The vast majority of people say that a writer should never abandon their work in progress. They say to fight through the mental block, through the frustration, and just finish.
Half the time, I agree.
But the other half of the time, I do think that it’s okay for writers to sometimes abandon their current work. If it’s simply because you’re stuck, or lazy, then no. Don’t give up.
Sometimes, though, at least with me, sometimes a story and its writer don’t click. They don’t mesh well. And that’s when I think giving up isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Giving up writing as a whole? Don’t you dare. But giving up writing that one project? Maybe consider it.
If you’re not sure if you should give it up or not, here are some signs I think will guide you to your answer.
It Feels Like a Chore
If you’re a writer, you should generally enjoy writing. Not all the time, of course, as sometimes your passion will make you want to put your head through a wall. But, for about seventy percent of the time, you should enjoy writing your WIP.
And not only writing it but even thinking about it. If thinking up a plot twist or a character arc for the story doesn’t somewhat excite you, then maybe you and that story aren’t meant to be. It could be that the idea is too much and it stresses you out, or that you haven’t come up with something yet to excite you about the story.
But if you feel as if you’ve put in every bit of your mojo into that story and still it isn’t fun for you, it may be time to reconsider.
You Can’t See Your Characters
This is a huge one for me. I know that I’m truly clicking with my story when I can feel my character. When I can imagine them standing in front of me, and think about what they’re thinking about. It’s when they’re a person and not a character. It’s when your characters direct your writing more than you direct them.
As weird as that sounds.
You Don’t Think About It
If you’re stuck in traffic, or waiting at the doctor’s office, or mindlessly doing the dishes, what do you think about? For many writers, they think about their story. Not all the time of course because, you know, life…but still. Occasionally thinking about it when you’re not actively writing shows that you care about the story.
There’s a difference between a lack of inspiration, which I have a whole post about here, and your heart simply being done with a story. So tread lightly.
You’d Rather Think About Other Story Ideas
This is not me saying you can’t have a bunch of plot bunnies running around in your head. If I said that, then I’d basically be saying don’t be a writer.
What I mean by this, is that it’s more enjoyable to deeply think about a story other than your current one. If you’re writing two at a time, then disregard this. Obviously.
But when you don’t have fun thinking about your current WIP but do have fun thinking about another, maybe you should consider switching.
There’s No Clear Destination
With many stories I write, I have at least an inkling as to where it’s going. I may not know all the pitstops or the actual destination, but I have an idea. Like going on a road trip and knowing you want to end up in Washington, but not knowing which city you’ll end up in.
If you’re in the beginning stages of your novel and don’t know the end goal, that’s normal. But if you’re midway through and still have no idea where to take it, it may be time to cut your losses.
It Doesn’t Work
I know, I know…this sounds like a cop-out. But it’s true. At least it is for me.
I know myself and my writing habits, and I always start and scrap at least 2-3 stories in between ones I complete. It’s just how I am, and how I get rid of all the plot bunnies that accumulated during my time completing full novels.
And try as I might to finish these in-betweeners, they simply don’t work out.
This is why I made this post, to write out the feelings that I have when giving up a WIP and see if anyone else felt the same.
When I realize I’m subconsciously doing some of these things, it’s time for me to reevaluate why I’m writing my WIP. Which, in the end, may help me decide whether or not to move my concentration elsewhere.
The relationship between a story and its author is a fickle thing. It’s temperamental and frustrating and sometimes seems more bad than good. But there is a time to listen to it, and there’s a time not to.
Only you know if you should abandon what you’re working on. I can’t make that decision for you. But I do think there is a time when a writer should commit the “ultimate sin”, and abandon their story.
More often than not, a writer should never give up on their WIP. But, occasionally, it may just work out for the best.
Let me know in the comments what you think about this! Do you think I’m a piece of crap for telling people to give up, or do you agree with me? I’d love to know!