Sometimes you have to let go

I had to give up a child this week. Not literally, of course. But, I had invested a certain amount of time and effort into a project and I had loved it in my own way.

It began months ago when I was struck with a wonderful (I thought) idea for another novel. I was already working on a manuscript when I had this epiphany. The new idea took up residence in my mind and stayed there until I finally set aside one novel and started working on another one. I was excited about it. I was convinced it was ‘the one”.

Months passed (because, after all, I have a full-time job) and I started stumbling. I still thought it was a good idea, I still believed in the premise, but I was having trouble getting my thoughts organized and onto paper. I knew the beginning and I knew the end, but everything in between kept jumping around. The first week of January, I decided the story was falling flat and I had to find a way to jazz it up, so I outlined it again with some major changes.

As soon as I started to go with the new outline I developed a bad taste in my mouth. It didn’t feel right. It went against the idea which had excited me in the first place. I dropped Plan B and returned to Plan A.

Several weeks later, I had to sit myself down and have a good stern talk with myself.

Me: Ugh! What am I going to do? I’m getting nowhere with this.

The more logical me:  Sucks, doesn’t it?

Me:  But, it was such a good idea! How come I can’t make it work anymore?

The more logical me: Do you think if you keep hammering away at it the story will get better?

Me: I thought so – at first – but now even I’m bored writing it. And if I’m bored, what about the people who have to read it?

The more logical me: Exactly. I think you’re starting to get it.

Me (in a whiny voice): But, I’ve spent so much time on it already. I really liked the premise. Do I have to just throw it aside? Do you know how hard it is to do that?

The more logical me:  Sure. But, sometimes you just have to know when to let go. Do you really want to keep working on something that’s become tedious and boring?  Think back to when you started writing. Think about what you liked about it. Wasn’t it fun?  Wasn’t it something you enjoyed doing? Are you getting any pleasure out of this exercise now?

Me (hanging my head in shame): You’re right. I wrote myself into a rut.

The more logical me: So what are you going to do about it?

Me (straightening my shoulders): I’m going to set it aside and come up with a better idea.

As soon as the decision was made, I felt better. In short order, I worked up another idea and started a new novel.  And, guess what? I wrote more in one day than I have in the past six weeks. Even better, I loved every minute of it!

***  A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, a suspense thriller published by Indigo Sea Press.



Filed under fiction, writing

6 responses to “Sometimes you have to let go

  1. I can honestly say I’ve never started a project that I didn’t finish, although I came close twice. Neither, however, was because I doubted the story or the characters. In both cases I had run ins with self-doubt, but for different reasons.

    In the first case, because I was not yet published and had collected a sizable number of rejection letters. Lacking belief in myself that I was a good enough writer to see my work in print, I allowed the dreaded rejection letter to affect my creativity. When I learned to enjoy the process and let go my fear, I became a writer.

    In the second instance, what started as an exercise, a challenge to see if I could write a piece of erotica better than most available to consumers today, turned into a fear over what my family and friends might think of me should they read it. Kinky? Depraved? A sex addict? There was some great content in the piece; the story was strong, the characters compelling. Finally, like a lot of writers of that genre, I simply chose to publish the piece under a nom de plume.

    • I admire your courage to continue even though you had doubts. I may come back to it at a later time if inspiration strikes, but, for now, the need to rediscover the pleasure of writing was too strong.

  2. Giving up when something isn’t working is highly underrated. I wish I’d done it more. Well done.

  3. Good for you, A.J. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right time for the idea you had and the solution will emerge later. That’s happened to me. I think it’s important to be passionate about the WIP and it looks to me that you agree. Best of luck!!!

  4. I have so many unfinished projects on my computer, waiting for time and the winds of inspiration. But I’m one of those people who are always reading more than one book at once as well.

  5. I have had instances where the story didn’t feel right. Instead of giving up on it or hammering away at it, I put it aside. I leave it alone and read a book, or, as in most cases, I get a great new idea for a different one. Which explains why I have a looong list of stories I haven’t yet finished.
    I don’t like giving them up. I feel like it’s a betrayal to the characters and the story they could’ve told. I’m stubborn when it comes to stories. I have had to let go of a few, to be honest, but it was for the best, as much as I didn’t like to admit it.
    so, the system that works best for me is that when I’m stumped with one story I can put it aside and work on a different one. And it works for me. My stories are in various stages of completion, some are just beginning to bloom and others are nearly fully blossomed.
    They’ll make it to the end one of these days.

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