Saturday, 26 February 2011

When to Call It Quits.


It's a funny life, making up stories and writing them down. Some stories can seem like the hottest thing since sliced ...er, chillies? Then you get half way through writing it down and find all your enthusiasm for the project has evaporated. So how do you know whether to force yourself to stick with it, or abandon the idea and start something else?

It's a tough one. Only you know how you really feel about a project. You could just be suffering from Act 2 Doldrums and need to push on through. Any activity gets boring if you've done it for long enough. It's important to analyse why you're stalled.

Do you still feel excited about the initial premise? If not, it's a pretty strong indication you may be flogging a dead horse. The first draft is only the start of a long process of editing and submissions, and if your heart isn't in it maybe you would be better off finding something you do feel compelled to write.

But the problem with shelving it is you could be reinforcing your lack of confidence in your ability to finish a project. If this is your first attempt at a novel it probably doesn't matter, but if you have a string of unfinished manuscripts cluttering up your hard drive this could be yet another confirmation of your failure. In that case you might be better off gritting your teeth and forcing yourself to get through it just for the satisfaction of writing The End.

If you do still like the premise, then maybe you are coming at the story from the wrong angle. You could try changing the MC, the POV or setting. Maybe you've taken a wrong turning somewhere in the plot and your subconscious is rebelling? You might need to take some time to think it through before continuing.

Remember though: most successful authors had a few attempts before they finally managed to write a fully finished novel, so don't beat yourself up if you decide to abandon a project. Writing should be fun, not torture.

4 comments:

Patsy said...

Good advice. I'd add - don't delete it, even if you decide to abandon it. In a few months, you might suddenly realise what was wrong with the story or think up a new plot twist and be full of enthusiasm to continue.

Lexi said...

I'd say, when you have doubts, reread all you've written of that book and see whether you enjoy it.

If you don't, it's unlikely anyone else will. But you may find yourself thinking it's rather good...

Fiona Faith Maddock said...

I've just emerged from my third phase of major doldrums (the minor ones are too numerous to discuss here). These have resulted from overwhelming attacks of critical crisis or major technical issues. I've never once lost my excitement for the idea, so your post is a comfort to me, as in 'it's not just me then, it's worth pushing on'. I have found, on other projects, that boredom which prompts abandonment hits me early on, before I have invested too much, so I think I should be grateful for that too. Useful insights, so thanks for those.

Jen said...

I'm with Patsy!

Never delete, and never throw anything out. However bad you think it is, there might still be the germ of a good idea inside, just waiting to be rediscovered and reworked!

And, if you discover that your idea was really that poor and your execution was really that bad, at least it will one day give you a cheap laugh.