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Hard Decisions to Make

What if you feel that a WIP of yours is not worth finishing? What do you do?

To clarify, I don't feel that my WIP (Red Nights, the progress of which I've been tracking on Writers Work for a couple years) really is not worth finishing. Closer to the truth is that I feel I lack the motivation to finish it, there is simply so much work involved in getting it into a readable state that it will take massive amounts of time and effort to complete, and that it's not publishable and is unlikely to be read by anyone. Dire pronouncements for something I have spent two years working on.

I started a third draft very recently. This was after many months of not working on it, and after not finishing the second draft at all. It so happens that the job feels just as overwhelming when I'm starting over versus when I'm desperately clawing my way to an ending that keeps getting farther and farther away. The reality is that getting the book into a form that holds itself together will take much more time. It will take many more hours spent at the computer and I simply have no motivation for it anymore. It's a massive job, and that's just finishing this book. To really finish the story, I'll need to write a sequel.

I've also come to the conclusion that I really can't publish this, owing to the fact that there are a couple uncannily similar works already out there (I just read one of them), similar enough to raise eyebrows despite the fact that I couldn't have known about either when I started writing. Not a huge problem if you have the energy and time for revision and rethinking of some things, but I don't. I just want to be done. But it keeps getting harder and harder.

Also, almost everyone who wanted to read the book in the first place is no longer in contact with me. I lost almost all my friends recently.

I know all the shit about writing for yourself, but it's depressing to put so much work into something that's never going to be read or see the light of day. Then again, that may just be me being deep in depression speaking. It's another week before I get to see my therapist again. I feel like I'm going to wither. Maybe I don't feel passionate about this story any longer because I no longer feel passionate about anything at all.

Did I ever feel passionate about it? I started it just to have something to write when another project was on hiatus, not because I really liked the idea or anything. I came to like the story, but it's whatever. I don't think about it anymore or feel anything for it at all. I'm just tired. Every dream I have sublimates.

Right now, it seems that the only reason to finish is to prove to myself that I can. Or just to be writing. I won't really have anyone to show it to. Because no one cares anymore.


Hi, I've also worked on a project for 6 or 7 months and then eventually abandoned it so I understand.

My advice/thoughts would be the following:
1. There is nothing wrong with ditching a work that you no longer feel passionate about. You still learnt valuable lessons from the exercise and the time spent is still time well spent on honing your writer craft.
2. There is no new ideas under the sun. Everything is ultimately about execution. Not everyone agrees with it so this is just my personal opinion.
3. You can always cultivate new followers/readers/fellow writer supporters in the social media age. But like writing, it's a persistence game.
4. Since you think it could be your depression speaking, take a break for a week after your therapy session and see how you feel. When you feel down in the dumps, it pays to be kind to yourself and just relax.


Article Team
I'm sorry you're having such a struggle, Dragon, and really hope things get better for you soon. If you want to write but don't want to finish Red Nights, then don't. Write another book instead. Life is too short to polish and over polish a work you've deemed turd status. Take another one of the ideas you have and write a book you are passionate about. And don't worry about publication either. Get good at your craft first and spend a few years just writing and improving. It'll pay off. You've got a natural affinity for writing (and remind me much of myself at your age). But whatever you do, keep writing. It's what you love after all, isn't it? :)


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
I'm going to give you blunt advice, but I'm going to start by saying, don't listen to me. Sometimes I think people need to hear blunt things, but if I thought you would do whatever I posted just because I posted, well, I wouldn't post.

I think you should delete it. Hard, firm delete, all backups and everything. Take three months off. And then write something new. Start fresh. Find something better.

Again, I don't know anything, you've got to make your decisions for yourself, don't do anything just because some idiot on the internet says to. But the red flags that I'm seeing in your posts scream emotional baggage. Get rid of it.

I'm - I'm not even going to explain, you'll know for yourself if I have a point or not.
I agree with some of the advice given. Don't sweat it; let it die.

But you could take a more active role in killing it. Hack and slash it. Take some favored scenes, passages, characters, subplots, and use those to create some short stories. In other words, you could kill the massive tome in such a way to fertilize the growth of something else that springs from it.

Either way.


I've been writing and trashing 60,000 out of 80,000 on the same book on and off over the last 25 years. Oh, I snuck in my memoir, even got an agent for it, but the fantasy is my baby. I don't write for anyone, but for me. You have to write for the love of it, you have to love writing knowing it may never be read. I reached a point where I felt despondent about my WIP. It wasn't until I thought 'this is my practice novel,' that I could move forward. I felt free. I just wanted to read my mc's story. That one may never see the light of day, but that's cool. I'm learning, I'm enjoying writing for writing's sake. I'm now planning the next, but I've used the same world just another character's story. I don't regret the massive rewrites (though harder since my stroke, with only my left index finger typing). But if I had my time again? I'd start another book and I'd plan the structure, so what Chessie2 says is true. Write another book. Push past the struggles :) It's worth it on the other side!


toujours gai, archie
I've got no advice at all. Only sympathy. I have a hard time saying to write only if you love it because I don't love it. I'm dedicated to it. Maybe addicted to it. But writing for me is more like testing myself, to see if I can tell a story. OK, I told that one, but now can I tell this one. That cycle doesn't ever seem to stop. Once I've got well into a story, I feel this weird obligation to the idea and to the characters to finish the thing. Eventually I do. The first eventually was over ten years. The second one was about 18 months. My aim for my WIP is about 10 months. I don't know that I'm getting better, but I'm at least getting more confident.

