So this is a very sad topic to talk about when you’re an author, because in a way it’s almost as depressing as discussing giving up a child for adoption. We writers beat ourselves up and agonize over this question all the time, and we just never feel satisfied with our answers. And that is the question, when is it okay to give up on a story?
When is it time to take a story that just isn’t working out and sit back and say, “You know what? This is it. I’m just going to give up on it and I’m not going to work on it anymore and it’s never going to get published and I’m just going to figure out something new.”
This is an extremely hard thing to do. Because, as an author, you have such an emotional attachment to your stories. They’re like your little babies that you birthed and cleaned up and spent countless hours lying awake and thinking about. You watched them grow, change, and mature. You love those stories like they were your children and if faced with the heartbreak of ever parting from them, you’d probably swim all the way to Sydney, Australia with a half-crazy blue tang fish and even face a dentist to reclaim them back. Yeah, we’re talking strong emotional attachment here.
But sometimes, a story just doesn’t work out and it’s just not happening. And you realize that the only thing to do is to give up on it. Even if it’s really great writing or amazing characters, you just have to come to the realization that what you’re envisioning is never going to happen. You’re stuck, and there’s no real way or motivation to move forward.
I can think of two specific examples, personally, of two different stories that I loved and spent so much time on, but ended up abandoning. I spent so much time on them, and wrote over one hundred pages for each story, and I really planned on one day publishing them both.
But something never really felt right. There was always something holding me back and making me question both stories. And it got to the point where I finally just had to realize that they weren’t publishable books or stories that I really believed in. So I stopped writing them. And it’s sad because they involved great writing and amazing characters and lots of humor and interesting plot twists, but at the end of the day my heart just wasn’t in it. So when do you get to that point? What does it take to finally quit a story and realize it’s just not going to happen anymore?
I think there’s a couple different things you want to consider. The question to ask yourself would be:
Is this story still going somewhere?
But sometimes you just can’t move on. You’re just stuck and you can’t see the story going anywhere. That’s such a difficult conclusion to come to, but it’s when you have to realize that maybe it isn’t a story that’s worth putting that much effort into. If it’s not something that you can still feel passion for, it’s not something you can continue to write.
Sometimes stories are just too depressing to continue. One of the stories that I mentioned earlier was beautiful and poetic and consisted of some of my favorite writing that I’ve ever done, but the plot line was just gloomy. I was so emotionally invested in the story that I couldn’t find any humor whatsoever in what was going on. And that’s definitely not a good place to be. There always has to be something light or sarcastic or witty to balance out the sad tones in a book and I couldn’t come up with anything! That’s how wrapped up in the story I was. And even though that book was really special to me and I might someday be able to revisit it and make it work, but at the time it was just too depressing and really made me feel sad when I was working on it. So I just had to come to the conclusion that nothing was going to come of it and move on.
Of course, that’s when I got the idea for “Chasing Jupiter”, so I’d say things worked out nicely in the end, but it was still a tough decision.
And the last example I’ll give of when it it’s probably time to stop working on a book is when you have something new and exciting in the back of your mind. And the new idea is so exciting that you literally can’t wait to start working on it. Personally, I plan my books in advance. So when I’m working on my third book, I’m already planning out my fourth one and I know that as soon as I’m finished, I’ll be jumping into that new story and really fleshing it out. So I know I have to wait on that next idea until the time comes for me to work on it.
But sometimes, you just can’t wait. And if what you’re working on right now doesn’t really seem important enough to keep putting energy into because of something else you’re dying to do, then maybe that’s a sign that you need to let it go and work on something that you’re passionate about. You just need to go for it! The first story isn’t going to go anywhere. If you give it up now, you can always come back to it later. No problem.
If you’re passionate about a story and you love it enough to be able to push through the hard times, then it’s worth writing. It’s worth the time and the energy and the sleepless nights to try and get that story published. No question about it. But if it’s just not happening for you, then you don’t need to feel bad about letting it go. You can set it aside and realize that whether or not you ever go back to it, you’re going to be okay. There are better things in life that you can be spending your time on than difficult stories that your heart just isn’t in. Sometimes it is okay to just stop working on a book and find something new. It’s hard, but it’s okay.
So hopefully I’ve either made you feel better if you’ve been thinking about calling it quits on an unexciting story, or else I’ve fueled your passion to really stick with a story you love and make it through those hard times! Just remember to keep writing and keep doing what you love. If you follow that advice, you’ll always make it out okay. As always, I’d love it if you followed my blog and liked me on Facebook! And don’t forget to pre-order your copy of my next book, Chasing Jupiter, due to be released next month!