Some thoughts on when it’s okay to put a project to the side
I ran into a situation the other day where the book I was working on started growing beyond control and I realized I wasn’t particularly happy with the way it was going. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. The result, for me, each time, is that I lose a lot of my steam for the book and I find myself wanting to put it down. I find myself at a crossroads where I must decide what I really want to do. Do I plow ahead? Or do I put it aside and start working on something else?
This isn’t always an easy question to answer. Furthermore, I suspect, for me at least, that the right answer isn’t going to be the same each time this happens. I surmise that might be the same for you.
For a lot of people… Well, for most people, my advice would be to plow ahead. That’s because for a lot of people, there is a struggle in simply finishing their first book. So, in most situations, if you told me you were facing this situation, my answer might lean more toward telling you to plow on. Finish it, dammit!
But in my case, I’ve finished seven novels, and I don’t always run into this scenario. Sure, with every book at some point I lose a little momentum, or I have doubts, or concerns, or whatever. That’s not really what I’m talking about.
This is more of a situation where I knew the book was getting bigger than I’d intended, and with limited time to write, I prefer to avoid going past 100K where I can help it. And within a short time of hitting this concern, I realized that I wanted to make changes in such a way that I will almost need to start over. In fact, what I really felt I needed was more time to prepare, mull, and think about it. For me, I find that some books I can dive right into and free right with little to no prep. On other books, I really need an outline and time to think it through.
I didn’t have a solid plan I felt comfortable with and thus the novel started spinning out of control and spreading beyond my grasp. Each time I tried to reign it in, I only felt more sure that I wasn’t ready to be writing this particular book.
In this case, I decided to shelf the current project and start another one. This is a dangerous slippery slope, especially if you haven’t finished your first book. So again, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to someone just coming into this world, but, in my case, I know I will finish books. I’ve finished seven now and five of them are in print. I’m still learning, and in no way consider myself an expert, but I do have a comfort level with myself to know that I can, and will, finish books. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even consider stopping a project I’d started. This time I did and so far, it seems to be paying off.
When I started contemplating the new project, I had a full outline in about an hour, which for me, is unheard of. I virtually never have a complete outline until I’m halfway or further through my first draft. But in this case, I’m finding myself excited again and ready to dive into writing. In fact, I’m writing this as fast as I can and not bothering with editing myself at all because as soon as I finishing typing this, I’m going to start writing this new book.
So, the moral of the story is that if you have the confidence and/or experience to know you’ll finish, it might be okay sometimes to shelf a project and start on something else. But again I warn you, this can be a slippery slope. So don’t get crazy with it. In fact, you might find it’s the worst thing you personally could do. On the other hand, you might find it helps you get your mojo back. It might help you feel motivated and excited again. I can’t speak for everyone, but only myself. And in my case, it did the trick. Now I’m finding myself also excited about going back to the other novel and getting a proper outline put together to establish a solid foundation before I go back to writing it.
I can confidently say this was the right decision for me in the here and the now. It might not be the right decision next time. And for you, it might never be the right decision. Or maybe it will be. That’s up to you to figure out.