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Alouette
09-18-2011, 04:01 PM
Okay, so I'm about 30k through a manuscript which is the furthest I've ever got. I've learnt a lot through writing it and it's not that I don't know where to go in the story anymore or anything, it's just that I've realised that there are A LOT of problems with it and if I ever want to get it half decent I'd have to rewrite most of it. And what's more, I don't really enjoy writing it anymore and I keep putting off writing because I know there is so much wrong with it.

Meanwhile, I have another novel idea which has been brewing for a while that I really want to get started on. However, I feel so guilty for abandoning another project. I might be willing to go back to it but at the moment there is just so much wrong with it that I feel I have to leave it for a while.

Do you think I should leave it and write this other thing or should I persevere even though I know I'll have to change a lot and will probably struggle to write (and not enjoy it)? I just don't know. I want to finally finish something but at the same time I know the reason I want to leave this project behind (for a while) is different from the rest - it's not because of short attention span or running out of steam - there is just too much wrong with it.

alleycat
09-18-2011, 04:12 PM
You'll probably get a variety of opinions; everything from "set it aside" to "finish what you start," but unless you have something of a compulsive personality to finish anything you start, you're not going to be able to make much headway with the way you feel about the novel now. Few things are harder than working on a writing project you've lost faith in.

So, I would say to set it aside (that's really what your heart is telling you to do). You might want to makes some notes to yourself while it's still fresh in your mind about what went wrong with this project.

megan_d
09-18-2011, 04:35 PM
Even if you do decide to start over keep in mind that it's not unusual to hit a wall like this at the 20-30k mark. More than a few writers feel that their MS is a worthless pill of rubbish at this point, even if its not true. I would recommend forcing yourself to at least hit 50k, and then decide if the MS needs to be scrapped or if it can be salvaged.

alleycat
09-18-2011, 04:37 PM
By the way, you don't need to beat yourself up if you do decide to set the work aside. I think it's much worse to say you want to write or do something, and never really make an effort.* In this case, you did the work; it maybe just didn't work out.

* There use to be an American TV show (Family) where one of the characters was a young man who wanted to be a great writer . . . only he never wrote anything. All he ever did was whine about how hard it was to write. If someone asked him why he hadn't written anything he would come back with some old story about some famous writer who spent weeks writing "one great sentence". Then he would go and not write some more and complain about people not understanding how hard it was to be a writer.

heyjude
09-18-2011, 05:03 PM
Alleycat and megan are wise! It really is normal to feel that way at this point in your novel, but if the problems you're seeing are insurmountable-feeling, put it aside and try the new one.

If, however, you run into the same wall with the new one, you might want to take a look at your methods. :)

alleycat
09-18-2011, 05:09 PM
And I don't necessarily disagree with megan_d. Sometimes it is just that; hitting that "mid-point" wall.

gothicangel
09-18-2011, 05:26 PM
Alleycat and megan are wise! It really is normal to feel that way at this point in your novel, but if the problems you're seeing are insurmountable-feeling, put it aside and try the new one.

If, however, you run into the same wall with the new one, you might want to take a look at your methods. :)

QFT.

I've just overcome this hurdle in my second draft.

I wonder though, have you ever completed a full novel before? Is this a case of 'shiny, new idea?'

megan_d
09-18-2011, 05:29 PM
I think being able to tell the difference between hitting the wall and truly needing to scrap an MS is something that comes with experience. And, unfortunately for the OP, isn't something anyone else can determine for you.

Katrina S. Forest
09-18-2011, 05:29 PM
I think you should do what you want. If you want to push forward with the old project, do it. If you want to trunk it and start with something else, do that. You're the author. :)

Goodness knows I've ditched many a novel after NaNoWriMo. In fact, only two out of seven have survived. ^_^;;

bearilou
09-18-2011, 05:55 PM
Goodness knows I've ditched many a novel after NaNoWriMo. In fact, only two out of seven have survived. ^_^;;

Yeah but were they finished? There's a difference between finishing something and deciding it's not salvageable and being stuck at 1/3 the way through and not being salvageable.

To the OP:

While I agree it could possibly be a novel you end up having to scrap, I also think this is due to the mid-novel slump. It seems like I even read that it happens about (in NaNo terms of a 50K finish line) week two, which, if you do the math is around 23-34K word count.

I agree with megan_d. Try to get another 20K out and move past this slump and see if you feel the same way before scrapping the project all together.

ylrebmik
09-18-2011, 06:38 PM
Literally, I had the same thread a few weeks ago.. I thought I was the only one! This is my second attempt at a WIP and I hit 36K and realized I was more focussed on hitting word count and writing everyday than quality.

I faced the same problem you're having, and everyone told me different things. So what I'm doing is plotting/organizing/outlining a little better, rewriting a few parts in the first half to make it decent, then writing the second half as if the first half is perfect. Then making it all come together in the second draft. It was advice someone gave me a few weeks ago that I thought was very wise, since I edit too much while I write!

Good luck to you!

Anne Lyle
09-18-2011, 06:48 PM
Alouette, I had exactly the same problem for quite a few years - never got more than 20-30k before grinding to a halt and giving up. I still struggle when I reach the 1/3 to halfway point, because it's just plain hard to see your way through the middle to the ending, even if you have that ending clear in your mind.

The two things that got me through to the end of a novel were:

1. Doing NaNoWriMo - I brainstormed lots of scene ideas before I started, so I wouldn't have the excuse that I had nothing to write about, then I just wrote it without worrying if it was any good or not. (I eventually rewrote that book into the one I'm getting published.)

2. Eventually you'll find a story and characters that grip you and won't let go, and you'll move heaven and earth to finish it. That's how I got through the revisions that turned my messy NaNoWriMo draft into something publishable.

Just keep at it and you'll get there eventually!

Flicka
09-18-2011, 07:01 PM
Like the others said, sometimes you get this feeling because it's unsalvageable, and sometimes it's just because you're at THAT place, because everybody* feels that way at least once. Nobody explained it quite as well as Neil Gaiman: http://www.nanowrimo.org/node/1065561

Sometimes it helps to put it aside for a while. It may not seem quite as bad when you come back - but sometimes it really is a hot old mess. Maybe you're just currently in a place where you need to take a step back to find out which.




