Saturday, March 28, 2015

When It's Time to Let Go

I made a very difficult decision last week. I decided to let my novel go.

This was a novel I started writing back in 2010. It was a historical thriller set in D.C. during WW2. I really liked my characters and the plot at the time, but halfway through, I got bogged down by how complicated it all was. While I always like to include some kind of suspense in my novels, writing a thriller was quite difficult.

So I abandoned it. I wrote two other novels and one got me my agent. So I don't regret letting it go.

However, I would go back and read it every so often and get excited about it again. I decided to give it another go. So I took some time to hammer out all the plot details, all the twists and turns. Finally, I had it figured out.

I went back to the novel and had to scrap a bunch of previous writing, which I was expecting to do. But for some reason, I had an incredibly difficult time just getting myself to open the Word document. I did a few things to try and combat this - including coloring which I highly recommend if you're stuck or just need a writing break - and for awhile, it would work.

But something still wasn't right.

After a few months of torment, I finally realized that while I love to read thrillers, I can't write them.

It was a hard realization.

I'm not entirely ruling out writing this novel in the future; perhaps after I've had more experience and have another few novels under my belt. But I can't let my writing career stall because I'm trying to wrangle a manuscript that is simply beyond my writing capabilities right now.

There's relief and disappointment in this decision; relief because I don't have to torture myself anymore and disappointment because I couldn't get it to work.

But a new novel idea has taken form, one that is definitely not a thriller, and I'm eagerly looking forward to writing it.

Sometimes, you just have to let a project go. And maybe in the future, you'll be able to pick it up again. But if not, that's okay, too. There is no wasted writing. All of it contributes to our experience in some way, shape, or form.


  1. Ahhhhh, yes. I understand what you mean! I've had to let two novels go. One because I knew I wasn't old enough to write it with the life experience I knew I required, and one because I didn't have the writing skill at that time to pull it off successfully. And it sucked to do that, but I know both just had to be let go for awhile. Possibly permanently, but at least for quite a few years.

    And hooray for a new novel idea! That sounds fun! Good luck, and I'm looking forward to hearing status reports!

    1. When I let a novel go, I usually don't go back to it - but I had to with this one. I really hope I can return to it someday.

      Hoping for some good status reports soon! :D

  2. I understand, too. It takes some courage to face and make this sort of decision. Still, it is also a really good experience—both teaching you about some limits you have while also, obviously, still encouraging you to consider pushing them in the future. As you noted, maybe a few years down the road you'll be able to pick this idea up again and it'll all click; even if not, though, it's still a good experience because of what you wrote. It'll probably always still sort of be there in the back of your mind, a foundational thing, and that is not bad. For now, too, having decided to let it go may well free you up for other work. That in and of itself has to be a relief and a comfort!

    1. I think it was definitely a teaching experience for me, to realize that I have limits that can sometimes be pushed and sometimes can't. I do hope I can give it another go some day. :)

  3. I know what you mean! I've had an idea that i've been kicking around for three years now, collecting notes on, stabbing at outlines, musing over characters. But the story has never taken off. I suppose it's different because you had a story that did take off, but fizzled out. Either way its hard to let go. But I suppose we get these ideas for a reason and somehow they fit into the pattern. Maybe someday you'll be ready to write a thriller, or the maybe the story will suddenly reveal itself in a different genre. I love how like our children, our stories take us unexpected directions.

    1. Unexpected directions is exactly right, Margo! It's amazing how stories just sort of take on a life of their own. :)

  4. I admire how you were able to come to the realization and accept that, for now, you had to put the story down because you felt you did not have the necessary skills. Maybe it's like Lloyd Alexander once said, "Books, not authors, decide when they want to be written". Happy writing! :)

    1. Thank you, Eileen. I love that saying by Alexander. It's so true!


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