Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Up on Your Novel

Life throws up roadblocks all the time. We get sick. We get busy. A friend comes into town for an unexpected visit.


Have you ever just wanted to throw your computer out the window and never look back?

You can’t really just ‘give up’ on something you are writing. Well … you could. But do your good ideas really deserve that? You should really first assess why you are giving up. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to quit for good.

Is there a problem with your story?

Sometimes, stories start off promising and just never quite come together the way we originally hoped they would. Sometimes we’re too far along in a story before we realize we should have done something differently, and fixing it would require a total rewrite. Maybe you had a moment of clarity in the middle of the night and decided you aren’t willing to put in the extra time to make your story publish-worthy.

This does happen, and if it is no longer important to you, you don’t have to force yourself to finish and/or fix what is broken. The fact that you have been able to identify the problems in your story and have an idea of what it would require to fix them still makes it a worthwhile learning experience, even if you never do end up finishing what you started. Learning is part of the writing process.

If your story isn’t the problem, though, maybe there’s something else standing in your way.

Is there something in your life preventing you from finishing what you started?

Life throws up roadblocks all the time. We get sick. We get busy. A friend comes into town for an unexpected visit. We get really skilled at prioritizing – so much so that we get all our important work done without giving our story even an apologetic glance.

If life is happening, and it’s hitting hard, this is one of those cases when ‘giving up’ is completely acceptable. You are allowed to focus on more important things than a novel you’re writing just for fun. However, in this case, ‘giving up’ doesn’t have to be permanent. You can put a project to the side and give yourself some kind of incentive or deadline for picking it back up again at a later time, when you’re more capable of giving your project the attention it deserves.

Is another story luring you away?

New ideas come along when we least expect them to appear. Often that means we get distracted from the current project we keep promising ourselves we are going to finish. Your original story is great. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it, and you wouldn’t mind continuing to work on it. Yet … this brand new idea looks so much more appealing than the old one. Is it okay to abandon your old idea for your new one?

Honestly? That’s really up to you. But I support the opinion that, if another idea is the only thing keeping you from finishing something you were working on before, it isn’t worth abandoning your old project for something new. You can start to work on the new one while finishing the old one, or try to work on both at the same time (better than switching from one to the other completely). But if that’s your only reason for wanting to quit … it’s just not a very good one.

Are you just frustrated/bored/discouraged?

Because if that’s the case, giving up is the absolute wrong thing to do. Writers write with their emotions, however, that is not the same thing as letting your feelings prevent you from writing. Everyone will get bored with what they’re writing in the middle of writing it. Everyone will become frustrated and discouraged. It wouldn’t be writing without those experiences mixed in.

You can always take a temporary break from what you are working on (an afternoon, a day, maybe even a few days) to work on something different if you are feeling any of these things. That doesn’t mean you have to, or should, give up completely. Likely, it isn’t your story that’s making you feel this way: it’s you. If you have to take some time away from your project to figure out why you’re feeling these negative emotions toward your writing, it is okay, even a great idea, to do that. Just don’t forget to come back when you are ready.

It is okay to quit. There are plenty of experts out there who will tell you quitting is sometimes a necessity. Just don’t let yourself quit for a completely unjustifiable reason. You have great ideas up in that head of yours. Don’t let them go to waste just because another idea, or a bunch of negative emotions, are trying to convince you to give up.

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Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

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