Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Take This Book And Shelve It (An IWSG Post)

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

I'm assuming that everyone coming out here today is already well-versed in this group, but if you're looking for more information, or a complete list of participants, click on the above link.

This month's co-hosts are: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte.

This month's (optional) question asks, "What do you love about the genre you write in most often?"

But I'm skipping that question in order to discuss with you something that's been weighing on my mind.

How do you know when/if you should put aside a project?

See, I have this WIP I've been working on off and on (more off than on) for a while now. Its working title is Vinnie & Ellie, so you may already be somewhat familiar with it. In case you're not, it's a maybe-not-actually-a-romance novel I decided to pull out of my unfinished manuscript pile last year in an attempt to, you know, finish it.

And this attempt started off reasonably strong, I thought, but has steadily slowed over the past few months. Whatever momentum I had at the beginning is gone. It's like I no longer have a feel for the characters, who they are, or what it is they want or do or...anything else. It feels as though the only way this book will be finished is if I make some kind of deal with a crossroads demon. I'm stuck. I'm blocked. I'm...I don't know. Disinterested, maybe. I don't know exactly what it is, but every time I sit down at the computer to work on it, I soon find myself doing my best Cave Slayer impression.




I don't want to give up on this project completely. I like the main characters (mostly) and I like where the story's headed (mostly), or at least where I think the story's headed. (Or where I'd like it to head. As much planning as I do, I still seem to never truly know where a story's going to end up.) There are a pair of scenes of which I am particularly fond (mostly...just kidding. I really am fond of them, which for me, is really saying something) and I would hate for them to go to waste.

But in spite of these truths, I just can't seem to make myself work on it.

Which brings me back to my initial question.

How do you know when/if you should put a project aside?

Should I find a way to power through this dry spell (or whatever it should be called)? Should I stick it back in the unfinished manuscript pile and find something else to work on? Should I give up writing in favor of becoming a professional consumer of baked goods? (That is a job, right?)




Have you ever been in this situation? What did you do to rectify it?

Thanks for stopping by today. See y'all next time.

42 comments:

  1. "It feels as though the only way this book will be finished is if I make some kind of deal with a crossroads demon."

    Ha! I almost wish I could make a deal with a crossroad demon but I think we both know how well that would end up.

    Sometimes I try to slog through, and sometimes I'll try to jump start my muse by either reading something or doing art but if that doesn't work I usually shelve it and work on something else (usually revisions as they're always waiting for me). It doesn't mean you can't come back to it, but sometimes a little distance CAN make the heart grow fonder.

    :)

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    1. Yeah...being chased down by hellhounds is probably less fun than it sounds. :)

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  2. Been there, done that. The problem is I don't have a great answer for you other than listen to your gut. (I wish there was some kind of checklist we could consult.)

    I've shelved more novels and stories than I can count. In the last few years, I purged a lot of them, but I kept about 5 that still spoke to me on some level, for some reason. I don't know if I'll go back to them, but if I do go back to something, it will be one of them.

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    1. My gut tells me to shelve it for a time, but my gut also told me to eat a not-insignificant amount of chocolate cake for breakfast today. I don't know if that makes my gut especially trustworthy. The cake was really good, though.

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  3. Hate to say it, but it depends. Some people benefit from powering through and some do better to set it aside for a while. You know you best - which is most likely to work?

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    1. Usually I'd say setting it aside, but there's something about that idea this time around that worries me.

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  4. I had the same problem with one of my manuscripts. Every few weeks leaving aside the current manuscript I would be writing, I would revisit that old MS and give it one more tweak. It all depends on how strongly you feel about the story and the characters.

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    1. I think I feel less strongly about these characters/this story than other projects of mine. I really believe that's part of the problem.

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  5. Sometimes motivation, passion, and inspiration return after a long break, or after working on independent stories, character sketches, diary entries, etc., with those characters. You could also repurpose select elements for use in other books.

    I thought I'd shelved my 18th and 19th century characters forever in 1992, but a few years ago, I was pulled back towards them, and I've now resurrected the first of these characters' books. I figure they were meant to be if I never forgot them in all these years.

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    1. This story first came into existence probably about 10 years ago now. I haven't forgotten them. I do want to finish their story...maybe I just need more time.

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  6. Yep, I've been in Cookie Monster's situation. Eating all the cookies and then someone walks in. I do feel guilty, but then I gather up the crumbs and eat those too!

    More seriously, I have manuscripts I've shelved. Sometimes with stories, if I just force myself to push through, it helps. Other times, you just have to set it aside again and come back to it another time.

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    1. My gut says shelve it, but I really want to try pushing through the block. I just can't decide which one would be the biggest waste of time.

      Maybe more cookies will help me decide...

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  7. Maybe put it aside for now. Let it breathe. Try working on something else. Then you may be able to return to it with new energy or get a spark for what needs to change.

    I've been struggling to even begin the last book of my series. I don't know if it's because I've been with these characters for so long or if it's because I know how I want this last book to end that in my mind it's already done, so why write it? That's what I'm thinking. And that's not good! lol

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    1. My other project is the last book in my fantasy series, and that's been a struggle, too. I know how it starts, and I think I know how it ends (see above: I never really seem to know), but I have no idea how one will lead to the other.

      You have to write your last book. Your fans are eager to read it...They can't do that in your mind! Unless they're telepathic or something.

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  8. I've reluctantly put WIPs aside in hopes of coming back to them later. One I'm finally rewriting, too...after, like, 5 years. You could try setting it aside, just be ready to accept you may not get back to it for a few years. Maybe it just needs more time to marinate in your noggin.

