When To Shelve The Book You’re Writing

I’ve written a lot of books. Most of them are in no way ready to be seen by the general public, and some may never be. Once again, I’m faced with the idea of quitting my new book about 35k in. It’s an awful feeling, but sometimes it just has to be done. So here are my signs that it’s time to retire an idea.

1. You’re Bored– Here’s the thing, if I’m bored with my book, I’m almost certain you will be. This isn’t the same boredom you get when you’re editing it for the tenth time and you never want to read it again, this is different. This is when you are still writing it and you are thinking to yourself ‘When will we get to the good stuff?’. The nature of this book demanded it have a very slow build up based on timing issues. Now I’m just getting to the meat of it, but honestly I’m bored. I keep trying to come up with how this is going to be exciting later on, but I can’t imagine anything exciting enough to make up for the beginning.

2. You’ve been thinking about giving up for a while– We all have moments in writing when we think about scraping a project. I’ve had them in many books, but they’re usually fleeting. I can think of one book in particular that I didn’t think was working, but ended up great. This is one reason I’m always nervous about quitting a book. However, with this book, I’ve been thinking it off and on since about the 20k mark. The first part of the book flowed well and wrote easy, but then it started to drag and I knew it wasn’t my best work.

3. You’re not in love with your characters– You can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t love the characters involved then it’s going to fall flat. I think that’s one of my main issues with this book, I just don’t have that drive for my characters. If I go more than a few days between working on it I actually start to forget their names! That’s an awful sign. When I try to think about writing this book, my mind drifts to other books I want to write and other characters who I’m already in love with.

4. You avoid working on it– This has really been the clincher for me, I’ve avoided working on this book. I’ve written three short stories since I started it, I’ve read, I’ve finished a home project, I’ve done anything and everything to step away from writing it. That’s what is really telling me that I need to move on and start a new book.

So there are my signs for shelving this book. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick it up again a year from now and work on it again. Maybe it will just linger half finished forever. Either way, I’m excited to move on to something else, so I know I made the right decision.

As a bonus, you also know it’s time to stop writing it when the flash drive it was saved on dies two days after you’ve made your decision.

How about you? Have you ever shelved a book halfway through?

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