Calling it Quits

I’ve been labeled as stubborn a time or two, although I’ve been always been adamant in proclaiming the word “determined” suits me far better. It’s been like that since I was a kid with two older siblings I was “determined” to keep up to. I never had the feeling that my parents expected too much from me, it was always my own self-imposed expectations that made me so determined, not theirs

Writers don’t end up having their work published unless they have that certain determination about them, not only to write, and polish that novel until it’s the shiniest they can get it, but to collect the countless rejection slips that are most surely heading their way. There are times when all writers sigh and wonder if it’s worth the effort and heartache. Being rejected isn’t the easiest thing to bear. Determination can only carry us so far. Eventually we have to see some results for our hard work.

That’s why I’ve decided to call it quits.

Okay, so I’m not talking about quitting writing. Let’s get that straight. I’m talking about a particular manuscript I’ve been working on for over a decade. Yes, I did say decade. Sad, isn’t it? That much time into one story. I had thought I might actually put the finishing touches on it this week, but that’s not going to happen. Not only that, I’m not sure it’ll ever happen. I’m seriously thinking of ditching it, calling it a “write-off” if you will. It’s hard letting go though, seriously it is. But if I’m being honest I feel as though something is missing with the story, and I don’t know what that something is. Maybe I just don’t like my main character that much, and I don’t feel as though I’m making the story my own. (If that makes sense.) It seems a shame since I’m a few hundred words from being completed, and yet…..

I can’t quite put my finger on what’s wrong with the darn thing.

While determination can be a wonderful thing, there comes a time when we’ve got to know when to say enough is enough. Being so close to our own work, puts an author at a disadvantage. We can’t always know when we’re being objective— whether or not we’re overly optimistic about a project or just feeling down-hearted for no good reason. Did I mention I once stopped working on Flying With a Broken Wing because I started to feel blah about it? Well, it’s true, I did. Luckily, when I went back to it months later I felt much different about it. I could look at what was there and imagine it becoming a book one day.

In many cases writing is a lonely profession. I know today many people have writing groups to cheer them on and give them advice. I think that’s a good thing. But alas, it’s only me to decide what if something is worth finishing. Even determined people need to know when enough is enough. There are always new stories to be written without wallowing in one that feels like a lost cause. Luckily, I’ve got several manuscripts on the go, ones that I do feel passionate about. Good thing, right?

So now  I’ve reached the point where I’m stuck between wanting to finish it and finally giving it up for good. Even as I write this blog post I’m struggling to decide what I want to do. A part of me feels as though it’s a waste of time, while another part screams out , “You’ve got to give it a chance!” at least finish what I’ve started since I’m so close to the end.

Have you ever called it quits with a manuscript? How did you know it was the right decision?

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  1. I have Laura. More than one. Now I’m cannibalizing one of those manuscripts – a YA – to fill in some of the areas of my current work in progress. You never know when old manuscripts just might come to life again!

    • That’s true, Sue, old manuscripts can sometimes come back to life. I sometimes wonder if our own state of mind effects our writing. I’m sure there are times when nothing I write would please me, other times I’m totally in love with it all. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  2. In my case there are some cartoons that are still in sketch form and remain uncompleted as I just can’t seem to tie it up right either with joke or illustration. Some I just trashed. Some are finished but I will not use them as they don’t have the punch I try to deliver and some themes are so esoteric they would not be understood by many people. But all were worth the effort because I learned in creating each whether it be the humor, the art , the coloring or the composition.

    And so it is with the novel although my productions, beyond thinking up the idea, take 2 to 4 hours to produce not years and years. I expect to have spent a decade and still not be satisfied is a greater degree of self disappointment. We judge ourselves and should be comfortable in dismissing a work with which we ourselves are not satisfied.

    On the other hand our audience judges our work as well. The work may be valued and enjoyed or disliked and dismissed and will also have degrees of special appeal for readers in a way we could not have imagined. For example some of my favorite cartoons have received very little affirmation while others I considered substandard are very popular.

    So I would say “finish the book.” Not a single reader will see it the same way as you do. Perhaps develop several wind up chapters, each with a different twist, and then chose. You could even run them by close associates for evaluation. Ultimately it is the audience that decides not us, right?
    Bringing closure helps us move on without being haunted by past unfinished efforts.

    • Lots of good advice, Carl. I appreciate it. You’re right. We don’t always see things the way someone else does. *sigh* And I suppose being so close to the end, I at least owe it to myself to finish it off in some fashion. I’ll admit, not having it quite finished has been bugging the heck out of me for SO long. I’m glad you stopped by! :)

  3. I did call it quits on one (a decade ago) and the main character continued to scream at me. I restarted it this year. The only thing that remains the same is the character and the first sentence…it is actually coming to life now. I suppose my timing and the story itself were way off in the beginning.

    • Those pesky main characters can be a real pain when they’re ignored. Glad you were able to bring your story back to life! Maybe there’s hope for mine as well. So glad you dropped in, Susan!

