Abandonment

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Photo Credit: Michelle Cooper

One of the things I’ve mentioned on here a few times is that I hate not finishing books once I’ve started reading them, but sometimes it just has to happen. I’m kind of talking about that practice today, but from the perspective of a writer. How does one know when to abandon a story that’s been in progress for months?

Those of you who talk to me on Twitter or on here in the comments know that I haven’t been writing at all lately. I’ve become the person who spends more time blogging about writing than actually writing. But I’m okay with that. The problem rests in the fact that I’m currently not writing because I don’t want to. It has nothing to do with writer’s block or not knowing where the story is going or anything at all besides me.

If you asked me right now what I think of the story I’ve written in my current WIP I would be completely honest with you and say that I think it’s leaps and bounds ahead of my first book. But for whatever reason, I just haven’t enjoyed writing it. I think the story’s premise is solid. I think what’s happening between my two main characters alongside the main story is solid. And I think the conflict I’ve introduced is something we can all recognize as not very far from reality in today’s world. With all that being said, the manuscript currently sits at roughly 30,000 words, the same point at which it’s been for something like five weeks now. If this was the first time I’d gone this long without writing, then okay, but it isn’t. I’ve done this like three times during the course of the eight months I’ve been “working” on it. That’s a long time not writing.

Now let me finally get to the point of the post. I’d like to know when you all would decide that it’s time for something new to work on. At which point in time would you abandon the story for something maybe you’re looking forward to actually writing? The thing with me is that I refuse to leave it behind for something else. Why? Because much the same as with reading a book, I know I won’t go back. I may not be actively writing, but it is still important to me that I finish this. If you knew the story, you’d know that.

Have you ever stopped working on a project before reaching its completion? If yes, why?

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50 thoughts on “Abandonment

  1. I would say that you could start something new and use your current project as something to fall back on when you need a change of pace. But after having read other posts, I don’t think you would agree with me at all about that. It does work for me though. I usually have a couple of projects I’m working on and it helps when I just need to work on something different.

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    • You know me so well already. Haha. I’ll never work on multiple projects at once. I feel less focused in spread thin. I don’t know.

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      • I know what you mean about spreading yourself too thin. I sometimes ask myself if I have too much going on. But I have found that my writing turns out better when I have multiple projects going.
        My 2013 Nano novel is proof. I set all other projects (and reading) aside, and my novel was so terribly written that I would be embarrassed to show it to anyone.

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      • But it was also written under an extreme deadline. A novel in a month is kind of stupid to me.

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      • I was just using that as an example. I didn’t even make it. I made it to around 35k. Too much going on in life to write 1,666 words a day and actually have it turn out decent

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  2. Yes. I think it’s different for me, though, because of how long it took me to finish my first book… What with school and all. I’d go a couple years without getting much down except a few plot ideas.

    There is one story that I abandoned after about four months because I didn’t like how it was shaping up and couldn’t see it being anything more than a cliche. And I don’t regret it. It just wasn’t working.

    I don’t know if that helps at all.

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    • Where the heck have you been!?

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      • I was in a wedding this weekend. It was nonstop from Thursday through late Saturday night. Yesterday was recup day.

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      • Hmmm. Okay. You didn’t even get to read my post all about Jennifer Lawrence.

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      • Okay, somehow your reply to my second comment isn’t showing up in my notifications. But I’ll read your Jennifer post, I promise. I’m sure it’s filled with all sorts of declarations of your undying love for her, right??? πŸ˜‰

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      • Yeah my notifications are being weird too. I’m not telling. Just read it. Haha

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      • I will, no doubt about it. Now, what about you replying to my comment, hmm??? You’ve got some abandonment issues, huh?

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      • Wellll I don’t know. I mean, I think the story is a lot better than my first. And hopefully the writing is too. If I go on to something else….I don’t know. The other story would probably excite me from page one. I don’t want excitement. I want writing. This story. Bleh.

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      • Why don’t you want excitement? Is it another story in the Andrew Banks series? If it is, is there a reason you can’t switch the order of the two plot lines?

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      • It is. I don’t know. Ice already written this one as the direct sequel to the first one.

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      • Hmm… The “sophomore” novel is usually the test of a writer. At least, that’s what I’ve read. Does the story from book one bleed into book two? It may take finagling, but if the other plot line excites you more, would you be able to transfer some of the material from the sequel into it and make that one the sequel instead? I’m just trouble shooting here because I know you haven’t wanted to write recently. I say go for what excites you!

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      • No. They’re different. They just reference the first one some. I don’t know.

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      • Hmm… Have you tried reading through your manuscript from the beginning? Usually that helps me get back into the story and excited for why I started it in the first place. Then I want to continue.

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      • Another commenter suggested that. I might try it. Might.

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      • I must follow this commenter. He/She is clearly a genius. πŸ˜‰

        As for writing when not inspired or not feeling up to it…
        I know people say to establish a writing schedule and stick to it, even when you don’t feel like it, but I’ve never found this to be helpful.
        Occasionally, I’m able to sit down, re-read some of what I’ve written and continue. But more often than not, when I’m not feeling up to it, the stuff I force myself to write inevitably gets deleted.
        Especially on the first draft, the writing shouldn’t be a drudgery. The first draft should leave you breathless with anticipation and excitement because you just can’t get the words down fast enough. I hate forcing myself to write a first draft. Because what’s the point?
        The time will come for drudgery and difficulties. That’s what editing is for. Editing is a chore. Writing should not be.

