When to quit your current writing project


When to quit your current writing project.

I’m not a big fan of quitting. I think if you start something you should see it through. It’s why I never have half empty wine bottles around my house. I see that baby to the end. Each and every time.

I’m so not a quitter.

But there can come a time in a writer’s life where you need to know when to hit the delete key and walk away (am I the only one who thought of Kenny Rogers with that sentence)?

Sometimes the story you’re working on so hard to get to come to fruition isn’t going to happen. No matter how much time and effort you put into it.

I’ve recently had to make that difficult decision myself. I was organizing my files. A method of procrastination but something that really needed to be done. I realized I had 5 books I’d started writing but never finished. Some I’m only a few thousand words in, a couple 20K or more. But they’ve sat on my cyber shelf for 2 years now, some even longer.  When I was reading through them to jog my memory on what they were about, I wasn’t impressed.

I didn’t like what I was reading, I didn’t even hate it which in my opinion is worse. I take hate over apathy any day. I think emotion is important. I felt blah about what I was reading. I didn’t have a glimmer of emotion unless you count the dread I felt at the idea of making myself finish some of these. Not a good position to be in when you’re a writer.

So it got me thinking. Why didn’t I delete them and move on? Save me the headache and the stress of dwelling on it.

I felt I had so much work in some of those drafts it would be such a waste to delete them without even trying to revisit them. After all, time is money and to throw those out would be throwing away money. It doesn’t make good business sense to throw away money.

So I did some thinking and came up with a list of questions to ask myself to determine what I should do.

  • Is the story good and I’m no longer interested, or is it a bad plot?
  • Do I like the characters?
  • Is the genre one I still want to write?
  • Does the book fit into my 5-year author plan?
  • What was my feeling about the book when I started it? Do I even remember?
  • Do I think the draft is one I might be interested in pursuing in the future?
  • Is it going to hurt anything by not finishing it?
  • Why didn’t I finish it before?

None of the questions are that deep, but I started writing those stories for a reason. I liked them a one time. Yet I also stopped them for a reason. So I needed to figure out what these reasons were.

After I made my list of questions and answered them I didn’t feel much closer to a solution. I finally asked myself one thing.

Do I want to work on this anymore? If the answer was no, I hit delete. Out of my files and out of my mind.

I was done thinking about it. Wasting valuable time I could put to better use.

I didn’t delete all of them but the ones I did…It felt so liberating. I’ve had these on the back of my mind for so long. Feeling guilty because I wasn’t working on them but not working on them because I didn’t like where the story was headed so had no motivation. It was such a relief to be done and move on.

As a writer, I have to feel connected to my stories. I need to feel passionate, or at least interested in what I am writing. If I don’t then there’s no need to waste my time. None of us can force the creativity. To an extent.

I say to an extent because starting a story and not finishing is a bad habit to get into and one often used by authors to procrastinate. If you want to be a professional author you can’t just write when you’re moved to do so. That’s not how it works. Your writing must be taken seriously and treated like a job.

If you bail on a WIP (work in progress) every time you don’t feel like working on it anymore, you may never finish a book. I know I sure wouldn’t. Writing is hard work.

Successful authors spend time on writing whether they’re in the mood or not. It’s like everything else it’s not going to fun or may all the time. Sometimes it will downright suck, but you must push yourself.

So how can you tell if there’s no hope and you should kick your draft to the curb or if you’re just stuck and need to push yourself to finish?

I believe it comes down to how you are emotionally connected to the piece you’re writing. When writing gets tough but you are emotionally invested you will want to finish no matter how hard it is. If you’re apathetic about a piece, then it’s probably not worth your time.

If you find yourself feeling that way about everything you write, then you may have more of confidence and motivation issue. Another set of problems all authors faced from time to time. We are typically our own worst critique, and there are many successful authors who don’t actually love the act of writing because it’s hard.

kurt vonnegut quote

But the difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t? The successful ones did it anyway.

So choose wisely what you don’t finish!


— laina

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2 thoughts on “When to quit your current writing project

  1. I would have a tough time hitting the delete key on 20K words, even if I had no desire to revisit the piece! Good list of questions you created to help with the decision.