*by everybody I mean to make a generalised statement that most people, or at least a majority of the people writing a novel, experience this. It doesn't mean that there are not those who don't.

ebennet68
09-18-2011, 07:10 PM
I was in the same spot you're in right now last year. I was a little further along than you are right now (40K or so) when I started thinking about doing Nanowrimo for the first time. I was so in love with the new idea that it was all I could think about. The trouble was that I already had so much time invested in what I was working on. I went ahead and wrote another 20K and finished it by the end of October right before Nano. I made these "deals" with myself that if I got some work done on the WIP, I was allowed to write short scenes and try out my new characters as a reward. That way, I still got the story done AND got to play around with the new idea at the same time.

C.J.Lindsay
09-18-2011, 07:17 PM
Why don't you look for someone on AW to read over what you have so far, and while they're doing that, make a start on your other project? That way you can be free of guilt, knowing you're not just abandoning your original project.

Hopefully you'll come back to it refreshed, with a second opinion to help you see how to move forward.

Jamesaritchie
09-18-2011, 08:23 PM
Finish it. No one ever became a writer by not finishing. So far, you don't know anything about writing a novel, you only know haw to write one third of a novel, and can't even be sure what's wrong, or how fixable it is, until you finish. You don't even know how well the beginning works until you write the ending.

And no matter how you feel about the great idea you have brewing, what makes you think it will be any different once the writing actually starts? Ideas are meaningless, no matter how wonderful they seem.

What happens when you get thirty thousand words into the next novel, only to find out it isn't going so well, either?

areteus
09-18-2011, 08:43 PM
All the above is sage advice. One thing I would ask, have you had anyone other than you read your work so far? I have always found that feelings of inadequecy about a piece of work usually means it is time to get some of those early chapters to a critter for some independent advice. More often than not, I have had comments which said 'this is great, a few tweaks will make it better but keep going cos I want to learn the end!' and this for a story I've been thinking was a worthless piece of nonsense. The postive feedback is a great spur to carry on and finish.

If you are truly blocked on a piece, put it away and let it simmer for a bit in your brain while you work on something else. Then, chances are you will come back to it renewed and with fresh ideas.

gothicangel
09-18-2011, 08:49 PM
Like the others said, sometimes you get this feeling because it's unsalvageable, and sometimes it's just because you're at THAT place, because everybody* feels that way at least once. Nobody explained it quite as well as Neil Gaiman: http://www.nanowrimo.org/node/1065561



That is a great link. I feel so much better about my WIP now. :)

This is so me with my second draft at the mo:


By now you're probably ready to give up. You're past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You're not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You're in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more---and that even when they do you're preoccupied and no fun. You don't know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you're pretty sure that even if you finish it it won't have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began---a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read---it falls so painfully short that you're pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.

Alouette
09-18-2011, 08:57 PM
Thanks for the replies so far everyone. It's nice to know that a lot of people have similar problems. No one has looked at it so far but I think the problems are mainly structural and I know a lot of it has to be cut. Also, because of the MC's background (it's first person) I have to write in quite a minimalist way which isn't my natural style and sometimes it feels quite forced.

I'm thinking that I won't abandon it as I think there ARE some bits which are salvageable, thinking about it, but I might take a break while I sort things out and work on plotting/outlining the other project so I'm doing something useful at least before I go back to it. Does this sound like a good plan?

bearilou
09-18-2011, 09:16 PM
Thanks for the replies so far everyone. It's nice to know that a lot of people have similar problems. No one has looked at it so far but I think the problems are mainly structural and I know a lot of it has to be cut. Also, because of the MC's background (it's first person) I have to write in quite a minimalist way which isn't my natural style and sometimes it feels quite forced.

I'll just caution you that it's easier to cut out than it is to add in once you're done with the novel. So don't worry so much about the cutting until you go into edits.

Also in reference to the structural problems. I've seen the advice on the boards to consider keeping the writing going AS IF you've already made the structural changes at the beginning (making sure to keep good notes!). Then when you get to the end and need to start your edits, you'll have a better idea of what exactly the structural elements are in need of revamping.

Just something to consider. :)

I'm thinking that I won't abandon it as I think there ARE some bits which are salvageable, thinking about it, but I might take a break while I sort things out and work on plotting/outlining the other project so I'm doing something useful at least before I go back to it. Does this sound like a good plan?

Ultimately, you have to do what you think is best for your current and your future project. To echo JAR's advice, however, make sure it doesn't become a habit of stopping and swapping horses midstream. It will develop into finishing nothing but having a handful of half finished projects.

But sometimes, you do need to take a step back, piddle around a little bit with something different to get the noggin cleared before tackling it again. Following your best innate feelings on the subject is the best route.

nchahine
09-18-2011, 09:55 PM
I'm going to advise something slightly different, though it's just my opinion: go ahead and trunk the first novel for now.

BUT, once you've done that, you've got to promise yourself that you're going to complete your second novel to the end, no matter how terrible it looks, or how much you want to give it up. If you feel you can keep to that promise and actually complete the second novel in a reasonable time frame, then you can always go back to the first story with a fresh eye.

Kitty27
09-18-2011, 10:11 PM
Finish what you start is my motto. I think that all of us hit the midpoint of a novel and the glamor has worn off. The hard work has truly begun and suddenly we're tired. Our lovely novel has turned into a frump with a bad attitude. We start coming up with excuses to stop the novel. We want to cheat on it or dump it for that alluring new WIP. I ignore this inclination(yes,it's hard to ignore that brick-house WIP leering at me) but I stick with the books I have selected.

I always find the middle of a book to be hard going. But I keep at it. I work through those chapters and scenes because I know that all of my books are going to hit that dull midpoint. If I stop every time,nothing will ever get finished and all I'll have is a a bunch of unfinished books. The boredom always wears off and my original enthusiasm comes back.

Now if a book truly doesn't work,then I suggest taking a break from it. But don't abandon it. You have to grind and keep at it.

