Friday, April 7, 2017

Tips for Deciding Whether to Ditch Your Current Writing Project

Your characters aren't talking to you. Your plot somehow wove itself into a massive, ugly knot and refuses to smooth out. Your once shiny idea for a book is now rather uninteresting and, perhaps, subpar.

You have another idea. A better idea (hopefully). So what should you do? Start working on this new project and leave the old one behind? Or try to take your WIP in to therapy and hopefully work out your problems?

It's a hard choice. I mean, this decision could go either way. On one side, a beautiful novel. On the other side, painful, agonizing failure. What to do?

Well, having not read your book, I have absolutely no answer for you. Try flipping a coin.

I'm kidding. That's a terrible idea. Please don't do it.

While I may not have a yes or no answer for you regarding the future of your WIP, what I do have is a way to help you figure it out on your own. Here are a series of questions you can ask yourself about your novel to help you decide whether or not it's time for you to move on:
Hannah Heath: Tips for Deciding Whether to Ditch Your Current Writing Project
Question 1: What does this book mean to me? Hopefully, you started this book for a reason. Maybe you felt you had an important story to tell, maybe you found the message helpful to you personally. Writing a book is a massive undertaking. Because of this, writers tend to craft stories that are special to them. Remember what it was that made you want to start this book. Is it still important to you? If so, it may be worth sticking to.

Question 2: What did you hope this book would mean to others? What was your end goal in writing the story? Did you want to inspire your readers? Make them smile? Provoke them to thought? Help them through a specific problem? Think about the themes in your story. If they aren't very strong, this can lead to a flat story and, thus, a lack of interest in continuing to write it. That is absolutely fixable. However, if your book possess themes that you aren't passionate about or believe would be more powerful in another story, then maybe it's time to move on.

Question 3: Can I change the theme/character/plot to keep me interested? So maybe you lost interest in your story. It happens. The sky is not falling. All you have to do is get in there and change the story around to make it more engaging. Maybe your main character needs more depth. Maybe the plot needs to be clarified or the theme needs to change directions slightly. If the story is boring you, then you may simply have been working on it for too long and are suffering from burnout....Or your book is boring and will thus bore your readers. Either way, these are problems that can be fixed by making a few changes. However, if you've done this multiple times to no avail, it may indicate that the story is past saving.

Question 4: Do I often abandon my books? If you often find yourself ditching your stories and moving on to new ones that you never end up finishing, then muscle up, buttercup, because I have news for you. The problem isn't your book. It's you.
You are chasing plot bunnies and need to learn how to just focus on one story at a time. Or you simply haven't been planning your stories adequately, which means you keep finding yourself backed into a corner like this. Whichever it is, apologize to your characters for being flaky and do better.

Question 5: Do I think I need inspiration in order to write? This is a fairly common thought. Writers think that they need to be"inspired" to write a story. That they need to love it, always be interested in it, adore it the way Westley adores Buttercup. Pfft. I don't know where you get your delusions, laser-brain, but this is simply not true. Writing a book is hard. There will be days when you feel utterly uninspired. Weeks where you hate your book. That doesn't mean your story isn't worth writing. It just means that you'll be putting your need to write this book to the test. If you can put up with the absence of inspiration/love because you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, then keep writing. If you can't? Then don't waste your time on a book that you can't see an upside to completing. Let it go.

Question 6: You are way too hard on your WIP. You think it sucks. Well, maybe it does (though not as much as you think). But it's a draft. It's supposed to suck. Maybe you think it's boring. Well, you're the one who created it, have been thinking about it day and night, and have read it multiple times. No wonder it seems predictable and unoriginal. Before you decide that your current novel is absolute trash that cannot be saved, check to make sure that you aren't just dealing with writer's insecurity.

Question 7: Which book is more important to me: the new or the old? If you are considering giving up on your current WIP, then you probably have another project that you're planning on replacing it with. So ask yourself: which one do you feel is a story that needs to be told? Both? Then finish your first one and move on to your second one when you've finished. Your old story? Then just keep at it. Your new story? Then go for it.

As you answer these questions, you will probably start seeing a trend. Either your current book will start looking like something worth sticking with, or the idea that you're considering moving onto will appear brilliant in comparison.

From here, hopefully it should be fairly easy to know which path to take. Take a few days. Think on it. Pray on it. Choose wisely. Then get writing. With the correct story at your fingertips, there's no telling how far you'll go.

Does this help you? I'd love to know! Please leave me a comment. If you have any tips to add to this post, let us in on them by sharing your thoughts below!

Related articles:
How to Know When to Stop Editing Your Novel
The Importance of Asking Why: 4 Questions You Should Ask Yourself as a Writer
What to Do When Your Story Bogs Down

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9 comments:

  1. This is really helpful! I find that I fall into the "going off chasing plot bunnies" category, definitely.

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  2. This is sooooo helpful! It made me look at the page or so of all 20 of my different stories and realize that in order to move forward, they need a purpose and a meaning. Random characters come find me and insist that I write them down, so I do, but I never know quite where to go after that. This helps so much for developing my ideas and stories!!! Thank you!

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    1. I do that too! I get an idea in my head and just have to write it down. Sometimes it takes off, sometimes it doesn't. My current project is a compilation of a bunch of different characters and plot elements that I had been ruminating over for years. One day, they just fell together. I had not planned on any of them being in the same story, but it continues to develop and evolve. The stories and characters I had "given up on" turned out to be not such a waste after all.

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  3. Another very helpful article~<3

    Yeah, I think my problem is that I keep on forgetting the importance of the theme of my story: the value of human life. I think I should have it branded on the under-side of my eyelids or something. XD
    Another thing that I think I do is questioning my own, um...smartness. The other day I questioned whether I should be a fiction writer altogether because I was feeling a little less-than-clever. So I guess maybe I fall under Question 6?

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    1. Lol! Maybe write it on the back of your hand? A slightly less violent way to do it. =D

      It does sound like you fall under Question 6. If it makes you feel any better: I question my own smartness of a regular basis. I think: Maybe I'm not any good? Should I just stop now? Scale back? But then I just decide, "So what? I enjoy doing it and feel called to do it. Everything else will fall into place if I work hard enough." =D

      Anyway, I'm sure your writing is brilliant. Keep it up!

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  4. Great points to have a proper think about, Hannah. Smiling, too, imagining chasing all those plot bunnies -:D.

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    1. Lol! They're so cute, though. How can we resist chasing them? =D

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  5. Literally this is so helpful. I was just wishing for guidance on this the day before you posted. Thanks so much!

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