Yesterday, I spent most of my day reading an unfinished book series I’d almost forgotten I’d started.
This was years ago — enough of them have passed that I’d completely forgotten I’d started writing a sequel to the unfinished first book and NEVER FINISHED THAT ONE EITHER.
Now, I’m not saying that this mess of a draft was “good.” But I was so intrigued by this forgotten story that I felt my heart break a little when I went to scroll to the next page and THERE WASN’T ONE BECAUSE I STOPPED WRITING IT.
I spent enough time with these characters that, if I could, I would go back and finish the trilogy I had set out to complete, even just for my own satisfaction.
There are many reasons I can never go back to it, though — no matter how much I desperately want to.
Reason 1: I’ve grown. Not just as a writer, but as a person. At the time of writing, I needed to tell this story, to help myself cope with some things going on in my life. I no longer need to cope with those things, and in many ways, major plot points feel as though I have outgrown them. And honestly, I’d really rather not relive a lot of that pain if I don’t have to.
Reason 2: I have a lot of things to write that are new and, let’s be honest, much more important. Yes, I could spend the next year of my life working only on these books until they were finished. But then I’d be abandoning everything I’m currently working on, and I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interest.
Reason 3: There comes a time when you have to let go of the projects that helped you along your journey as a writer. You have to accept them as part of what was, and leave them as part of your history to make room for the things you need now to grow from where you’re at. You can’t keep going back to your first loves. You can do better. You must.
There is something special about the writing projects that made us who we are. We stick with stories in the long-term because we love them, care for them, enjoy them, and want others to experience them someday. But the reality is, we can’t finish everything we start. Life happens. Our interests change.
Going back to those old flames is like rereading our favorite books over and over again … only our favorite books, and nothing else. It’s tempting, but it’s not going to be a good use of our time.
Remember: everything we write leaves a mark on us somehow. There’s no law that says I can’t use trace elements of these unfinished books in future projects to, even if only for myself, keep them alive.
Plus, apparently I had it in my head who the villain in this series was all along, and as I was reading, I COULD NOT REMEMBER WHO IT WAS.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.