Should you plow through or burn it to the ground? Heck, I dunno. As a historian I shy away from destroying anything. I'd zip it and archive it somewhere, if I was going to set it aside. But if you do decide to walk away, definitely make as sharp a break as you can. And maybe aim to write something shorter. When I was in those ten years, working on Goblins at the Gates, I had a stray idea one day. It felt like a short story. It turned into a novelette, but I deliberately chose to get that story done all the way to (self)published exactly so I could feel what it feels like to be done.

It felt pretty good. Once Goblins was done, I turned that story, The Garden of Hugo Vuerloz, into my subscribers giveaway. So it found a kind of home, and it definitely served its purpose.
Have to agree with SK that I never, ever, ever, ever, ever destroy anything. I've kept nearly everything I have ever written since I was six years old. In all those pages I see myself growing up. That is why they are invaluable.

But I bring up this question partly because I feel like now, I have only obligation to this story, not really passion. It was always a crooked, strange thing and it still is, and i love it for that, but it came out of partly boredom and partly fear. I'm not sure I ever felt the true passion or resonance for the concept. Also, in a sense, I was writing it for other people. Not really for myself. I just wanted something to show my friends and family. I wanted to prove i could finish something.

On the other hand, I've already gotten this far, and I do enjoy it. I like the clever dialogue. But still. It's hard to motivate myself to actually work on it.

The thing is I feel that in some way this monster of an unfinished project is holding me back from new ones. I've had this new idea in my head for a while that might turn into a short or a novelette or a whole novel, I just don't know yet, and I want to explore that, among other things.

Walking away doesn't feel right. For one thing, I have been away. I've spent most of this year away, totally consumed with other things. And I have fun writing the story when I'm not taking myself too seriously. That's what writing should be. Fun. And at the same time, the unfinished work is a heavy load on me.

Maybe I can think of my lack of potential readers as positive. I don't have any expectations. I can take forty years to finish. No one will know or care.

I could deal with working on it here and there, just for fun, but it's very difficult for me not to throw myself completely into everything or not be able to get any interest in it at all.

OK, I think you've got a couple of issues going here. Part of it's about enthusiasm and depression (I'm guessing). The other part is about whether or not the book is worth finishing and whether anyone will read it.

Can't do much about the first problem. That's something that is completely in your own hands. All I can say is don't trash the book. I have over two hundred books on my computers in various stages of completion. I come back to all of them from time to time when the mood takes me. I couldn't come back to a book if it was no longer there.

The second problem is something I can offer advice on. Stop rewriting it!!! I shall do this in big to make sure it's clear - STOP REWRITING IT!!!

Look, people hate hearing this, but this is one problem I see again and again and again. Particularly from those who choose to go down the trade publishing road. So take this as gospel. Part of every writer's journey is or must be publishing. It sucks. It's horrible. You get your feelings bruised and sometimes your heart gets completely ripped out. It doesn't matter. If you want to be a writer you must publish. Writing is a communicative art. That means it must be communicated.

So I don't know how far along your book is. I don't know whether its good or bad. Or whether anyone will read it. But if you've reached the stage where you can no longer keep writing it, it's time - assuming the book is finished (by which I mean the story is complete not that its perfect) - to put it out there for beta readers and / or editors. So get that first draft finished (by which I mean finish the last chapters if they aren't written) and then get it out there.

Sorry to be so harsh about this. But this is about self confidence and not substituting the perceived judgement of others for your own. As my mother used to say to me so many times - the worst those who read it can do is say no. They aren't going to come around to your house with a hard copy of the book and beat you over the head with it! But the worst thing you can do is give up. And it would be better to be beaten over the head with the book than that!

So my advice is do it. Get it out there. Prepare to publish and be damned! Because at the end of the day, even if all the reviews are universally scathing, you still have the satisfaction of knowing you did it! And your next book will be better!

Cheers, Greg.


toujours gai, archie
FWIW, I have physical notebooks going all the way back to the 1970s. I think I've lost a few along the way, and the early stuff is cringe-inducing. But that's me in the corner, me in the spotlight, existing in a way that the digital generation will not.


Article Team
One good thing about keeping old manuscripts is you always get to see how much you've grown as a writer in skill. It's a pretty encouraging reference.

Miles Lacey


Last week I ripped up my work in progress and threw it in the paper recycling bin. Like you I found that a major part of it was that it was too bloody Eurocentric, too heavily influenced by anime and too heavily influenced by fantasy stories like The Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Dungeons & Dragons. Then I went back to the image that had inspired me to make the first big change: a huge domesticated mammoth walking through the narrow streets of a Moroccan city. The whole image just struck me as crazy because mammoths are supposed to be animals you find on the steppes in a colder climate, not a desert city. Then I got distracted by a dress up game where I get to dress up Aladdin and Princess Jasmine from the Disney version of Arabian Nights.

