Most people tell you not to give up. Most times I will, too. And most times, you absolutely should not give up. But there are a few instances when giving up is the best thing. Maybe. Sometimes ideas come, but their timing is off, or maybe the idea isn’t fully fleshed out yet. Sometimes you need to make a story wait its turn and sometimes, you need to set it free to wander into the blue yonder on its own, never to lay eyes on it again.
Here’s how to know when it’s time to push through a story or when it’s time to give up on it.
1. When you’re not excited.
When I get a new idea for a story, I get very excited. Every time I think of a new element, I get excited again. When I sit down to right, I get even more excited and that feeling keeps me going throughout the writing. It’s usually enough to get me past the I-hate-this-book phase. But when you’re not excited about the story or the writing, there may be a reason. It may be time to set the story aside. Set it aside and see if the excitement returns.
2. When you’ve gone beyond “bleh.”
The “bleh” phase happens at some point in every book. It’s inevitable. You’ll hate what you’re writing, you’ll think it’s the most awful thing ever written. Then you’ll get to the next scene or plot twist and suddenly realize you’re brilliant. But what if the “bleh” phase never ends? What if, no matter how many words in, you don’t past hating your story? If you’re feeling yucky about the book every time you write it, it’s time to figure out why. When I have this problem, I look back at my outline and think about my original idea to see where I went wrong. Sometimes it’s enough to fix it, sometimes it’s not.
3. When it’s like pulling teeth.
Sure, there are those times when a scene is hard or the ideas come slowly. But when you’re writing something that’s not ready to be written or that shouldn’t be written at all, every word will be like pulling teeth. I know almost immediately if a story will work or not. The ideas usually pour out of me, even if I don’t end up keeping them. But the ideas still come. When there are no ideas and no words, it means something needs to change or I need to think more about the story before trying to continue writing it.
4. When it makes you not want to write at all.
When writing is difficult and the ideas aren’t coming, the worst thing that can happen is that you will just stop writing. If you’re so frustrated and dismayed at the thought of your story, it will be easy to give up writing altogether. If this is happening, it’s time to set aside the story for sure, but only that story. Don’t let it stop you from writing. Sometimes the best ideas come when you’re thinking of something else. And if you never get back to it, at least you’ll still be writing something!
It’s easier to put a story down if you do it with the thought that you’ll get back to it someday. I’ve done this before and gotten the right idea to fix the story, then was able to pick it up and write it well.
But sometimes, the ideas never come. A story might sit for months or years. Maybe the time will be right to pick it up again, maybe it never will be. But at least you’ll know you can always go back to it and you’ll still be writing. Don’t give up too fast, but don’t let the wrong story stand in your way.