The Right Time to Let Go (+ Book Giveaway!)

Update: Congrats to Barbara Elness who won the copy of A Summer in Europe! Please email me (MarilynBrant AT Gmail DOT Com) with your address and I’ll send it out to you!

I just returned yesterday from a writing retreat — something several good friends and I try to do once or twice every year, if we can — and, during the course of our brainstorming session, an interesting topic of conversation came up:

As writers, how long (in months/years/etc.) would you be willing to work on drafting a manuscript? Do you finish each and every writing project you start…or are there some that you just abandon after a while? And if you do stop working on one — particularly after many months or years of effort — what reasons do you have for letting it go and moving onto another book idea?

I’m very curious about this.

I started a particular project two years ago this month and, from the beginning, I knew it was going to be a very difficult and different one. During the past twenty-four months I spent drafting it, I also had two traditionally published books released, two self-published titles out, one long proposal written and a seemingly endless stream of articles, blog posts, essays, online book clubs and travel/book-related interviews (especially for my most recent novel, A Summer in Europe – Kensington, Dec. 2011). So, I was doing some other writing at the same time, but still…this current work-in-progress was not one that seemed destined to be written quickly.

But, here’s the thing — even though I tried to abandon this book several times in favor of working on something less challenging, I couldn’t seem to leave it alone. I told myself I wasn’t ready to write it. That it was too complicated. That nobody but me would care about the premise. That it crossed genres all over the place and would be far too hard to market. However, none of my logical, reasonable attempts to turn myself off from the idea actually succeeded…

I’m now about 30 pages from getting to write “The End,” and I’m excited to delve into the revision process (which will most certainly be extensive, LOL) and to share the draft with a few trusted critique partners who never fail to help me see the issues I’m blind to in a manuscript.

But, I couldn’t help but think of a number of half-written manuscripts sitting on my hard drive that would have benefited from this kind of tenacity. Those projects just didn’t compel me enough — sometimes because I sensed a weakness in the plot or the characters, other times for reasons unknown — and I wasn’t able to keep struggling to get the words on the paper. I guess I still wonder what it would have taken to get me to push through on the others.

So, if you’re a writer, when do you know if/when you should put away an unfinished manuscript you’re writing? Or, if you’re a reader, when do you give up on the novel you’re trying to read and move on to another that can hold your interest for longer?

I’m giving away a hardcover bookclub edition to A Summer in Europe (winning name will be posted on Sunday) to one random commenter on this post, so I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. :razz:

About Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant is a chocolate addict, a music junkie and the USA TODAY bestselling author of ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (2010) and A SUMMER IN EUROPE (2011), all from Kensington Books, as well as a number of light romantic comedies, including THE SWEET TEMPTATIONS COLLECTION (2013) and PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT MATCH (2013). Her latest novel -- a coming-of-age romantic mystery called THE ROAD TO YOU -- was just released in October 2013!
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26 Responses to The Right Time to Let Go (+ Book Giveaway!)

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    I’ve begun several books that I thought were great, my CPs thought and – for one – an editor/agent panel thought was great. I stopped them anyway. They were books that just weren’t for me.

    I think someone else could’ve finished them. And if the other person did, I would’ve read them. But I didn’t want to spend months of my life writing them.

    Good for you for sticking through this!!! I’m eager to read it when it’s out. Great picture of you, too. 🙂

    • Edie, thanks for the compliment on the photo ;). It was not from this past weekend, but from another retreat with some other lovely writing friends, but that’s pretty much the way I draft — sitting on the floor with papers all around me, trying to make sense of my plot and fearing it’ll never come together, LOL.

      And I love that you know yourself well enough to know when you don’t want to write something…even if it could most likely sell and everyone wants to read more of it. The books you’ve chosen to finish and publish have been terrific and well worth the time and attention you’ve given them!
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Let the Games Begin!

  2. liz Kreger says:

    Don’t think I’ve ever had a book that I didn’t finish, Marilyn. I get an idea and just just fly with it. Sure some may take longer than others, but they eventually get done. I have a couple in dire need of editing, but that’s something I feel I can do at my leisure.

    • Liz, I admire that — especially the being able to “just fly with it”!!! I have so many project that feel like I’m slogging waist-deep through mud… 😉

  3. Virna DePaul says:

    Congrats on being so close to the end! I’ve several manuscripts that need finishing. It’s hard to get them all done and have a balanced life, too. But I believe I’ll get back to the stories that truly mean something to me. 🙂

    • Virna, thank you!! I’m truly relieved to be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel with this book. And I love what you said about believing you’ll be able to get back to the stories that mean something to you… There is that persistent hope that if time, family life, other commitments, etc. get in the way of me finishing something I care about that, yes, eventually, that story will get to have its day ;).

  4. Amy R says:

    I first have to tell you all that one of the best things about this webiste for me as a reader is that I get a peak at what it is like for a writer. I get to see your struggles, your success as well as the way you guys think. It makes me appreciate the books I read so much more. In the past it would just be some famous (I think all authors are famous) person who wrote a book. It is blogs like this that remind me that you guys are human and it is hard work writing a book.

    To answer your question – sometimes I am in the mood for certain books. If I have purchased a book and I am not feeling it, I will just put it down and move on to another with the plans to go back to it. I feel that there will be a time I am in the mood for it. I go in phases with the types of stories I want to read based on what is going on in my life (or that time of the month – ha!) or my mood. Hope that helps! Thanks for the blog post!