Button
09-18-2011, 10:23 PM
I think everyone's got a trunk novel. That novel you wrote the first time or almost completed, and realized how much work it would take to revise. I've got two. :) I plan on going back and fixing them though, one day...

I've also got a lot of "3 chapter false starts".

It's normal.

I'm not ashamed to say that my next book I revised 100 times. It's now with beta readers and I've learned so much over the years that I'm already working on three other books (at the same time!). :p

Don't be afraid to trash a novel and start over. Hey, who hasn't? Write in a genre you love and with a book you enjoy. If you don't like what you're writing, that'll flow through your book.

Flicka
09-18-2011, 11:00 PM
That is a great link. I feel so much better about my WIP now. :)


I'm glad you found it helpful! I always feel better when reading it. Makes me feel less alone. :)

James D. Macdonald
09-18-2011, 11:02 PM
Before you do anything else, get and read a copy of The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel by Edward Gorey.

virtue_summer
09-18-2011, 11:21 PM
My advice would be a to finish it, but in the end it's all a personal decision. I'm biased as my own experiences have had me first putting aside rough drafts, convinced they were not salvageable, then putting aside half finished manuscripts, then tossing away first chapters until I finally stopped writing for a while. In my case it was me being too hard on myself and also being intimidated by all the work revision entails (and I'm one of those people who tends to leave too many gaps in first drafts so my revisions will consist of a lot of adding in rather than just cutting back). I think you should consider if this is a project specific issue or if it's a pattern. If it's project specific it might not be a problem to put it aside. If it's a pattern then it's likely not the project at all and you need to address the real issue.

JSDR
09-18-2011, 11:28 PM
There was a thread here at one point with a cool chart about novel writing and the writer's perception of their work....I can't remember what the thread was called or what the graph's name was :(

Anyway, from personal experience:

There was a racing game I tried to play a few years back. You know, drive a fake car through fake tokyo. There was a particularly tough part in the course, and I kept crashing every time I got to it, so I'd stop the game and restart from the beginning. A friend of mine was watching me do this one day and said something that really stuck with me:

If you keep starting over, how are you going to learn how to beat that part, and how are you going to know what's on the other side?

Anyway, take from that what you can, but your OP reminded me of it, so I wanted to share.

I'm also going to ask why you think your MS is rubbish...

Katrina S. Forest
09-18-2011, 11:49 PM
Yeah but were they finished? There's a difference between finishing something and deciding it's not salvageable and being stuck at 1/3 the way through and not being salvageable.

All seven reached the 50,000k mark and all were completed first drafts, with at most a scene or two missing. Four I decided I wanted to take to the second draft stage and edit. Two reached the point where I felt they were polished enough to query. One I quit querying early in because I realized it wasn't bad, but it wasn't publishable.

Two I have hope that the concept was great, but the whole thing needs to be re-written to work, and that's what I'm doing now.

I'm certainly not pushing for giving up easily, but at times putting a project aside for a bit is the best thing for it.

EDIT: I do love that Neil Gaiman pep talk. I've gone back and re-read it many times. ^_^

LKWatts
09-18-2011, 11:51 PM
I think you should have a weeks break from everything, then come back and have another look at things to see how you feel then.

Arch Stanton
09-18-2011, 11:58 PM
It's better to finish first drafts, IMHO. Take notes on the new idea and tuck it away. A bunch of writers get hung up at 30k, then move on to another project, stall out at 30-40k again, then move on to another. Don't become one of them.

That said, there's a difference between stalling out and losing inspiration/enthusiasm. If the latter, there's no reason to continue. If you find yourself doing the same thing on the next novel, then you know it's a "finisher" issue.

LJD
09-19-2011, 12:14 AM
it's just that I've realised that there are A LOT of problems with it and if I ever want to get it half decent I'd have to rewrite most of it.

That's OK. Many of us have to do a lot of rewriting.

And what's more, I don't really enjoy writing it anymore and I keep putting off writing because I know there is so much wrong with it.

What's more concerning is that you don't enjoy writing it anymore. If it's just because you feel overwhelmed by the problems in it, then I would suggest you hang in there. Your work will have problems. That's the way it is. But you need to learn to solve them. You're not going to magically get better if all you do is write, see the flaws in your work, and never move beyond that stage.

But if you do feel you've been completely sucked dry by the project, then maybe you'll need to put it aside.

Either way, I'd take a week or two break from it if I were you. Maybe a week or two break from writing altogether to recharge.

Shadow_Ferret
09-19-2011, 12:19 AM
I have at least 3 novels that I made it to about the 15 or 20k mark and got stuck. I've pulled them out over the years to revisit them, but still can't figure out what I'm doing with them. One is nearly 30 years old and the first novel I ever started.

There is nothing wrong with setting them aside and working on another project.

PrincessTeacake
09-19-2011, 01:05 AM
If you want a really honest opinion, try it out on someone you know and trust to give you an honest opinion. I'm incapable of judging my own work, I look back at all the fanfiction I wrote years ago and all I see is rubbish, but I still get people asking me to finish the ones I abandoned every now and then so they must have had some good in them. These days I get my best friend to do it, she's the person who's not afraid to tell me that my make-up's wonky or my hair looks like crap, and that extends to my writing too.

Best pick someone who reads a lot of books too, they'll be more able to spot any potential problems.

ccarver30
09-19-2011, 01:47 AM
If you aren't feeling a story, it isn't going to come out well. You will just write it to check the box. That isn't what writing is about (at least not for me). Go back to it later or start over after you finish that story you actually care about...

profen4
09-19-2011, 02:18 AM
Meanwhile, I have another novel idea which has been brewing for a while that I really want to get started on. However, I feel so guilty for abandoning another project. I might be willing to go back to it but at the moment there is just so much wrong with it that I feel I have to leave it for a while.

Do you think I should leave it and write this other thing or should I persevere even though I know I'll have to change a lot and will probably struggle to write (and not enjoy it)? I just don't know. I want to finally finish something but at the same time I know the reason I want to leave this project behind (for a while) is different from the rest - it's not because of short attention span or running out of steam - there is just too much wrong with it.


