As important as it is to push through tough spots to keep writing, it’s just as important to know when to say goodbye to a story that isn’t working.
Sometimes you’ve gotta break up with your writing project
It feels rather blasphemous to say, but it’s true. Like the whiny friend who can’t go a day without dramatics or the significant other holding you back, you’re better off without certain writing projects. They’ll sap your creativity and energy. They’ll steal your productivity.
I’ve broken up with more stories than I care to count. But neither do I regret dropping them. When I wrote The Hunted series, I intended to write a novella set after the second book. But every time I went to brainstorm and plot the novella, I found myself thinking of my new project.
Rather than force myself to write something I wasn’t interested in—and no one was expecting me to write, anyway—I went with what occupied my brain. The decision revitalized my attitude toward writing.
Breaking up with your project doesn’t have to mean giving up forever
My second novel, as it’s written and published today, is the third version. I started the story twice and gave up twice before I wrote something that I was satisfied with. All together, I wrote about 50,000 words that I threw away.
Walking away from those discarded versions wasn’t easy, either. How do you justify scrapping 20,000 or 30,000 words at once? For me, that amounted to five months of writing.
But sometimes we’re not ready to write that story. Something clicked between my second and third attempts that made writing easier. It wasn’t anything about the story itself—it was me.
Ask yourself why you’re struggling
If your doubts are being evil liars, vanquish your doubts, not your writing project. If you’re drowning in excuses, kick the excuses to the curb, not your writing project.
But if your struggles are rooted in how energized you are about a project or your [lack of] experience, it’s okay to break up. Hit pause. Do something else, take a class, educate yourself.
A break could be exactly what you need to find the knowledge or passion for your project. If you don’t want to give up forever, set a date in the future to reevaluate the project. Time and space away can give you clarity and objectivity that you don’t have now.