stick or stale story.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s tough breaking through the clutter, for sure. But who knows? The next time you submit the story, the timing might just be perfect! Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My memoir that was published last month, JUSTICE IS SERVED, about hosting a dinner party for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actually languished on my hard drive for about 10 years before I pulled it up and decided that I really needed to do a major rewrite and then try to get it published. So glad I did!

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Carolyn, and how cool that you toured as a Jazz Ambassador for the State Department! I’d love to hear more about that! (And what instrument you played for the symphony.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ten years? Wow. And now it is published. A testament to your patience and the quality of the work. My mother used to call that “Stick-toitiveness”. To your question I was a percussion major in college and worked a few times as an extra with the Pittsburgh Symphony. On the Jazz Ambassadors gig, I sang and my touring partner played guitar.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Hi Leslie,
          Music has been my main career focus. I did the orchestral percussion thing for years before switching over to jazz piano. Drumming will always be a big part of my life (I love banging on things😜)


  7. Glad you’re here, Carolyn! I have multiple shelved projects. One I still love (a YA) is interwoven with mythology. Most of the time, though, I keep them shelved–although some have inspired great vignettes or short stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for hanging out today with the Chicks, Carolyn! My first book went through three incarnations before it got me an agent — and a publisher! I never throw anything away. I have a few abandoned half novels that will probably never be a published novel, but a couple of them have the seeds of a plot or character I hope eventually will take root!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Jen! I’m currently working on a story drawn from a chunk of a novel I’d abandoned several years ago.


      2. Hi Vicky
        Thanks again for having me on this blog! Encouraging to hear your journey. Perseverance is so important in this writing game!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Carolyn … thanks for visiting us today! I’m a die-hard outliner, so I don’t have any of those manuscripts that languish because I run out of steam. If I can’t get a complete outline, I toss the project. That said, I DO have manuscripts sitting around. All of them because I can’t quite figure out how to fix them. They’re close, but something is missing. Maybe someday …

    I heard someone say once that when you finish a manuscript, you should immediately turn it upside down in a drawer and start writing it again from the beginning. The theory is that the good stuff will have stayed in your brain and the boring stuff will have magically flitted away. The very idea of that gives me sweaty palms. Such a waste of time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you on the upside down thing. I hate the idea of spending even more time on a project that clearly isn’t working. What my mother would call “throwing good money after bad.”

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks so much for joining the Chicks, Carolyn!

    I’m a big believer in the power of scraps! Even though I try to stick to my outlines, I end up having odds and ends I can’t bear to part with. So I create separate docs of “maybe someday” ideas, characters, turns of phrases, etc. Who knows–maybe I’ll fashion them into something someday!


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