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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | How Do You Know When NOT to Jump Ship?

How Do You Know When NOT to Jump Ship?

Last week, I came across two blog posts discussing troublesome WIPS and how to know when it’s time to give up on them.
Meredith Moore wrote about falling out of love with your book. Sometime you need a break, (Remember Ross and Rachel? “We were on a break!”) and when you come back to the story, everything is fresh and appealing again. Then again, sometimes it’s not.
Kristen Lippert Martin likened giving up on a book to bailing out of the Tour de France, when they strip off your number and write ABANDONED next to your name on the team roster. She hates quitting and makes no bones about it.
I quit sometimes. I admit it. During the past year, I worked on three new projects. At some point or other, I quit on all of them – walked away, took a break, and (just like Ross) amused myself some other way. After all, I’ve got a full time job, two busy children, a husband, a blog … My time is precious to me, and if a project’s doomed then I’m not going down with the ship. I’m going to take my life preserver and jump.
For two of the projects, walking away was a relief. The characters quickly faded from my mind and never bothered me again. Their ships sank faster than the Titanic while I paddled happily away.
The third project was a science fiction story featuring Tesla and Edison. When I got stuck on that one, I set it aside and started making notes for a different project.
Around that time, I discovered the TV show The Big Bang Theory. (Yeah, I was a few seasons behind, but that’s what Netflix is for.) And every time I watched the show, the opening credits hit me like a blow. It was the sequence of old photographs of inventions and scientists that got to me. I cringed. My heart hurt. I felt GUILTY. I felt LONGING. I WANTED to write about my turn-of-the-century apprentices in Tesla’s lab and their budding scientific discovery.
The Big Bang Theory (or the opening credits, anyway) sent me back to the story. I figured out what was wrong with it and started a brand new draft.
Several months and three rounds of revision later, I had a manuscript worthy of showing to my agent. And now when I watch TBBT, I sing along and love every second of the credits.
How do you know when NOT to jump ship? You’ll know.
Something – even the strangest thing – will send you back.

14 Responses to How Do You Know When NOT to Jump Ship?

  1. salarsenッ says:

    I love that show!! Seriously. Masterfully developed characters. Once I fall out of love with a WIP I have to step back. That doesn’t mean I won’t revisit at a later date, but like you mentioned, time is precious. No purpose in spinning my wheels and wasting it.

  2. I love that show too. I discovered it earlier this year. But I don’t watch the new episodes. I’ve been watching the reruns (when I have the chance).

    I’ve shelved a few books. One was a sequel to a book that wasn’t published. I queried 15 agents with the first book (only sending out two queries at a time and waiting for a reply before sending two more out. Not a smart thing to do with all the non responders these days). But then I decided I wanted to write YA urban fantasy instead of YA fantasy. Another book was shelved early on because I didn’t think it stood out in today’s overcrowded YA paranormal market.

    Sometimes you just know it’s not the right project to work on. I’ve haven’t given up on a project because I was stuck, though. If the story means that much to me, I will figure a way around the problem.

  3. I would never give up on a story, because the ideas I get that aren’t worthy, I never start. Plus, I’m not sure I’ll ever have any more novel worthy ideas, so I’m not going to give up on the one I do have.

  4. Linda G. says:

    The Big Bang Theory is a relatively recent discovery for us, too. Playing catch-up with the episodes has been a blast — we love it!

    I never jump ship without a life preserver, so I can make it back if I want to. 🙂

  5. I’ve heard of the show but never seen it.

    “The characters quickly faded from my mind and never bothered me again. Their ships sank faster than the Titanic while I paddled happily away.”

    Wow, great description of having made the right decision.

  6. Ah, sometimes the quitting is easy but sometimes it’s hard. (I can’t help but think of that oft-used Brokeback Mountain quote right now: “I wish I could quit you.”)

    I guess my analogy was more about quitting when you know you’ll eventually regret it. Every WiP makes that transition from the lovey-dovey idea to the hard-work stage. That’s the point I feel like quitting usually, but I know I’ll hate myself if I do.

    Hey, now I’m psyched to read your Tesla/steampunk thing. So get back to work! *whip crack*

    (And thanks for the blog mention!)

  7. E. Arroyo says:

    Ah…I’m in this dilemma. I jumped ship on three but one keeps calling me back. I tried again after letting it rest a few months. I love the characters and setting but something seems off. IDK. But it doesn’t let me go. Since then I’ve written 2 and a half manuscripts. Not sure what to do, if anything.

  8. Kathryn says:

    I watch TBBT too! I fist pump during the credits, because that’s how I roll.

    I’m so glad you didn’t give up on your Teslapunk. SO GLAD!!! 😀 😀 😀

  9. That’s like the advice my mother always gave me about falling in love…you’ll just know when it’s right. She was right but so far I haven’t been able to extend that knowledge to writing

  10. So far, I’m more tenacious than a pit bull when it comes to my writing. It may be that I’ll end up chucking it onto the garbage heap someday, but I’m not ready to give up on it just yet. (But I’m not pressuring myself about it, either. What will be, will be.)

    Love Big Bang. BAZINGA!

  11. See? I keep saying that television is good for writing.
    And that is an awesome show!

  12. I LOVE TESLA, and I think he’s one of the most underestimated minds of this century. Niagara falls hydro power? TESLA. A better light bulb? TESLA. Yeah, I feel pretty strongly pro-Tesla and anti-Edison when I watched a biography on PBS about Tesla–you’d probably enjoy it. I think he understood “wireless” technology before it even existed.

    Enough on that rant. I do know what you mean about taking breaks. It’s easy to do that when starting novels, but harder when you’ve finished/edited/queried one, for sure. Then the characters are REAL to you, and you just can’t ever let them go!

  13. I’ve heard so many good things about this show I’ve really got to get round to seeing it 🙂

    I like what you said about two of your ideas vanishing without trace – that’s a good sign they weren’t right for you. Ah, but the one that haunts you, it knows you’ll be back 🙂

  14. mshatch says:

    If it seems to not be moving forward or just isn’t working (for any number of reasons) I have no problem setting my work aside and picking up on revisions or another project. Lucky me I never lack for ideas. But I think I’ve got a keeper this time and I think you do, too 🙂