My advice (and really, this is just something that works for me, so take it with a grain of salt) - take a moment and outline your second idea. Get your thoughts down.

Next, finish the first book you've been working on if you still think it's a good idea (and if all it needs is some tweaks, or a rewrite, it's probably still a good idea). But don't go back and rewrite it (yet). Make notes about what you'll need to change, and carry on from where you are, straight through to the end.

At this point, I will take a week and work on the next idea. Just a week. Then I go back to project one, split the screen and engage MS Word's synchronous scrolling tool and, starting from scratch, using the first copy as a guide, I rewrite the entire thing. I don't copy and paste anything. Even if there are sections that I think are great and have no intention of changing, I still rewrite it.

When that rewrite is done, I consider it my first draft. I do a lot more after that, but I won't bore you with those details.

The thing is, you learn things from finishing a novel. You learn things from revising a novel ... well, I do at least.

Best of luck to you!

I decided to try writing something in 2008 - so I'm a relative newbie, but I have completed four novels this way (I'll have two more done this month).

Lovely Decadence
09-19-2011, 02:53 AM
There's no shame in putting a wip on the back burner if you're having trouble figuring out where to go next, or if you're questioning the quality of the work. I've done just that with a wip I had been working on senior year of college. I hit a wall with the narrative, and after going over the 50pgs I had written over and over I realized there was a lot wrong with it. A little over a year later I've gone on to a different wip and am right around the same place I was with the last wip, but I'm finding myself more in love with where the story is going and noticing that the writing and story is developing a lot better. Looking back at the old wip, I realize it isn't complete rubbish, but there's a lot to be fixed and it does have potential. I don't think had I kept writing then that it would have gotten better, in fact, I think I may have just exacerbated the problems. I say take a moment away from it. If you've got a new idea nagging at you, write it down. Start making a story out of it. After some time, go back to that original work and read it over again. It'll probably feel like a new story to you again and you'll be able to tell better whether it's something you can fix and want to fix, or if it really is just a lost cause. At the end of the day, the choice is up to you. In your heart of hearts, you'll know whether you really want to push though with your current work, or if you want to take some time away from it and come back to it later.

Alouette
09-19-2011, 03:14 AM
There was a thread here at one point with a cool chart about novel writing and the writer's perception of their work....I can't remember what the thread was called or what the graph's name was :(

Anyway, from personal experience:

There was a racing game I tried to play a few years back. You know, drive a fake car through fake tokyo. There was a particularly tough part in the course, and I kept crashing every time I got to it, so I'd stop the game and restart from the beginning. A friend of mine was watching me do this one day and said something that really stuck with me:

If you keep starting over, how are you going to learn how to beat that part, and how are you going to know what's on the other side?

Anyway, take from that what you can, but your OP reminded me of it, so I wanted to share.

I'm also going to ask why you think your MS is rubbish...

Thanks for the advice :)
I've spent way too long telling the beginning of the story, my prose is quite clunky and awkward, especially recently, the idea doesn't seem very original...When I get to 50 posts I might post some in SYW and see what others think. I've had no second opinion so far.


I think everyone here has convinced me. I'm going to take a break for a week or two and then go back and try again, refreshed (hopefully).

So much amazing advice here, I wish I could reply to everyone but I fear it would take a very, very long time! Thanks to everyone who's posted, you've really helped.

areteus
09-19-2011, 03:52 AM
One thing that has occured to me here (actually, its been on my mind for a while now) which is linked to the 30K barrier... novellas.

Now, a novella is typically an average of about 30K and a novel is more like 90K+ (ok, there is variation here but stick with me as the numbers work better :) ). So, a novel is 3 times longer than an novella, right? (again, yes, there are longer novels, shorter novels and longer/shorter novellas but lets keep it simple).

I read an article about screen writing which said that it is a good idea to split your story into 3 for the screen - a beginning where the characters are introduced and fleshed out, a middle where they start to encounter problems and an end. There are suggestions that in some ways this may also apply to novels...

Can you see where I am going with this?

Basically, you could argue that a novel is 3 novellas in series. If you think in terms of a 3 part story, you are not writing one long novel but 3 novellas. I have even seen books that have more clearly done this (mainly older fantasy novels). I do wonder if the 30K milestone is not some natural point in our psyche where we start to lose interest and therefore need a change in scene to refresh ourselves?

Just some random babbles which I hope make sense to someone...

Part of this idea has come about because I am currently seeing the 3 novella approach as a way to write a novel by stealth - breaking the work down into smaller chunks so you can say 'Ah, I have completed part one! I feel successful!' instead of saying 'Oh, up to 30K, only another 60K to go...'. In my case I am trying to write 3 seperate but interleaved stories with 3 different characters exploring the same issue. In the end, I may leave it as 3 seperate novellas and bind them together or I may shuffle the chapters together into one novel. Either way, I am hoping that this way will make it seem a hell of a lot less daunting.

Natsuki
09-19-2011, 05:04 AM
That happened to me that last year with my Nano novel. I spent a month before November plotting and researching to be prepared to write my "masterpiece". Turned out that what I had was not a plot but a storyline, and a bad one at that.

It took me longer than you to realize my novel was rubbish. I was on 60k already. I didn't trunk it, and I was able to carry it to 115k and finish the damn thing, but it was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

At least now I have a MUCH better idea on how to plot, and how to carry a novel, having written my first, albeit awful and unsalvageable, one.

I can't tell you what to do. If you decide not to trunk it, be prepared for a hard time but bear in mind that you'll still learn from it. If you start the new shiny idea, you might just stop at the same word count you are now. Or you might finish it and love it, who knows?

Caledonia Lass
09-19-2011, 05:30 AM
I am completely skipping over the other comments left to get right to it. If you are distracted from this first work and don't want to do anything with it because there is so much wrong, don't work on it.
Move on to the other project and don't feel guilty. Because by writing this other work, your brain will still be processing what is wrong with the other one and you will have some major breakthroughs.
If you aren't excited about what you are writing, then it will show through to the reader and they'll just drop it.
Don't worry about not finishing it, either. You will eventually go back to it, but you really can't force it. I've had to do the very same thing. It happens to more writers than you'd realize.
Good luck!

