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.