    • Oh, Amy, I loved your comments — thank you! And I’m *thrilled* that you find our posts here to be illuminating. So often, when I’m reading something one of my fellow MM sisters has written, I’m given new insights into the writing process, too. It’s a fascinating learning experience for all of us ;).

      As for feeling like you might be in the mood for a book on another day — even if you aren’t right then — that tends to be my reaction, too! It’s hard for me to give away a book I haven’t finished because I keep thinking, “But maybe one day it’ll be JUST the thing…”
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Let the Games Begin!

  5. Amy Atwell says:


    I’m forever abandoning half-finished manuscripts because a new SQUIRREL has run across my path and I go off chasing it. I have to really hunker down and force myself to see a book past the mid-point. Once I get a glimmer of my way to the ending, then I can’t write fast enough to finish it. I’ve got a couple completed manuscripts that I may never publish, and I’ve got a wonderful story that’s on hold for now. I’m in the hunker down phase with sequels to my two releases. Putting on blinders so as not to see any squirrels in my peripheral vision. 😉
    Amy Atwell`s last blog was …Do You Belong To A Book Club?

    • LOL, Amy!! I’ve always loved watching the squirrels in our yard and at parks…and that’s exactly how I feel with some of my half-finished projects, too :). It’s so easy to get distracted, especially when (for me) I feel as though something I’m working on isn’t going to live up to my vision of it. Like you said, though, after the midpoint when the ending isn’t impossible to imagine, it does get a little easier!
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Let the Games Begin!

  6. Misty Evans says:

    I have several unfinished manuscripts on my harddrive. Eventually, some of them will get finished. I say every book has its time and I truly believe that. It’s not that I don’t want to finish those stories, but the timing is wrong.

    Congrats on nearing the end on your current wip. Way to go!

  7. Chelsea B. says:

    I’ve only had a few books I DNF, but I ALWAYS give them at least 100 pages. I would hate to give up on a book only to find it turns amazing in the second half 🙂

    • Chelsea,
      You’re wonderful to be so openminded about a novel and really give them a chance to shine! I think if a book can’t catch your interest in 100 pages, then it’s had more than a few chances and is better given to someone else who may enjoy it more. I know I’ve read several novels that started slowly but REALLY got going later, and I’m so glad I didn’t stop reading after Chapter 1 😛 .
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Let the Games Begin!

  8. bn100 says:

    I try to finish the book even if it’s not that interesting.

  9. Barbara Elness says:

    I generally don’t give up on a novel I’m trying to read, I keep slogging away at it until I finish it. There have only been a couple of books that I’ve ever just given up on, they were both so terrible I couldn’t even get a quarter of the way in, and actually threw them in the trash. It isn’t even very often that a book doesn’t hold my interest, but occasionally there is one that is a little slow but I still want to find out what happens so I persevere.

    • Barbara, I really like the way you persevere even if a story is a little slow ;). I’ve had the experience a number of times in thinking that a story was too slow and, then, realizing as I got to the middle of it, just how necessary all that set up at the beginning was…that knowing all of that carefully placed information was critical to making the reader fully understand the later plot twists and the struggles of the characters. Made me glad I didn’t give up too early!

  10. Marilyn, soooo jealous of your retreat. Sounds like heaven. I’ve had about 15 pages to go in my current WIP for the last three days. Hope it ends at least tomorrow. Even better if its today! 🙂

    I have a rule. If I like an idea but don’t know all the details, I’ll jot them down and let the whole thing mull in my head. If the mulling gives me a stronger idea of where things are going, I’ll write a two page outline, and sometimes the first two or three chapters. And then, I leave it, finish what I’m working on and then decide which of the ideas I’ll work on next. I must have at least 6 of these outline and two chapter stories on my hard drive at any one time. And I plan to get back to all of them. I had one story I started and left 2/3 of the way through it. I don’t know if I’ll go back to it, but I certainly think of it every now and then.
    Michelle Diener`s last blog was …Book sightings

    • Michelle,
      Wish you could have been at the retreat with us!! The ladies there would have loved getting to know you ;). And I *love* your process of dealing with the new story ideas you have! I don’t have a system nearly as well-structured as that (usually I only have lots of little scrap paper notes…LOL), but what’s so cool about what you do is that you really give the idea a chance to grow and form in your mind and, if you’re still compelled by it, you have the details organized in an accessible way. I really need to try something like that! 😛
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Let the Games Begin!

  11. CateS says:

    Well as a reader… if I’ve purchased a print copy, I’ll read it… sometimes I get distracted and busy with life and have to postpone my reading… I’ve also an ereader.. and have an extensive list .. but I’ll admit they were mostly free… those which do not live up to my expectations… I’ll easily delete…
    I truly enjoy reading authors blogs because I have a better understanding of why and how they chose to write certain topics/genres..

    • Cate,
      I know what you mean :). If I’ve gone to the store (or ordered online) a specific book, I do tend to read those novels first and give them a lot longer to hook me. I’m less likely to rush to read something I didn’t select myself, and I think it’s human nature to value something we paid for over something we got for free…at least until we look between the pages and can judge on the content itself. Great insights — thanks for sharing them!
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Let the Games Begin!

  12. Virna DePaul says:

    Unfortunately, I’m very quick to stop reading a book that doesn’t immediately pull me in. It’s just a matter of limited time. I know I’ve probably missed some good books that just need a little more warm up time.

    • Virna, I know I’ve missed some good ones, too, but you’re right about time being limited. Especially in our profession, I think it’s nearly impossible to read every book that interests us or that we want to read because a friend wrote it… We all need an extra few hours in our day just for pleasure reading ;).

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