This post is a little ironic, seeing as I’m gearing up to promote a book I edited after I’d already published it and clearly didn’t let go of, but… here we are. With the new year, many writers are taking on new projects (or refocusing on existing projects) and letting go of others. But how do you know which are worth keeping and which to let go of? Here are a few indicators your project might be ready for the far back burner.
You’re not excited about it
If you look at your project and you’re filled with dread instead of excitement… it might be worth considering to set it aside. Writing is work, yes, but it’s not supposed to be drudgery, and if even you–the person who thought up the idea–aren’t excited about it, is it going to be exciting to readers? (Maybe the answer is yes. Maybe it’s not.) If you can’t get back any spark of “This is why I wrote this book,” maybe it’s time to move on to a different story.
There’s no meaning to the story
Excitement, however, can be a faulty guide. After all, sometimes we’re just not motivated to write, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t write. Procrastination is a real thing, and it’s something that should be battled, not succumbed to. In those cases, the next thing to think about is the meaning of your story. What are the themes of this book? Are they something you’re passionate about? Are they edifying? Or have you failed to introduce a theme altogether? If your theme is something meaningless, it might be time to retire the story and think of something else. Or alternatively, you might realize through this process that you don’t have a strong theme but there’s one you can naturally draw out of what you already have, and that might rekindle your excitement for the story.
If you already have a strong theme, great! Keep plugging away and remember why you write this story. It will get easier, I promise, even if it takes something like setting a tiny daily word count goal to get the words down.
It’s really not moving
If you’ve been stuck on the same chapter for six months and you still can’t figure out how to move forward… it might be time to drop your project. ;P Like excitement, though, this guideline can have issues. First, ask yourself if you’ve come at the problem from all angles. Have you brainstormed? Come at it from a different character’s POV? Asked a critique partner for help generating ideas? You don’t have to try everything, but give it a good go before deciding to bench the project. If you’ve tried several different tactics and are still deeply stuck, though, it might be time to set the project aside.
How do you decide whether or not to bench projects? What was the last project you had to give up? Do you ever truly get rid of your projects, or are you like me and keep them in the archives of your computer?