I’ve had this idea for a new book since the beginning of 2017. Though my brain continuously adds elements to the main storyline, I haven’t really started working on it yet. It’s my determination to finish first drafts of my two unfinished books that’s kept me away from pursuing a new idea — plus the fact that I want this year’s NaNoWriMo, my tenth and last, to be more special and exciting than ever before.
It’s hard to shake off the guilt we feel when a new love interest/story idea comes along. It’s bright and sparkly, it’s appetizing and irresistible. Yet the thought of dropping everything you’ve already put so much time and effort into bringing to life is almost unbearable, no matter how realistic it might actually be.
Part of the writing process is about both personal and professional growth. Sometimes, that means we’re not the same person we were when we started writing our novel by the time we’re nearing its end. In some cases, this can be a good thing. But in others, it means continuing to pursue a story we’re all but grown out of becomes more of a chore than a pleasurable challenge.
I think we fall in and out of love with stories the way we fall in and out of love with certain people, with hobbies, with subjects in school, with careers. What’s exciting to us one minute seems tiresome and repetitive the next. I watch myself struggling through even a few paragraphs of a book I know I may never look at again once it’s finished, and I’m tempted to walk away. In fact, it might make more sense, productivity-wise, to do just that.
Yet I haven’t, and I probably won’t. Because I’m stubborn and refuse to leave things unfinished. Maybe you’re the same way. Maybe abandoning projects would just make you feel unaccomplished and sad.
It’s important to remember that an unfinished story isn’t a failure. Sometimes we take a leap of faith and try something different, and it turns out it’s not really what we want to keep putting our time and effort into after all. It happens. After all, no writing time is wasted time. There’s something to learn from everything we start, even if we never finish.
What keeps me on the fence are my characters. I love them as much as I love the real people in my life, and I don’t want to leave them behind without finishing their story. In my mind, they deserve that. Maybe for you, your hesitation comes from your readers. What will happen to them if you stop posting? How can you just sit there and say you’re walking away with no better reason than, “My heart’s just not in it anymore?”
I fell in love with a story once. That was two years ago now. I still haven’t finished writing it. And yes, there will always remain a place for that story in my heart and in my life. If I don’t end up finishing it, it’s not because I don’t care. Unfortunately, sometimes the business side of writing has to come before the creative side. If I know my time will be better spent on an idea I can run with now, making the tough decision to close the book might be the best choice — even though it hurts.
A small part of you will always love that character, that audience, that thing you’ve worked so hard to build. But if it’s time to move on, if it’s the best thing for you, life will go on. In your imagination, you know how the story ends. You know what your plans were, even if the rest of the world doesn’t. This is not an easy thing to do — leaving something precious behind. But you’ll get busy again, and you’ll fall in love again, and it won’t hurt so much in a little while. You might even be able to accept you did what you were supposed to do. You put yourself, your happiness, your future first. That’s not so bad, in the end.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.