Time to pull the plug?

When is it time to give up on writing a novel that just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, especially one that was begun several years before and has drawn my attention only in lackluster spurts ever since.

The book is to be a sort of sequel to my first novel, Black Wolf Lodge, featuring the same husband and wife main characters. And since the publication of Black Wolf Lodge in 2010 (was it that long ago?), I have had many people inquire as to when the next one is coming out because they really enjoyed the first.

That, in itself, has been an inspirational motivator—usually—to prod me into getting my butt in the chair and seriously working on the thing. It’s not as though I haven’t done so previously. I have well over 80,000 words in the Scrivener bank, but I find it very difficult to do the rewriting, revising, and editing on a regular, disciplined basis. And that, my friends, bothers me.

In my previous two novels, I was excited and eager each morning (when I do my writing) to get at it and pick up from the previous day’s efforts. Watching the stories develop and come together was fun and fulfilling, leaving me with feelings of having accomplished what I’d set out to do.

Now, though, I sometimes get distressed just thinking of the tatters in which the thing currently rests! My plot seems strong one moment, weak and crappy the next. I can’t help but wonder if this lack of enthusiasm to delve into finishing the story with my best efforts is telling me something: Put the thing away and move along to write other things I have been mulling over. (I wrote about this previously.)

As of this writing, that’s my dilemma. On one hand, I want the story to work and have the protagonist come through once again and have the readers hoping there’ll be a third book in the series. On the other hand, I’m just not sure if the story merits any more hemming and hawing on my part. Of course, I’ll never really know until I decide one way or the other. Which voice should I be listening to?

Any suggestions?

17 thoughts on “Time to pull the plug?

  1. Yes, check out Stuart Horwitz. “’Resurrect a Forgotten Manuscript’ in the Writer’s Digest Nov./Dec. 2015 issue, focused on how to use this new mojo to pick up an old project, including:
    Why you should never throw anything away that’s writing-related.
    If you find yourself looking at your writing and thinking, “Why aren’t you finished already?” – you won’t end up having very much fun.
    As writers, we’ll always have good days and bad days, but overall our skill will improve with more practice, more feedback and more study.
    Keep your ears tuned for what resonates, keep looking for inspiration, and give your project room to surprise and challenge you.”

    1. Luanne, your words are inspirational! I’m not ready to throw it out just yet, and I appreciate your suggestions to maybe stick with it a bit more. I’m all for giving it a chance. I’m also going to check out the Horowitz piece you shared. Sounds like the real deal. At any rate, thanks for checking in and offering up some very wise advice. I’ll let you know how things proceed. 🙂

  2. Your words resonate with me, Mark. My suggestion, put it aside for now and start a project that excites you. My current book under contract was an old NaNoWriMo project from 2010. I worked on it until I got sick of it and shoved it away. When the contest opportunity came up, I was determined to finish that story. It was completely rewritten of course, but the characters and setting remained.
    Don’t stress about it, you’ll know what you need to do.

    1. Jill, funny you should mention your current book being an old NaNoWriMo project, because that’s exactly what this one was! Maybe I spent too much time focusing on accumulating words and never really thought much beyond that–except that I really like the story idea and the main characters who were the “stars” of my first book. I will take your advice and let it rest for a bit, and I’m sure, now, that it won’t be discarded! Like you, I’m determined to make it all work. Thank you, as always! 🙂

      1. Wow! Really? It was a NaNo project? I love it! I suppose NaNo projects require a shelf life before they’re reborn. 🙂 Get back to the joy of writing and you’ll know when the time is right.

  3. edefreitas

    This is a difficult place to be but I do think saving it and setting it aside for a little while is a good idea. You can always come back to it, and when you do you may find that all you needed was some time to distance yourself from the work. It’s kind of the writing version of a painter stepping back to see the whole painting.

  4. Mark, I really enjoyed your post and although I’m in a different place to you as I’m just about to start editing my first NaNo project, I do sympathise as I’ve felt the same way about so many short stories. However, as Jill said, I’d put it away for a bit, or how about selecting a scene that you’re struggling with and sharing it with others in a writing circle. I joined My Writers Circle last year and have found it so helpful. Maybe you’re just too close to it right now so a fresh perspective might help.

    1. Maryruth, Thank you again for checking in with your kind words of advice. I’ve always been a bit timid when it comes to Writers groups or Circles, but maybe I could really benefit from getting involved with one. I’m sure there’s plenty of online groups who might fit the bill. I shall look into it. Fresh perspectives are always helpful. Thank you. 🙂

      1. Mark, I know exactly what you mean, and I’m the same, but all I can say is that it’s helped me a great deal and I think if you’re a decent writer, which you clearly are, the feedback you receive will be constructive and helpful..

  5. For me sometimes the best thing to do is get away. A walk by the lake, a movie, anything to take my mind off the problem. When I’m not looking the problems often resolve themselves.

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