Memnon624
09-19-2011, 05:42 AM
My advice: finish it. Force yourself, if you must. From reading Lawrence Block's column in Writer's Digest, I learned Always Finish What You Start. Until I embraced this nugget, I kept starting stories only to stop them mid-way through because something more "interesting" cropped up. Actually, I was bored with my original ideas because I'd hit that point where it becomes work. Which meant I had 30-odd unfinished stories to show for 11 years of work as a writer.

After I embraced Block's advice, though it sometimes hurt to stare at a story I didn't want to work on, I finished everything I started. A writer writes; a professional writer finishes. Even if you do nothing with it. Even if you throw it in a trunk and forget about it for the balance of your days, finish your book. Then start another. And finish it.

Good luck :)

L.C. Blackwell
09-19-2011, 05:48 AM
Also, because of the MC's background (it's first person) I have to write in quite a minimalist way which isn't my natural style and sometimes it feels quite forced.



This, to me, is a big flag right here. After you rest on this project for a while, you might want to think about where the POV is really at. I'd suggest experimenting with either multiple first-person, or multiple close third. Structural problems aside, you may find it recharges your interest in the book considerably. Structure is a carpentry issue; voice and story are the heart and soul of a book.

Best of luck! :)

Krisbay
09-19-2011, 08:22 AM
Thanks for the replies so far everyone. It's nice to know that a lot of people have similar problems. No one has looked at it so far but I think the problems are mainly structural and I know a lot of it has to be cut. Also, because of the MC's background (it's first person) I have to write in quite a minimalist way which isn't my natural style and sometimes it feels quite forced.

I'm thinking that I won't abandon it as I think there ARE some bits which are salvageable, thinking about it, but I might take a break while I sort things out and work on plotting/outlining the other project so I'm doing something useful at least before I go back to it. Does this sound like a good plan?

Hi Alouette, my advice for you is something I actually had to do. I once was in your exact situation (only difference was that I was actually about five chapters from completing the manuscript) and I discovered that I truly didn't like to write the story anymore. So here's what I did (and advise you to do)

1. Discover what factors about your current manuscript are inhibiting you.
-whether this means that these factors simply make you dislike the story or break certain aspects of the story (confusing plots, unbalanced magic system, unable to believe certain aspects about the novel) doesn't matter, you're goal is to simply find them.

2. Discover what factors about your current manuscript that you find beneficial.
-Oddly this one is even more difficult than the last. Whether it is a character, a physical description or just one aspect of a character doesn't matter.

3. Discover what elements of your world are not working and correct them.

4. Discover the components of your story that enthralled you to write it and expand upon it.

To use myself as an example originally I had written a novel in which the MC was a guardian of a girl slightly older than his sixteen years. It was a spiritual contract made before his very birth and he soon discovers that he is psychic and has an odd power that even his ward, being from a very powerful and ancient family knows nothing about. Within moments of being taken by his ward that he only just met they are attacked by something. The boy soon discovers that the Seven Sins have somehow broke free of their seal and are after the psychics of the world.

I realized something as I neared the end of the first installment of what was to be a series; I didn't very much believe my main character, the world, my other main characters and quite a few others. So I did the above and this is what I ended up with.


1.
-The world was open but the view of it was severely limited.
-The main character wasn't very believable, nor a few other characters.
-The psychic system was severely unbalanced and seemed only to break the story with its unclear rules.
-The presentation was too limited for the plan of the story.

2.
-The spiritual contract between the two main characters.
-The core factors in the two main character's personalities.
-The main character's "odd power".
-The wide scope of the world.

3.
-The world clearly did not fit the logic of the story.
-The world did not satisfy the fantastic element that the story attempted to portray.

4.
-The bond between the two main characters.
-The Seven Cardinal Sins.
-The idea of a large world.
-The use of psychics.

By using what had originally been in the first draft of that story I eventually uncovered its true potential and its purest form; at least I like to think I have. Now my world, characters and such are vastly different but the core of them has remained unchanged.

In short; stick with what you are doing now; you may discover that the details you have placed are only a mere stepping stone to discovering the "true story".

R.S. Dean
09-19-2011, 08:30 AM
I think you should finish it. As someone else said, most writers hit a wall at the 30,000 word mark, and you don't want to get into the habit of not finishing what you start.

bearilou
09-19-2011, 05:25 PM
1. Discover what factors about your current manuscript are inhibiting you.
-whether this means that these factors simply make you dislike the story or break certain aspects of the story (confusing plots, unbalanced magic system, unable to believe certain aspects about the novel) doesn't matter, you're goal is to simply find them.

2. Discover what factors about your current manuscript that you find beneficial.
-Oddly this one is even more difficult than the last. Whether it is a character, a physical description or just one aspect of a character doesn't matter.

3. Discover what elements of your world are not working and correct them.

4. Discover the components of your story that enthralled you to write it and expand upon it.


I have saved this bit of advice for use! Thanks for the suggestion. :hooray:

/comment from the not!op

Nonny
09-19-2011, 05:35 PM
Like everyone else has said, this is a really common problem. I can't tell you how many unfinished novels I have, especially from when I was first starting. (Oh, who am I kidding? It's still the case. So many great ideas! So....little steam....)

A couple things.

It sounds like there are a lot of issues with this story that you're becoming aware of. You might want to set the story aside for awhile to mull over them and let it percolate. From having been in writing communities for nearly 10 years, there seems to be a couple primary ways of handling this. Some people are fully capable of keeping the edits in their mind and continuing on as if they already made them, and fixing later. Others can't, because it bugs the everliving fuck out of them until it's all fixed. It sounds like it might be the latter for you.