  4. angela wilson

     /  October 24, 2013

    Perhaps you just need to wait for the right inspiration to come your way. :)

    • I think you’re right, Angela. :) Thanks for visiting. Hope I’ll get to see you when I’m in the city for a signing next month. Would LOVE that! :)

  5. I’m thinking, I’m thinking. Have I ever abandoned a story completely without finishing it? No. Because…because I’m not dead yet. lol

    My philosophy is that I can return to any of my unfinished stories and continue on as long as I’m alive and able. That’s not to say I have finished all the stories I’ve started. Far from it. I have more than a dozen stories waiting for my return. I may get to them or I may run out of time before I do.

    One novel waited more than twenty years to be finished. One short story took ten years to write. Part of me thought I’d never get the time, the inspiration or the ending before I expired, but I did.

    That’s the stubborn in me. I’ve had a heavy dose from both parents, so I stubbornly refuse to abandon anything. I simply set it aside to ripen.

    • Mine’s been ripening so long there’s mold growing on it.. lol! As I told Carl, I’m starting to think if I don’t finish it I’ll be forever bugged by the fact. I actually started back at it this afternoon. Wish me luck!

  6. Laura, I know that feeling. Nothing we can do but shelve the darn things. Maybe one of these days you can figure out what it is that isn’t working :)

    • I’m hopeful that one day a light bulb will go off and I’ll find what is missing. I’m kind of feeling now that I’ll finish it, but whether or not I’ll sent it out is another thing. At least I could declare it finished before I shelf it, right? ;)

  7. Sometimes we just have to let go. Even what we consider a failed or unfinished project has it’s value. Ultimately, there were lessons learned and that will serve you well as you embark on the next chapter. :-)

    • There are always lessons to be learned, C.B, and nothing we write is ever wasted. If nothing else it’s practice for the next one. Thanks for visiting. :)

  8. That’s a lot of time to put into a manuscript. I’d put it aside and work on what is “cooking” right now. Maybe you’ll get that light bulb moment and finish it one day.

    • Yes, it is a lot of time, although it hasn’t been a continuous time. I’ve stopped and started many times over those ten years. I’m all for a light bulb moment. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Nice to have you visit, Patti! :)

  9. I agree with Carl, finish it and put it to bed. You may revisit it again or you may not but at least you can say The End and move on. I have one like that too. It may resurface one day but probably in a different format.

    • So glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s had this problem. Am definitely looking forward to writing “The End.” Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for visiting, Darlene. :)

  10. Been there, and they still haunt me. Here’s my two cents. If you’re only a few hundred words from the end, then I’d take a few hours and finish it and then just put it away. I think that after 10 years you’ve earned some peace with this project, and I’m not sure you’ll get it to stay quiet and stop bugging you, if it’s still waiting for you to come back and write the ending. Someday something will happen or someone will say something or you’ll read something and the answer to the problems in this project will be there, and then you can decide to go back or not. In the meantime, I suggest closing the door and moving on to those other projects that you feel passionate about. Good luck!

    • I think that’s exactly what I’ll do, Heather. It will at least give me some closure, and perhaps when I’m in a different head-space I’ll decide it it’s worthy of sending out. Who knows, the passion may come back after it has had some time to set. Thanks for visiting and for adding your “two cents.” :)

  11. David

     /  October 27, 2013

    I’ve set/tossed aside technical reports after writing 75-100 pages, and restart from the beginning. Occasionally, parts of the original draft makes it back into the new draft. Sometimes, I’ve scrapped a rewrite in favor of the original draft. Just keep your “abandoned” manuscript in the “deep drawer”.

    • LOL! Hopefully, my “deep drawer” has plenty of room. I’m sure there are a few dusty old stories at the bottom somewhere that I’ve forgotten about. :)

  12. Sounds like you need some “fresh eyes” – of course they might just be your own eyes after a few months of keeping it in the drawer. I’m editing “SUPERHERO” now – I wrote it several years ago, and it’s so great to revisit it with my more experienced eyes (and the assistance of an editor:). I’m sure you’ve got something else you can work on while that one’s resting:)

    • I keep giving it space, Jan, and I’m still not loving it. Maybe because it’s for a younger age then I’m used to writing for. Maybe one day, I’ll figure it out. And yes, I’ve got several I can work at. Nothing to worry about! So glad you’re working on edits of your new book! Can hardly wait. One day soon you’ll be announcing your 24th book contract, my friend. :)

  13. It’s hard to give up on something when you’ve invested so much time in it, but there are cases when you have to cut your loses before you lose any more. Time, that is. If you’re not passionate about it, I’d take it as a sign you need to be working on something else. Call it a “learning” manuscript and go play with something new.

    • All writers have manuscripts that get lost or forgotten along the way. While I thought I’d end up finishing this one just to be done with it, I ended up becoming distracted by several others things along the way. Nothing we write is ever wasted, and it’s an important thing to remember. Glad you dropped in for a visit, Lindsey. :)


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