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.