Playing that game was the moment I ripped up the story I had been working on for well over two years.

That picture of the mammoth in the Moroccan city and the game gave me that intangible something that had been missing from my story. I started again from scratch and I've now managed to achieve more in the last week than I had over the previous year. It's all coming together quite nicely.

In my books if the story isn't doing it for you then either put it aside for a while then come back to it so you can look at it from a fresh perspective or just take notes of the bits you want to keep and rip up the rest of it and start again.

Alternatively post the basic outline of your story here and ask for some feedback. People might have some insights that could take your story in a direction you hadn't considered before.

And, yes, there's a pretty good chance that your story is going to resemble someone else's. That also happened to me! I found a few mythical scribes here had a few ideas that were disturbingly close to my own. That's coincidence, nothing more.

And if all else fails remember this: Role models (including famous authors) are not there to be looked up to and admired but competition to be eliminated. In short, to hell with what you think others might say about what you're writing. Just write and be damned. If people love it, great. If they hate it, mark it down to experience. Learn from your mistakes and start a new novel.


Myth Weaver
Sometimes things need to be archived... sometimes the archives get lost... But after decades, every now and again something shows up that is useful. A friend of mine sent me a packet a few months back with some gibberish from high school... Aha! Yeah, it sucked, but I nabbed some thoughts from it, heh heh. Heck, my book has characters from 30+ years ago in it.

There’re no rules. Write what you want/need to now, the other story will always be there waiting for fresh eyes months or years later.


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
I'm just going to come in and say a few words about the value of deleting things.

Old work can hold you back. I'm not saying that I delete everything, or that it's bad to draw content from a spark file (you should have one). But the goal should be getting to the point where you can readily and reliably create new work. I think sometimes old projects can be a kind of a trap.

I remember reading a true story about a guy who inspects artifacts for forgery, top of his field, and one day he had some other experts over, who told him that one of the artifacts in his home was an obvious forgery. Why? Because he had picked it up very early in his career, decided it was legitimate, and carried that bad opinion without ever questioning it again.

If you're getting better - better at having ideas, better at writing scenes, better at plotting and developing your characters - then you should be able to let go of a dud with confidence because the next work will be better.

Finally, there's stages to your writing, and in the pre-publishing stage, when it's about getting better as a writer, the story you're working on may not matter that much because you're still working through your kinks and developing your skills. But when it comes to publishing - when it comes to finding something to sell - the key to sales is to qualify. That's sales lingo for skipping over all the stuff that's going to be rejecting and focusing on the things that'll sell.

Be your own gate keeper. Whatever story you're working on, you've got a better one in you somewhere - find that one, and then do better still.

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
I'm going to say something about the work involved in writing and rewriting a book: the time will pass, either way. Why not let it pass while you're doing something productive with it?

I can hear depression in your voice, and as a bipolar I will tell you that it sings to mine. It also lies. Don't believe what it's telling you. Your words have value. Personally, I would drawer the manuscript and definitely give yourself some time off to rest, maybe a few weeks, not too much time. Maybe find some help. Leave the manuscript in a drawer and start something new. That's how our Faerie Rising came to be - it was once the something new. And soon, we're going to be taking that old, drawered manuscript back out and rewrite the fluff out of it, and all that love we poured into it twenty years ago will come shining through.

You're young. Have patience and be gentle with yourself.


Article Team
One of the skills every writer has to learn is when to walk away. With my first book, I was in a very similar situation as you. I'd spent three years putting together a 275k novel. After 3 drafts, It was still a mess, and I knew I'd need to invest a ton more time to fix all the things wrong with it. In fact, I wasn't even sure where to begin or if at the end of the day, the rewrites would make anything better.

Then, I made this one realization. I wasn't good enough yet to fix the book up the way I wanted. And banging my head against that rock was not going to make me a better writer in the long run. I needed to move on. I needed to take what I had learned since I started the book and apply it to writing the next. So I moved on, with the thought maybe I'll come back some day.

I wrote the first half of my second book in a month. To finish it took a little longer, but that's a story for another day.

As wrote and edited my second novel and then moved on to my third, my thoughts would go back to that first novel from time to time. It's been years since I looked at the manuscript, but the basic premise is still hanging around and so are the characters. I even wrote part of a short story that I came to realized was related to that story world.

And as I write this now, I'm working on an idea that's going to springboard off that first crappy novel. I may go back one day and rewrite it, but maybe I won't. Because right now, I carry the best parts of that novel inside my head. I've for the most part forgotten all the bad stuff... I hope. And everything I do that's based on that novel, will only be drawn from memory. That manuscript stays closed, maybe for forever. Because, it's history, backstory, a past that I'm not sure I can or want to go back to.

To progress as a writer, you need be writing new stuff, not get caught up rewriting the old, over and over and over. Now this isn't to say you can't go back one day, but IMHO, the time has to be right.

Remember art is never finished, only abandoned.