Friday, February 3, 2012

When to Let Go

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Perhaps it was listening to Coldplay. Perhaps it was the stress of contests, polishing up my query, and considering the prospect of more rejections. I've been thinking a lot about the rocky road to publication. So I have a question for everyone.


How does a writer decide to set aside a novel that isn't working? 



Don't worry, I'm not considering giving up on my own novel. I still very much believe in it. But I read this moving article by the author of Cracked Up to Be and Fall for Anything, Courtney Summers (if the article doesn't touch you, you must be made of wood.), and I had the thought: it's such a difficult thing to finally admit to yourself that something you created isn't working, and you should shelve it and move on to something else. This author had to face that realization more times than I could have handled, but she kept on trying and eventually she got published!

To me, it would be like the stages of grief to let go of a manuscript I had believed in. For some writers it isn't an option to give up on a manuscript. They would simply self-publish if traditional publication failed them. It all depends on the writer and their attitude toward publication.

How would you handle it? Would you accept it as a part of the business and realize it was time to try something else? Would you mourn it for awhile and then plunge onward? Or would you choose to self-publish?

6 comments:

  1. I *have* given up on a few novels. One was the very first ms I wrote, and the other was the third, and I'm sure there will be more in my future. I loved both stories and still think about the characters and the worlds from time to time. But both times, I consoled myself with the mantra: there are more words (and worlds) where those came from. Even when it feels like "this is it--if I don't get this agented/published, it's all over!", it's not. There's more where that came from. It's certainly helped me :)

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  2. Sheesh such a hard question... If you're serious about becoming a published author, however, giving up on one project and starting again may be the key to success. You know what they say--when one door closes, another opens. It's just that as writers, WE have to close the door on ourselves.

    All I can say is follow your heart.

    If you need a pick-me-up, you could enter our 100 follower giveaway !!!

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  3. Sarah, I completely agree with you. I've had stories in my head for years, but just because I thought of them didn't mean they needed to be published (or written). Writers are creative fountains and new ideas always flow from us. I think it's a good way to look at it for any writer who has to hang up a project in favor of another.

    Susan, thanks for the support, but I was mostly posting this to ask the question. Who HAS had to shelve a project and how did it make them feel? Reading Courtney's article made me sympathize with her, so I thought my blog readers might have something to say on the subject too.

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  4. For me, I guess it's something along the lines of "You've got to kiss a lot of toads before you meet your handsome prince".

    Well, I kissed my fair share of toads and I finally found my handsome man. (Actually he's probably only handsome to me but that's beside the point here). My point actually was... *drumroll*

    I don't know. I've forgotten what I was going to say.

    Oh yeah, "You've got to submit to a lot of publishers but you don't have to 'give in' to any of them".

    I reckon if you believe in your manuscript then you either keep sending it to be published or you polish it up a bit and try again or you finally frame it and hang it on your wall and when people ask what that strange piece of art is supposed to represent you say, "Oh that. It's called "life's work". And let them figure it out.

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  5. I did give up on my first book idea. It wasn't so much that I gave up as I realized that there was no story. It wasn't engaging enough to be called a book and everyone and everything even the 'difficulties' were too cookie cutter and easy. So I pushed it aside. Maybe one day I'll get an idea that will respark that story and I'll be able to finish it, to make it the story I always wanted it to be but as it stands now it fell flat.

    So in answer I guess if I believe it's over then I think I'd try and take it back to the workshop and see why. Self publication is always good too.

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  6. This is something I worry about all the time. My first effort at a novel lasted only a year. I was fourteen at the time, and it was actually very easy to give up on it, and I started my second novel right away.

    It's been almost 9 years, and I'm still working on that second novel.

    Granted, it's gone through A LOT of changes. At one point, I actually did give it up, but I picked it up again several months later and completely revamped it. I've been editing and editing for several years, but I still haven't finished it.

    I don't know if it's actually worth continuing, considering that it's probably unpublishable. However, "unpublishable" means that it contains several elements that won't appeal to a wide audience, not that *I* don't love it.

    I decided to give it until the end of the year. If it's not finished by then, I'm starting something else.

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