Eeek! Abandoning your novel

Today I found this fascinating post by Victoria Grefer, on abandoning a novel: Crimson League.

In it, she suggests that abandoning a work-in-progress, at whatever stage, isn’t a complete waste of time and energy, because:

  1. You’ve Gained Experience
  2. You can recycle characters and ideas
  3. You can still show it to others and learn from their feedback.

Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

Personally, I’m a finisher, generally. It may take me a damn long time, but I usually grit my teeth and get there in the end. I’m hoping that my next book out will actually be an anthology of short stories, which I have working away on reasonably diligently.

However, I’ve had one novel in progress for some time now (at least theoretically), but when I look back to when it was last saved…well, I did a little bit in June, but before that, it was (eek!) 2010!  To use that old cliché, doesn’t time fly! I’m wondering how inspired I really am by the whole thing, really. Whether it is worth gritting those teeth, or whether I should just chuck this one in and move on to bigger and better things. I think that the basic premise is sound, but I’m not sure that I have the finesse to carry it off as it should be.

To give you some idea, it’s a sort of ghost story across time, based entirely in Australia. I’ve done a good bit of research into colonial attitudes and the way of life in about the 1880’s in rural Victoria, and I’m fairly happy with that part. The part set in the modern world I’m perhaps less enamoured of.

I’d really love to hear from you whether you have ever abandoned a novel, and how you felt about it then and now. Was it the right thing to do? Were you able to recycled characters, or did they all die a quiet death?

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14 thoughts on “Eeek! Abandoning your novel

    • I’m not sure – it’s just not flowing…
      I think that perhaps I need to do some more detailled plotting (although that can sometimes make the actual writing process a bit duller for me – I like to find the twists and turns as I go). On reflection, I’m not 100% sure that I actually like themain character in modern times, or find her particularly interesting, so maybe I only need to abandon half the novel! The historical bit is much more engaging.

  1. In 2007, I did a NaNoWriMo novel that has 51k words about a young girl that moves to Japan with a lover (or falls in love) that I then promptly abandoned. Do I feel guilty? No, because I opened it up this Oct and loved the first line and thought, “One day, I’m going to go to Japan and revamp this.” If I don’t do that, I will still be happy because writing is about writing, not publishing. I say,et the novel get cold, come back to it when you want to, as long as you’re still writing in the mean time.

    • Well, that’s a great incentive to travel! I’m sure that going would allow you to weave all kinds of details into the story which would be hard to find out about through pure research – all the smells and tastes are what really brings a place alive for me. Sounds like you have a really positive attitude to the book – well done you! 🙂

  2. I’ve abandoned a novel before — I’m a little more determined to finish the one I’m on, though, even if it takes me forever.

    I learned a lot from the novel I let go, but it’s still with me. I still wonder what it could have become — what it’s potential ultimately was. It’s a bit sad to leave it behind, but you do grow, and I believe I’ve become a strong writer because of that experience.

  3. I abandoned one about a boy soldier in WWI after it got a bit cold, due to me studying for my GCSE’s at the same time, as well as entering a writing competition that I never got shortlisted for. Perhaps after NaNoWriMo I will pick Alfie up again, he was a really great character…

  4. Hmm. Abandoned seems so final. I wrote about 40 pages of a novel back in 2002 ish. I didn’t know where it was headed and put it into a drawer.

    The story’s never left me though and I’m going to recycle it as part of the sequel to my crime novel. I don’t think I can fully let go. If it had enough hold to make me put words on to paper, I want to finish it.

    It might just take a while 🙂

    • Yes, I know just what you mean! You invest a fair bit in getting the words on paper, and it’s pretty hard to let them go. Have you done much planning for where it was going to go?

      • Not yet. It will still be a large part of the opening of the next book. The idea will be at least. I haven’t read the pages for about six years so might hate it when I read it 😀

        The images are still with me though and I’ll integrate that with my threads that follow on from the first book. I do like a lengthy lead in to a project!

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