Alternative titles: ‘On Letting Go’ or ‘How to know when you’re riding a dead horse’
This isn’t something I’ve talked about much, not even on Twitter, but I’ve recently stopped working on a novel I’ve spent just over a year writing. And whilst a year doesn’t seem that long at all, the foundation of that story originated from a novel I started writing in 2009 which was a little while ago now.
Why did I stop writing it then? It was obviously going somewhere…
Actually it wasn’t. I was just so invested in the story I couldn’t see the reality; it was dead and had been for a while. The signs were there, they always had been, I just hadn’t been aware. So, to shift the possible fog before you, here are some signs that your work in progress isn’t progressing and has, in fact, died:
- You consistently struggle to write it and you’re convinced your struggle originates from the dreaded writers’ block. Be careful, you could very well be fooling yourself here; try to distance yourself from the situation, analyse it, are you struggling to write because you’re blocked or because you don’t like the idea anymore? It’s perfectly alright to fall out of love with a story; it just means it wasn’t ‘the one’.
- It has been a while since you’ve made any real progress on it. And it’s not that you’ve been busy, you’ve had the time, you’ve just procrastinated it away talking about writing instead of doing any. I’m not saying you should constantly be making progress, but you should be heading in a (and by that I mean any) direction.
- Whilst you’re still excited about the project, especially when you tell friends and family about it, the excitement doesn’t follow you to your desk, it abandons you at the door. The idea still might excite you, but the writing of it doesn’t and that’s when you know you have got to start asking yourself the big question; will it work?
- You slowly find that you don’t want to spend any more time than necessary in the world you created; you bolt for the door the second a distraction comes along. Your procrastination, as a result, hits an all time high; in fact you’ve rearranged your bookshelves several times now and done all your laundry (for once).
- Writing is something you feel guilty about; you know you should be doing more of it, and you really want to be doing more of it, but just thinking about the work you need to do on your novel makes you cringe (but that’s just writers’ block, isn’t it?) and find something else to do.
If you ticked any of those ‘boxes’ it might be worth sitting down, perhaps with a friend or two, and discussing the story at length; see whether or not there can be any changes made to it that will excite you in the long-term, or if you are, in fact, riding a dead horse.
Remember, just because your horse is dead, it doesn’t mean you lose your memory of it; it’ll always be there with you. Try not to resurrect it in your next novel, in fact I’d recommend moving onto a fresh document.
Have you ever found yourself clinging to a story you knew, deep down, wouldn’t work? How did you come to terms with this? What were some ‘signs’ you noticed? Next post I’ll look at starting a completely new project, so tune in tomorrow if you want to read about that!
The amazing image used in today’s post is by Vladimir Kudinov.