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      • I don’t write on any kind of schedule. Doesn’t motivate me. And I don’t know anything about first drafts or editing or anything. I just do whatever.

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      • How can you say you don’t know about editing? You edited your first book, didn’t you?

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      • The book you read is about .05% different from the first draft. All I did was eliminate some typos and fix maybe two kinda not really important things.

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      • So you’ll learn about it with your next book. Did you buy that Stephen King book, yet? I’m sure it has lots of good advice about editing and drafts and such.

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      • Eh. No. I’m reading The Fault in Our Stars.

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      • Oooo… Good for you. Love that book.

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      • I’ll be done tomorrow. And it’s on Kindle. Whoops.

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      • Meh. At least you’re reading, right? Didn’t you say you hadn’t read much this year? Are you planning on seeing the movie when you’re done?

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      • Yeah. Like five books in five months. Ugh. Maybe. Probably not. And depends on what I think of it. I’m halfway through.

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      • I’m not going to see it. I’ve not been in much of a movie mood lately. And no, I still haven’t watched Catching Fire. For the same reason.

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      • I’m not talking to you until this is resolved. Starting now.

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  3. I wrote a book a few years ago about the very first mermaid, young adult. I’d had it all worked out in my head but it didn’t work on paper, so I did an intense rewrite. Still not working. A critquer at a writers conference told me it needed to be “taken to the next level.” What the heck was the next level? So I set it aside and wrote a middle grade novel that had been gnawing at me for a year. That book was a joy, to write, it practically wrote itself. I am now querying it to agents. In the meantime I realized what the mermaid book needed and now I’m back with it. Sometimes it takes a huge clearing out to get back to something abandoned.

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  4. I don’t know if it helps, but the middle of a book is usually the hardest part for me to write. Sometimes I will skip to the next part in my head and go back to fill in the gap.

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  5. I abandoned one novel after about 35,000 words but only because I realized it was a story I was writing more for me and it would appeal to very many. The idea itself wasn’t as solid as I wanted it to be. I left it and started my current project that I’m going to finish which is a million times better and would appeal to more people. I don’t regret my choice at all. However with my current WIP I worried it wasn’t going to be finished and thought about abandoning it twice because I didn’t enjoy writing it anymore and wanted to try something new. I went large stretches of time without writing a word or even looking at it (5 weeks is nothing) and I did try to start a new project but once I got a few thousand words in I realized I needed to go back to my original one. I think I just needed to clear my head a bit. I find rereading the entire manuscript helps get back into it and refocus. Maybe try writing something else and it might help you decide if you really need to start fresh or could inspire more work on your current WIP.

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  6. I am not sure I can actually say I give up a project because other than three or four children’s manuscripts that are completed, everything else is a novel in progress. Sometimes I ‘put’ it away for a while, while I concentrate on a different novel, or blogging, or starting something new. I figure the writing will come back to me when it can. Sometimes it just takes putting it down and not trying so hard. Sometimes it takes going back over the whole thing and minor editing. But I’ve yet to totally scrap a project. One I had sitting in the back of my head for ages could not get off the ground. I kept trying and trying and I finally stuck it in the ‘maybes’ pile. Then, poof, in March, I finally changed around a name or two and suddenly I had my best novel in progress to date. (and I’ve been writing for 18 years) I’m never willing to totally throw away anything. It might come back different, but everything has possibilities. πŸ™‚ (that being said, I haven’t worked on the novel in about a month)

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  7. Its not that I stopped on something, it’s that I’ve set it aside for another time. Buy there are a few I just trashed because I knew from the beginning they weren’t good and I only wrote as much as I did to get it out of my head- I like to think of those types of writing sessions as dumping grounds for bad habits and instincts. Tod Goldberg told me once that he’s always a better writer when he finishes (or trashes) a project than he was before he started it.

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  8. I don’t know whether my advice counts as I have only a couple of short stories written but I am going to quote Stephen King to you:
    ‘stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
    So…I suggest write it. No matter how badly you don’t want to. You started the project. So finish the project. The worst things that might happen is that you will learn from it and you will finish it.
    I am writing a fanfiction of all things that I started writing when I was too insecure to write my own things. Now I want to write my own things but guess what not happening until that fanfic is done. Otherwise I will never learn what it feels like to finish, what it is like to see writing as a job (even if you love love your job there are days you just don’t want to do it). So finish it I think you will be happier when you do.

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  9. I wouldn’t toss it away, John. I suffered many interruptions in writing my novel, but I saved it. One day I found it packed away. I decided to read it before discarding it. I’m glad that I read it first. It excited me, and I finished it. The first publisher I sent it to gave me a contract. Blessings to you…

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  10. I stopped writing my story for some reason after more than half a year, I just stopped. It didn’t give me that joy and excitement when I first started and just like a bad story, It started to get dreadful to continue.
    Now I’m working on another, which I have a broad image of, which is better.
    I
    The spark my story once had burned out, leaving me ashes on the ground, where all I do now is scribble my failure out.

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  11. Maybe you could suspend the final decision to abandon until you come back from your trip?

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  12. I have in my stories. Regarding my stories, I eventually came back to completing them and the reason for their delay was lack of time. But I never forgot about my stories and it sort of consumed my mind, so the delay did not last long. Good topic!

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