The other thing is that sometimes a new story idea just nags and nags and nags at you. I have this happen a lot. Initially, I kept trying to ignore the bouncing plotbunny trying to get my attention, but finally, I just gave in and started writing. What usually happened? I would write the first chapter. Maybe up to three chapters. And that would be it, because my plotbunny wasn't fully matured yet. It wasn't ready to be "written", not to completion, but writing that much got it out of my brain and settled so that I could go back to my primary project. Trying to tough it out and ignore the plotbunnies was actually doing me more harm than good.

Good luck :)

areteus
09-19-2011, 05:56 PM
One thing occured to me about this... recently a friend of mine posted on her blog about a story she wrote many years ago (3 or 4, I think). The point being that this story had finally been accepted for publication (long complicated story about why it took so long to even get an acceptance which I will not go into). However, the point of her blog post was that she had taken this story out and looked at prior to publication and realised that she had grown as a writer a hell of a lot since writing it and that she was no longer happy with this story. Luckily she has plenty of time to make the edits she wants. However, I remember that story because I was one of the beta readers/critters for it and my comment was that I didn't think it needed any changes, even now, because it was possibly the most perfect first draft I have ever seen (honestly, I tried really hard to think of improvements and I am usually very good a nit picking, I think I managed to squeeze out some token comments but that was it). She still disagrees with me...

The point being that you are not always the best critic of your own work. You are too close to it and do not see it as a reader would. You see the flaws (and even flaws which may not be there) and not the good stuff. Which is why letting someone else decide if it is flawed is sometimes a good idea and the above list of questions to ask looks like a great way to structure self analysis of your work.

My other point is that you might come back to this story in a few years (even a few months) as a better writer - having gained more experience and skills - and be better able to fix the issues you see now.

Graz
09-19-2011, 08:42 PM
I've bailed on my last two, which are also my first two WIP's, at about the same point, 45k words, and yesterday began my third WIP. It doesn't bother me. I've just started trying to do this, expected miracles at first only for reality to butt in. So over the last eight months I've written over 100k words which at this stage, I feel is more important than finishing a novel that's full of mistakes and needs to be completely rewritten

Phaeal
09-19-2011, 10:02 PM
Before you do anything else, get and read a copy of The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel by Edward Gorey.

Yes, this is one of the most accurate pictures of the writing life out there.

The best thing you can do for yourself now is to push through the natural midpoint doubts and FINISH A NOVEL. Starting ten novels can only teach you how to start new novels, not how to finish them. And until you have a first draft, you can't have a second one, and a third, and so forth.

Writing is long-haul work for most people. But the great thing is, it prepares you for the long-haul process that is subbing and pubbing. ;)

Margarita Skies
09-19-2011, 11:27 PM
I never leave anything permanently unfinished and then delete it. I used to do that like 6 years ago, but I only did it with two novels, one complete at 490 pages single-spaced, I have no idea what the word count was, and the other one was like 32 pages in, again no idea of exact word count because I didn't pay attention to that detail at the time. It was all about the number of pages at the time. I had no idea about word counts and I didn't learn about that until I came to the Absolute Write Water Cooler. Anyway, I deleted those stories for very good reason. And they were literally rubbish for reasons that had nothing to do with the O.P's reason, that is according to my interpretation. It was just nothing anyone would ever publish in a million years no matter how interesting or whatever, so I just sent those stories to hell, and then the ones written after that were finished. Most were lost and are now being rewritten from scratch. My first rewrite, I started writing it in Sept. 2010 and finished it in June 2011, and from then on, everything has been a total rewrite of another story, nothing new. I am also working on a series, another rewrite, and I started that series in Nov. 2010 and I am still working on it, currently almost done with book 5. If you don't like something, if you just don't think it's going anywhere no matter what you do, try restarting as many times as you need, until you find out that those words, from the first word written to word # 30,000, is up to your standards, something you think is going somewhere. That's my advice. In this case there's no point in continuing because the more you write the more you'll have to rewrite in the end. I might be wrong, but that's what I think. "If at first you don't succeed dust yourself off and try again."


ETA: Or you could just go back and edit what you've written so far...

mac3910
09-20-2011, 12:40 AM
I get the feeling that my WIP is completely unreadable every two weeks. I give myself a day of self pity to really believe that my book is terrible and that no one will ever like it or read it or I'll be laughed at if they do. But that's all I give myself, just one day. During that day I often work on something new or another WIP that isn't as far along. I treat it like my day off because working on something new is so refreshing. For me I only need the one day to reinvigorate myself. Others may need a little longer to recuperate from a pity session, especially depending on how hard you are on yourself. I think it's always a good idea to take some time off every once and awhile, but I always leave with the full intention of coming back.

It's also important not to write yourself into a rage. If you really are becoming too frustrated with the original WIP, you don't want to cause yourself to hate writing all together. I think loving to write is far more important than finishing something in just one try.

ghostlygalleon
09-20-2011, 01:01 AM
There is absolutely no shame in thinking that what you're writing is not working and isn't going to. I've often had to leave something behind - sometimes I've come back to it later in a different way; sometimes it needs to die completely. The problem you have is deciding whether you're just going through the usual "it's crap; I'm crap" angst that we often hit halfway through, or whether you're right. Do you have someone objective who could read it? Whatever, I suggest you leave it for a while, do something else, and then come back to it. Then, you'll either think, "Wow, actually, it's ok!" or you'll think the opposite!

Logan!
09-20-2011, 01:12 AM
Is it a problem if I never think my WIP is a pile of rubbish? Am I being overly confident or naive? Maybe I'm not far enough along...

Polenth
09-20-2011, 04:04 AM
Is it a problem if I never think my WIP is a pile of rubbish? Am I being overly confident or naive? Maybe I'm not far enough along...

It's unusual for me to think a story of mine is bad while I'm writing it. I trunked one novel part way through, but that was unusual (and I still agree with my assessment that it wasn't working... it wasn't an opinion born from being tired of writing).

I don't think that means much, other than people have different personalities. Some people will feel bad every time they write. For others, it's a warning sign that the story has real issues.

M. Scott
09-20-2011, 04:46 AM
Write another, then come back to the other one. You can eventually use the old idea if you find success elsewhere.

