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MBM: Beating A Dead Horse (WIP), by Julie L Casey

Welcome to the third day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS!

.Today, author Julie L. Casey is here.


Julie’s book, How I Became A Teenage Survivalist, will be released next month from Pants On Fire Press. It’s already receiving a lot of attention, and it looks awesome (see the book trailer below). It’s about Bracken, a teenage boy living in the Midwest when the sun hits the world with an unseen surge of electromagnetic fury, which cripples power stations and burns transformers to crispy nuggets of regret. Bracken and those he loves have to learn to survive without electricity. I can’t wait to read it!

Here’s the book trailer:


Today, Julie’s taking a humorous approach about when to throw in the towel on a manuscript.



JULIE L. CASEY: Beating a Dead Horse (for writers)

Have you ever had a work-in-progress that seems dead or flat? Maybe the words won’t flow or your writing lacks inspiration, and everything you try to do to improve it just seems like you’re beating a dead horse. Many things go through your mind at that point to justify your lack of ability to resuscitate the horse (aka your WIP).

According to legend, Indian tribal wisdom says that “when you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.” However, in writing we may first try other strategies with dead horses (WIPs), including:

cowgirl with a whip
  1. Buying a stronger whip (as in a cup of stronger coffee or setting a deadline)

  2. Changing riders (maybe a ghost writer would be in order)

  3. Saying things like, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse” (This is just how I write, after all)

  4. Appointing a committee to study the horse (having your critique group/family/friends read it and make suggestions)

  5. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses (any excuse to read other writers’ works!)

  6. Lowering the standards to ride dead horses (maybe it’s good enough already)

  7. Creating a training session to increase our riding ability (going to writers workshops and conferences)

  8. Comparing the state of dead horses in today’s environment (this has to be at least as good as Fifty Shades of Grey, right?)

  9. Hiring a good jockey to ride the dead horse (maybe a good editor could polish it up)

  10. Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed (maybe I can incorporate other articles I wrote into this one to make it better)

  11. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses (maybe I can make this a middle-grade novel instead of literary fiction)

  12. Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance (maybe if I had an advance…)

  13. Purchasing a product to make dead horses run faster (I’m sure a new laptop would help me write better!)

  14. Declaring that, “No horse is too dead to beat” (I can whip this WIP into shape!)



After all those angles have been tossed around in your mind, the inspiration finally comes:

Throw out the dead horse and begin with a fresh new perspective. 

It feels so good to run with a new horse under you!

  1. Note: The original joke this is based upon has been attributed to the College and University Public Relations Association of Pennsylvania (CUPRAP) as “Indian Wrestling with Management”, however this could not be confirmed. It is now widely considered to be part of the public domain.




Julie Casey lives in a rural area near St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband, Jonn Casey, a science teacher, and their three youngest sons. After teaching preschool for fifteen years, she has been homeschooling her four sons for ten years. Julie has Bachelor of Science degrees in education and computer programming and has written four books. She enjoys historical reenacting, wildlife rehabilitation, teaching her children, and writing books that capture the imaginations of young people.

Julie’s new book, How I Became a Teenage Survivalist, will be available April, 2013. Visit to find out about the book, view the trailer, sign up to be entered into a drawing for a free book, and much more.

Find Julie:



Thanks for the humor, Julie. As authors, we sometimes forget to laugh. In fact, we often feel like crying.

I know I’ve been there.

I’ve looked at my manuscript and thought, “Oh man. I’m getting nowhere! Do I have to put my name on this?” But throwing in the towel on something I put my blood, sweat, and tears into seemed counter-intuitive. I was supposed to persevere. Push through. Conquer!


A year ago, I was stuck, stuck, stuck on a manuscript. I outlined, plotted, beat sheeted (Is that a verb? It is now.), and asked everyone for advice. I questioned a lawyer and an FBI agent to do some ‘research’ since the writing wasn’t coming. By May of last year, I’d pretty much considered all of Julie’s 14 points, but I still couldn’t get anywhere.

So frustrating!

I wrote about this situation in this post here, so I won’t go into details here, but the gist is that one night I expressed my frustrations to my hubby. After I vented, he looked at me and said, “I thought you liked writing.”

“I do!” I cried.

He gave me the look he usually does when I’m acting crazy. I didn’t look, sound, or act like I loved writing. I was miserable.

Heaven bless him for it, but my wonderful hubby told me to give up and write what I wanted to write.

So I shut that “dead horse” down and started a completely new, entirely different novel, one I’d wanted to write for a while. (Again, details here).

That advice was the best! I wrote 60 pages in 5 days, and now that new novel is 95k words and nearly finished. I love that new book! But it was so hard to walk away from my ‘dead horse.’ Yet…once I did, I found myself as an author again. I felt passionate about writing again.

The happy ending — because we all love happy endings — is once I remembered how much I love to write, I was able to go back to that ‘dead horse’ and resurrect it. Things fell into place, characters found their voice, and I finished it just before Christmas. I absolutely love it now. It turned out better than I thought. I just had to leave it alone for a while.

And even happier…this ‘resurrected horse’ is going to be published later this year.

It’s called Augustina. 🙂

So if you find yourself thinking those 14 things Julie mentioned, walk away and let it go. You have more creativity inside you. You have more stories inside you. Chances are, the new stories are better. You’re not a one-hit wonder, so have faith in yourself and your abilities. If you’re lucky like me, you might be able to resurrect that ‘dead horse’ and turn it into something beautiful. And if not, you’ll create something new and beautiful.

A win-win.

Thanks again, Julie, for your post. I needed it a year ago, but that’s okay. 🙂

We wish you the best of luck on your book release next month. (If you haven’t checked out her book yet, do it. Add it to your to-read pile on goodreads here.)

What experiences have you had with “dead horses”? Did you ignore your instincts and stick with it, or did you try something new? Are you glad you did? Join the discussion below.




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You can read more about March Book Madness here, but basically it’s an excuse for me to discuss everything about writing, editing, and reading books with some amazing authors and readers.

Fun, fun, fun!


Here’s the schedule:

The collective talent listed above . . . Wow! It’s going to be a great month.

Check out last year’s MARCH BOOK MADNESS here.


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