I have to admit, I have a few unfinished projects out there. In my case, it’s not terrible, because unfinished projects mean more Figments and more Figments mean new friends (or enemies). But there’s still something disconcerting about knowing I started something, thought it was a good idea, and then let it go. But maybe not every project is meant to be.
I was looking through some of my old things, including my Camp NaNo project from last year. I discovered I never finished that project, so I skim-read it. Oh, right. That’s why I didn’t finish it.
Sometimes a project is great in concept, but doesn’t work out. Sometimes you just can’t get into it. Sometimes it’s just not time yet. How do you decide which projects to keep and which ones to give the old ‘heave ho’?
- You can’t find any enthusiasm for the project. Yeah, you’re going to go through periods when you just aren’t feeling it, but if you can’t find even a twinge of interest in the project, it may not be the right project. (Unless you do this a lot. Then you may need to work on your follow-through.)
- You (or someone else) keeps finding plot holes the size of Alaska. The project may be salvageable, but not in its current state. Set it aside for a bit, then see if you can fix the plot holes.
- You are in a constant state of writer’s block. I’ll be honest: I’ve never had writer’s block. I have had projects I didn’t want to work on. Usually, there was something wrong with the project; occasionally I was too stressed out from constantly being on the run from The Conductor. If you are regularly hitting a block, though, you need to decide if it’s you (stress is a creativity killer) or the project.
- Your characters feel flat. You may have the wrong main character or you may be trying to force your characters to act out of character, but maybe it’s the project itself. Try shifting some characters around. If that doesn’t work, set the project aside.
Reasons you shouldn’t give up on a project?
- I’m too busy. Okay, then don’t write for now. Save it for later… or for when your priorities change.
- It’s too hard. Suck it up, buttercup. (Sorry, was I supposed to be nice?) Writing is easy. Writing the good stuff is hard.
- It’s taking too long. Again, we seem to think writing should just flow magically off the page. Sometimes you can get a novel off in 30 days (note: it’s usually a crap novel and needs major rewrites). Sometimes, though, that novel is going to take a year or more just to get out the first draft. (No offense, NaNoWriMo, but you created a monster when you made everyone think they could write any novel in that 30 day period.) Don’t be afraid to work on the hard novel in bits, but also don’t be afraid to fill in with other writing along the way.
- I’m a terrible writer. Hurrah! You probably are… but you can improve. There tend to be two main types of beginning writers: those who aren’t nearly as good as they think they are and those who are much better than they believe. It takes practice to get to a middle ground. So keep practicing.
- That one person hated it. Get a second opinion. Or a third. If you get three people who hate it, see if you can fix it. If not, then maybe it’s okay. But never give up just because one person hated it.
So I’m off to write, because I realize my current WIP has none of the reasons I should give up and plenty of the reasons I shouldn’t. How about you? What are your reasons for giving something the heave-ho?