Graz
09-20-2011, 07:28 PM
Yet another writing question that has no answer, just opinions. Funny, but it seems 99% of writing questions fall into this category

DeadlyAccurate
09-20-2011, 09:20 PM
If you'd ever finished a novel before, I'd say set it aside, but since you haven't, finish it. Like JAR said, you don't know what it's like to write a novel; you only know what it's like to write 1/3 of one.

Finish one, so you'll know what it takes. You can revise most issues in a finished first draft. You can't revise something incomplete.

Velcro
09-20-2011, 09:38 PM
Stephen King says in his book "On Writing" (and I'm paraphrasing so forgive me if it's not 100% accurate), but he says to "kill your babies".

In other words, if that novel you've spent months working on is reminding you of a Stanley Steemer that your dog left on the lawn...get rid of it.

But, I'd recommend at least to save the draft and leave it somewhere safe because who knows in the years to come you might figure out how to fix it.

L.C. Blackwell
09-20-2011, 09:40 PM
Yet another writing question that has no answer, just opinions. Funny, but it seems 99% of writing questions fall into this category

Oh, I'd say these were answers. It's just that there's more than one way to do almost anything, wherefore the OP can pick the one that works best for the situation. Consider us the options committee.

SRHowen
09-20-2011, 09:53 PM
Stephen King says in his book "On Writing" (and I'm paraphrasing so forgive me if it's not 100% accurate), but he says to "kill your babies".

In other words, if that novel you've spent months working on is reminding you of a Stanley Steemer that your dog left on the lawn...get rid of it.

But, I'd recommend at least to save the draft and leave it somewhere safe because who knows in the years to come you might figure out how to fix it.

King was speaking of murdering your darlings as in editing out all that stuff you thought was so good on the first draft that the story doesn't need to move it forward etc., he wasn't speaking of throwing out an incomplete MS because it hit a flat spot or you thought it was crap.

I could be wrong it's been awhile since I read On Writing and I am too lazy to get off the couch and go find it, but I am fairly certain that is the reference. :D

virtue_summer
09-20-2011, 09:56 PM
Stephen King says in his book "On Writing" (and I'm paraphrasing so forgive me if it's not 100% accurate), but he says to "kill your babies".

In other words, if that novel you've spent months working on is reminding you of a Stanley Steemer that your dog left on the lawn...get rid of it.


Actually, if I remember correctly, I think King was referring to killing your babies in the sense of being willing to cut stuff you love if they didn't work. Hence the "babies" part. Actually, a direct quote from On Writing, something King says he learned from writing Carrie, the novel he did throw into the trash and his wife rescued:

"Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position."

SRHowen
09-20-2011, 10:16 PM
I got my lazy butt up and went and looked had to know what he said for sure:

King: (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings)... he is speaking of the formula he uses on his second drafts-- Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%.

He also says first drafts should take no more than 3 months and the above on finishing.

Velcro
09-20-2011, 11:23 PM
I got my lazy butt up and went and looked had to know what he said for sure:

King: (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings)... he is speaking of the formula he uses on his second drafts-- Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%.

He also says first drafts should take no more than 3 months and the above on finishing.

D'oh. I didn't think I had that quote quite right. Thanks for the clarification on that.

robertbevan
09-23-2011, 08:30 AM
i haven't read this entire thread, so sorry if i'm repeating someone. i thinks it's worth it to struggle through to the end if you've never finished writing a novel-length worm before. the feeling of knowing you're actualy capable of doing it counts for a lot. i think that's the primary reason my first novel (which was crap) took me three years to write, and the one i just finished (which i hope isn't crap) only took me a few months.

Kim Fierce
09-23-2011, 11:30 AM
I think all questions about the state of your novel need at least a day or so to brew. I am in the editing progress with one of my books. I have read through the whole thing and typed revisions at least three times now. Yesterday I printed the whole manuscript for the second time and realized that I still need to drastically change the first scene, which I had already made major changes to. I really want to start the querying process and am excited to get the ball rolling and want to get through these edits quickly, but then all the words started blarging together and I thought my whole entire book was a complete waste of time and horrible crap . . . so now I'm giving myself a few days off from it.

A few days off means working on other projects for me, and for you it could help too. You may find you miss your project and return with new fire. You may find you love your new project better. Or you may think of something completely different. But like others have said, everyone has days where they are unsure (or apathetic, or depressed, or convinced they are wasting their time just sitting alone typing and possibly crazy). One thing you could do is write a list of all the things you think you need to change, and all the places you hope the book will go. This may help organize your thoughts. (I have always been against doing anything that even resembles outlining, but for my next book that's what I'm doing because I've had to make so many revisions to the project I'm working on now.)

If the book is really going nowhere, might as well not waste any more time. It is very satisfying to get through that first draft, though, so make sure you're very certain of your decision!

Kim Fierce
09-23-2011, 11:34 AM
* I meant to add this to my previous post, don't know how it turned into a new one!

I also totally agree about the posts that say putting the novel away doesn't mean throwing it away. Sometime down the road your path could become clear, even if it doesn't now. I have had stories brew for months and in a couple cases, years. It's all worth it!

bearilou
09-23-2011, 05:35 PM
One thing that has occured to me here (actually, its been on my mind for a while now) which is linked to the 30K barrier... novellas.

Now, a novella is typically an average of about 30K and a novel is more like 90K+ (ok, there is variation here but stick with me as the numbers work better :) ). So, a novel is 3 times longer than an novella, right? (again, yes, there are longer novels, shorter novels and longer/shorter novellas but lets keep it simple).

I read an article about screen writing which said that it is a good idea to split your story into 3 for the screen - a beginning where the characters are introduced and fleshed out, a middle where they start to encounter problems and an end. There are suggestions that in some ways this may also apply to novels...

Can you see where I am going with this?

Basically, you could argue that a novel is 3 novellas in series. If you think in terms of a 3 part story, you are not writing one long novel but 3 novellas. I have even seen books that have more clearly done this (mainly older fantasy novels). I do wonder if the 30K milestone is not some natural point in our psyche where we start to lose interest and therefore need a change in scene to refresh ourselves?

Just some random babbles which I hope make sense to someone...