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    1. That's a definite possibility. If this WIP goes back into the vault, it'll be its second stay there. That worries me, but maybe I'll have to try trusting that what's meant to be is meant to be?

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  9. I have put WIP aside when I stopped caring about the characters. Though sometimes I go back and figure out when they lost my interest. I mean I did create them so if they're boring, it's my fault.

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    1. I do care about the characters. At least I think so. But perhaps I'm misinterpreting my potential disinterest?

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  10. I have several manuscripts that I've set aside. Sometimes I think we're not ready to tell a story the way it needs to be told. Sometimes I'll read through what I've written and find my passion for it again. Maybe write a scene you are interested in and see if that helps. Good luck!

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    1. I like the idea of writing a scene I'm interested in to see if that helps get things flowing. Now I just have to find one...

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  11. Oh man, if "professional consumer of baked goods" was an actual job, that's definitely what I'd be doing. I've put a couple of WIPs aside, and I do hope to go back to them one day. Sometimes it does help, but you do have to be careful - once you put them aside, it becomes even harder to go back to them.

    Good luck! Hope you figure it out.

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    1. See, that's what I'm afraid of. If I stick the book back on that unfinished pile that it might never find its way out again.

      Sounds like a job for baked goods...

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  12. If you have something else to take its place, it's okay to set it aside. Look at it again 2 months from now and you might feel completely different about it.

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    1. I've been bouncing between this and another project, waiting and hoping that one of them will really grab me. No such luck thus far, but maybe I'm putting too much pressure on it.

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  13. It's actually easier to build a house from scratch than to extensively remodel one. I've come to believe it's the same when writing a book. So if the fire's gone, why waste your time on it? Start something shiny and new.

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    1. Oh, I would really love a shiny new idea on which to work. I guess I'll have to see about procuring one.

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  14. I'm probably the worst person to comment on this because I originally intended to finish my novella Murder Most Fowl and have it out last year, and I barely even glanced at it. Maybe you need to brainstorm it out to reignite the passion? Or take it in a different direction maybe?

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    1. My brother visited last July and we took a three-hour road trip during which we brainstormed a lot about this story. Maybe it's time for another trip. Which I'm sure will thrill him to no end. :)

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  15. I've never been able to power through a dry spell. I mean, if nothing's there, nothing's there. You can always look at it and try to find the motivation again. Or just wait. The day might come when you're in a better position to finish it. At least, that's how I go about things. And I'm not a hundred percent sure I'm the best person to answer this sort of question.

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    1. I'm afraid shelving it is the answer. I'm just equally afraid of losing more time. It takes me long enough to finish a project as it is, you know?

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  16. If you've lost interest in the story and/or don't care about the characters, how will readers feel? They can tell. If you don't care about the characters, why should they? My advice is shelf it for a while. Work on a project you enjoy. When your characters start invading your sleep and demand you finish their story, that's when you know it's time to do so. Good luck. It's a hard decision.

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  17. This is why I like to work on several things at the same time. When I'm not feeling one, I set it aside until it captures my interest again.

    There's a lady in my writing group who is also called MJ. When she's feeling stuck, she writes a short story. Sometimes it has something to do with the novel she's working on. Sometimes not. She says it helps work out the kinks.

    Ultimately, you need to decide if you want to put aside this project or not. I can argue either side quite easily. Good luck. I'm sure you'll figure out the right thing to do.

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    1. I do the same thing. I've got three projects on the burner, and occasionally a short story sneaks itself in there. It definitely lets me keep writing every day without getting bored.

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  18. If you have something else to work on, put V&E on hold for a bit
    If you don't, torture them and see if that helps...
    either way, i need something to read, so get to it!

    hope all is well down in FL
    happy february from the chilly midwest!

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  19. If you're not feeling it, I'd give it a break and work on something else.

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  20. My advice is to take a break and write something else for a while. You'll either come back to it with a fresh outlook, or get enthused about something else.

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  21. Hi there! Thanks for the post. I'll toss in my two cents. I think you should push yourself to finish a draft. Whether you're inspired or not. Sometimes I sound like a broken record, but I'm a strong believer in habit formation. What we do today shapes what we do tomorrow. Walking away from a project you start because you're "not feeling it" can turn into a habit. Likewise, writing all the way through to the end of a draft, whether that draft is going to then be abandoned or polished into something great, can also become a habit. So, my suggestion to you is to dig deep and just keep going. Good luck, regardless of what you end up choosing to do.

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  22. Personally, I'd say you just know when it's time, so if you're questioning it, you're not quite there yet. Maybe you just need to step back, write a few scenes with a pen and paper, and see where it takes you.

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  23. I put away a project for two years, went back to it, fell in love again, then lost interest again. Yeah, I don't know when to give up on a project either.

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  24. When a story dies, it dies. But sometimes, it just goes to sleep. It doesn't know where to go or how to get there. Maybe, it should hibernate some more, until you subconscious worked out the kinks. Or maybe it is really dead. You should trust your intuition on this. It is what made you a writer in the first place.

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  25. Oh yeah, I've been there often. It's actually part of the reason why I tend to work on multiple projects at a time.

    When I get that meh feeling, it usually means something subtle is wrong and my subconscious picked up on it. Usually, I just go work on something else for a week or two, and then I try again.

    If that doesn't work, I shelve it for a while, and then reread what I've written. Usually, once I have that kind of distance from a story, I can figure out why my story isn't working.

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