When is it time to put your story down?

It's hard to say goodbye to an old friend.  You've been through so much together, after all.

Remember that time when you were so tired you couldn't even think about eating, yet somehow your best friend, Story, kept you up half the night anyway?  Then there was the time you were so sad that somehow even the birds outside had gotten the message and gone silent.  There was Story, offering you an escape that would eventually bring a smile back to your face and a little confidence back to your step.

Things haven't always been great between the two of you.  Like all dynamic relationships, you've had rough patches too.  You've given each other the silent treatment over minor quibbles in plot and character development.  You haven't always had time for one another, going long stretches without any real progress.  Still, at the end of the day you've always had each other.

Sadly, for everything there is a season and it seems that Story is not doing so well.  She doesn't respond to your calls.  She refuses to change no matter how much time and effort you put into the relationship.  Worst of all, it seems that the energy that once ignited the spark between you has gone away leaving a canvas devoid of anything but a flashing cursor.   It's the writing equivalent of a flatline.

Maybe it's time to part ways with Story.  Set her free, and maybe she'll come back to you.  Right?

I've been slogging through my WIP edits for what seems like forever now.  Like most writers, I have good days and bad days.  There are times that I get very excited about the possibilities of my story, and other times that I just want to do bad things to it.  Very. Bad. Things.  In truth, most days I really hate that story.  It sucks my creative energy while I'd rather be working on other projects.  It's a dangling ball of FAIL in my everyday life.  Still, I feel like I've invested too much to let it go.

BTW, it has gone through umpteen critiques, etc. so it isn't for lack of outside perspective that I'm stymied.

I've been planning on doing a post on this for a few days, but hadn't really come up with any real answers.  Maybe there is a point you should give up on your story and move on?  Maybe you should NEVER GIVE UP!  (It is Pearl Harbor Day, after all.)  I've seen both types of advice from writers and agents of all kinds.

Well, sometimes when you ask you receive.  Super Lit Agent Rachelle Gardner had an awesome post on just this very topic today!  I read it.  It hit home to the point that I thought I had to share it with the rest of you.  The subject of her post is what to do when you hate your book, and her advice is simple:  It's normal, just keep going.  Here's the link.  I'm taping it to the wall above my writing desk.

So what say you, readers great and small?  Have you ever hated a story?  Have you ever given up on a story?  Good results?  Bad results?



  1. Hey E.J.,
    I had a story that I worked on for over three years. I loved it. We were best friends. But, as many times as I revised it, it just never seemed to ever feel right. So, I stuffed it away and right now, we are not on speaking terms. I hope one day, to rekindle our relationship... Then again, maybe it's a little darling that needs to be put out of its misery.

  2. Lizz: I think it's an instance by instance thing. The problem is knowing when it's time. For you, putting it away seems like it was the best choice.

  3. I've published sixteen books (so far), but there have been at least a dozen that were DOA. It's hard to let go sometimes, but like life, it comes down to survival of the fittest....

  4. I feel your pain! My finger has hovered over the delete button many times. I have found walking away, picking up a book to read (just for fun!), and maybe starting something new has helped.I tend to be extremely critical of my writing, that it helps to read other books, and then I realize that I am actually doing alright.

  5. Some times you just need a break from one another. Nothing permanent, just separate vacations.

  6. I gave up on my last novel-length project, and have ditched a few short stories as well. It always happens under 10,000 words for me, but there's no telling which ones will die and which will float until I start writing. It hurts, but in each instance, giving up has opened me up for a new project that's much better!

  7. I think a little time away is usually the best answer. Then when you come back to it if you still hate it, it might indicate that it's lacking something to keep you intrigued enough to work on it. Sometimes just getting some perspective and honing your skills is exactly what you need. Just looked at a project I did two years ago, read the first 50 pages, and laughed my head off. I had put so much time into that story and the writing was just BAD!! But, I still love the character, so now I can go back to it with fresh and more seasoned eyes and figure out what I need to do to it.

    Anyway, good luck. You will figure it out!

  8. Hmmm... no can't say that I've hated any of my stories. But you know what, I say if you're just not feeling it, set it aside and work on something else. Creativity is a hard thing to force. I feel like a story should be inside you and it should flow. If it's not flowing, maybe it's not the story you wanna write. And if you're already finished with it and you're still not digging it, put away for spell. There are so many other ideas to work on!

  9. awe, that sounds like a great link! i'm on it and yes, I've totally been there. I've actully shelved two books because I was just ready to move on and explore a different story and different ways of writing.

  10. Never hated any of mine, we have tussled a time or two, but hate is a strong word. Let's say we agree to disagree sometimes and have to be separated sometimes.

    I do have to take breaks from them because my muse and I don't always mesh. lol

  11. Since I write during nano, I don't have time to hate during the first draft. And I've never really done any edits.

    What you could try is putting it aside for a bit and workign on a new MS. Or some shorts. Or poetry. Or taking up golf. Go back to it in a month or two.

  12. Great answers, all!

    @ Claire: Drafting is definitely not the issue. It's the edits that kill. Golf! :)


  13. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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