Novels take a long time to write, which can give you time to start wondering if the effort will be worth it. While I can’t answer that, I can say it’s normal to question if you should persevere or move on to something else when struggling with a manuscript. Check out my rules of thumb for how to know when to stick with or quit a writing project.
Quit Your Writing Project If:
You Don’t Have the Skills
When it comes to artistic pursuits like writing, it can feel like people either have “it” or they don’t. But the fact is, writing is a skill like any other—it can and will be improved with practice. If this is your first attempt at writing a book, you might not have the skill set to pull it off. That’s okay! You can learn it. It doesn’t make you or your project a loser. However, if you just can’t get it right, maybe put it aside, take classes, or work on something else until you’re ready.
You’re Beyond It
The flip side of the first reason to quit is if you’ve moved beyond the scope of your original project. It can take a long time to get from an initial concept to an edited final draft. In that time, you might have joined a writer’s organization, attended its conference, taken classes, and practiced. In that time, you could have concluded that the original plan was too small, too convoluted, not commercial enough, or had some other fatal flaw that no amount of editing will fix. If this is the case, moveon.com.
You’ve Fallen out of Love
When you started this book, you loved it. You thought it was high concept, it was fun, and like a new lover, you wanted to spend all your time with it. But eventually, say around the midpoint, you grew bored. The characters just didn’t do it for you anymore, and the plot was, well, plodding. If this sounds familiar, move on. Hey, this is supposed to be enjoyable, right? Tell the story you want to tell. If the one you’re working on isn’t it, let it go.
Stick With Your Writing Project If:
You Have Doubts
Of course you have doubts. We all have doubts. Many writers suffer from bouts of imposter syndrome, which means fearing any success in the past was a one-off fluke never to be repeated. This is normal. If you still believe in the project and you have the skills to manage it, keep going!
It Isn’t Coming Together
This issue is tied in closely with doubts. Sometimes you have doubts because the project isn’t coming together, and it isn’t coming together because you’re not sure what to say next. Getting stuck in the plot or characters or not knowing happens is a common reason for these issues. Don’t ignore it; solve it. This happens to me a lot, and when it does, the best thing for me to do is go back to the beginning and read what I’ve already written. Usually reminding myself where I was going and how those characters felt is enough to get me back on track. Here’s an article with some solid tips on getting un-stuck: How to Solve Plot Problems.
This Writing Project is Taking Too Long!
It always takes too long. Unless you’re under contract though: who cares? You don’t actually have a deadline. It’s okay if you take the time you need to get it right. Once you go to market, that’s your one and only crack with that particular project. If you get turned down, it’s over. Make sure you submit your best work, and if takes a while…it takes a while.
Finally, the best advice for knowing if you should stick with or quit a writing project is to listen to your gut. If you still feel in your core that you have a story to tell: tell it.