It did to me. You said it and I went 'omg, I think he's on to something here'.

Part of this idea has come about because I am currently seeing the 3 novella approach as a way to write a novel by stealth - breaking the work down into smaller chunks so you can say 'Ah, I have completed part one! I feel successful!' instead of saying 'Oh, up to 30K, only another 60K to go...'. In my case I am trying to write 3 seperate but interleaved stories with 3 different characters exploring the same issue. In the end, I may leave it as 3 seperate novellas and bind them together or I may shuffle the chapters together into one novel. Either way, I am hoping that this way will make it seem a hell of a lot less daunting.

A very tricksey way of going about it. I have to give this idea some thought. :idea:


Yet another writing question that has no answer, just opinions. Funny, but it seems 99% of writing questions fall into this category

Almost as if writing isn't an exact science and that it varies with the individual writer. Whoda thunk that?


Oh, I'd say these were answers. It's just that there's more than one way to do almost anything, wherefore the OP can pick the one that works best for the situation. Consider us the options committee.

Exactly! Since we're all different, we all come at the problem from different perspectives and offer what works for us as an alternative. It's up to the querent to decide what works best for them.

HLWampler
09-23-2011, 10:58 PM
Even if you do decide to start over keep in mind that it's not unusual to hit a wall like this at the 20-30k mark. More than a few writers feel that their MS is a worthless pill of rubbish at this point, even if its not true. I would recommend forcing yourself to at least hit 50k, and then decide if the MS needs to be scrapped or if it can be salvaged.

I just went through this. It took me 3 weeks of sulking and throwing colorful words at my computer to get over it and keep on writing. Deep down I know my work isn't complete rubbish. It just needs some serious TLC.

Just take your time and work on through it. If you have curse at your computer screen...do it. I know it makes me feel better.

Devil Ledbetter
09-23-2011, 11:20 PM
Add me to the "persevere" group.

You say you've learned a lot writing 30,000 words. You will learn even more by writing the next 30,000 and finishing this. Even if it's bad. You will learn more about your characters, your plot, your themes, and your situations.

You will learn some things about yourself.

Whether your novel can be salvaged in the end is something you can't really know until you've reach the end.

SRHowen
09-24-2011, 01:53 AM
And I wager to say we all have at least 1 trunk novel that was the first one we wrote the end on, it taught us the process of getting to the finish line.

schamber
10-04-2011, 09:44 AM
Whatever you decide, be sure to keep a "cut" file. Everything that you trim from the manuscript--even if it's the whole manuscript--should be preserved. I go back to my cut file for inspiration all of the time. Sometimes a passage that wasn't working in one place will work perfectly in another.

Raphee
10-04-2011, 12:16 PM
I've learnt that before you start a novel think hard about it. If you do start then better finish it. No other way to learn.

Filly
10-04-2011, 04:25 PM
Judging from what you wrote, I can already tell that you're better off writing that new idea. You're not exactly abandoning your current novel. You may just need to take a break and have fun writing something else. Maybe you'll learn what you really want to do as you write more. Then you'll know whether to return to your current WIP or keep writing your new one. Good luck!

SRHowen
10-05-2011, 01:26 AM
Yet another writing question that has no answer, just opinions. Funny, but it seems 99% of writing questions fall into this category

They all have answers, it's just figuring out what answer is the one right for the writer asking it.

joeyc
10-05-2011, 02:18 AM
I finished my first novel five years ago.

For five years since then, I've been trying to finish a second because I've been feeling the same way. I hit the midpoint and lose it. For my sake though, it's why I HAVE TO FINISH THIS ONE. The rough draft is terrible, but I feel like it has enough good pieces to salvage and redo.

That's another thing, though.

In that 30,000 words, there has to be something you can salvage or revisit later, even though you don't like the direction it took.

M L Marshall
10-06-2011, 09:45 AM
You'll probably get a variety of opinions; everything from "set it aside" to "finish what you start," but unless you have something of a compulsive personality to finish anything you start, you're not going to be able to make much headway with the way you feel about the novel now. Few things are harder than working on a writing project you've lost faith in.

So, I would say to set it aside (that's really what your heart is telling you to do). You might want to makes some notes to yourself while it's still fresh in your mind about what went wrong with this project.

This is good advice.

Writing shouldn't be a torturous exercise, it should be enjoyable. You should want to know what happens next in your story, and look forward to putting pen to paper/fingertips to keyboard to find out.

The moment it becomes a burden and the fire runs out, is a good time to either give it some breathing time (i.e. 2-4 weeks) or to start on a new project.

BUT...if you're the kind of person who never finishes a project, you may want to knuckle down and just correct what was wrong and finish the story. Sometimes "not finishing things" can become a habit/self fulfilling prophecy.

If you're not that kind of person and really want to start the new project, then do it. Your writing will likely be better when focused on something you enjoy, as opposed to "that dreaded MS!!".

Raphee
10-06-2011, 10:30 AM
[/COLOR]

I agree with the quote, but partially.
The problem with this is that at some point in writing a novel, every writer, every single one of them, new, old, bestsellers, legends, the great Nobel prize winners, all of them got tired or bored or afraid of what would happen to their great masterpiece.
The process is fun at the start for all of us. It is finishing it that counts, and gives the true measure of whether the project was worth the effort.

Windcutter
10-06-2011, 07:22 PM
I think the most important thing is to realize the difference between "this is rubbish, it isn't worth finishing" and "I'm not as excited about this one anymore, it's just an ordinary novel, why finish it when I could do better?" I'm having a similar problem of false starts, though mine come very, very early, usually around 5-10k, when I realize that this project is not the perfect shining flawless incredibly exciting project I thought I had finally found.

I finished some things, including novels, but the problem is still there. I just can't choose an idea to work on persistently without switching and I keep discarding not just ideas but whole plans and partials. Maybe I'm too hung up on this concept of getting excited and writing nonstop in a sweet rush from start to finish... but that's the way I'm reading, too. If a book is really good, I won't want to stop. If I'm reading in fits and starts, picking up the book from time to time to read a few chapters, it's not shaking my world, that's for sure.