I have a dilemma and I need your advice. I have a 79,000 word WIP and I think I’m on the verge of abandoning it for the foreseeable future. Here’s why:
In November 2012, as part of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), I wrote almost 56,000 words of my novel, Let Sleeping Gods Lie. In the two and a half years since I took part in Nanowrimo, I have only added a measly 24,000 new words and the book sits unfinished on my hard drive. 24,000 painful words. Words that I dragged out in fits and starts, between bouts of confusion and self-doubt.
The first 60,000 words were a breeze. High on the adrenalin and story-buzz that comes with Nanowrimo and the ’50k-in-a-month’ target, I pumped out prose like a man possessed. With hindsight I now realise it wasn’t only the thrill of the competition that drove my productivity. You see, before I started my Nanowrimo challenge I managed to put together a very rough outline of the novel I planned to write. It was a little vague in places (particularly the climax of the story) but I did have a chapter plan. Unfortunately, that chapter plan only took me so far – to Chapter 43, to be precise – and take a guess how many words I had written at that point? That’s right – about 60,000.
Initially I barely gave it a thought. My train was about to leave the track and head off in to the wilderness. So what? I always thought of myself as a ‘pantser’ anyway. More fun that way. More creative. Unpredictable. EXCITING! So I ploughed on blindly, in to the undergrowth. With each new chapter I moved further away from where I knew I should be heading. I discovered new plot holes. No matter, I thought, I’ll just go around them. Just keep going – the mantra of the first draft. So I did, until the story got so convoluted, so full of new characters and sub-plots that I would have to stop for months at a time, just to ponder how I could get out of each narrative straightjacket I had written myself in to.
When the going gets tough . . .
I spent more time away from the book, dashing off short stories, pondering a new idea for a novel, and all the time my WIP was taunting – You’ll never finish! So, just shy of 80,000 words, I’ve ground to a halt. My faith in the story lies in tatters, my resolve scattered in the wind of self-doubt. It’s inaccurate to even call the novel my WIP – it hasn’t really been ‘a work in progress‘ for some time.
I have discovered the hard way that I’m not a hardened ‘pantser’. Sure, I can fly by the seat of my pants during a scene – inventing dialogue and being surprised by the actions of a character – but I need to have a plan and some kind of final destination to keep me on track.
Decisions, decisions . . .
Now, I feel I have a three choices. Firstly, I can press on, write through the pain and get to the end of the draft, even if that means the story makes no sense. Or I could go back to the now infamous Chapter 43, finish my chapter plan, outline the novel to a satisfying conclusion and put aside the last 25,000 words to begin writing again. Or . . . and here’s the crunch question . . . shall I just draw a line under the whole project, quit and move on to the new idea that I have been considering for several months?
Having read K.M Weiland’s excellent ‘Outlining Your Novel’, I feel better prepared to start something new, but before I can move on I think I need closure on Let Sleeping Gods Lie – ironically, I need to let it lie. For a long time I thought the only way I could get that closure was to finish the first draft. Now, I’m not so sure. Time is at a premium. Shall I just cut my losses and admit defeat? See those 80,000 words as a learning experience?
I am taking a few days to make my final decision, but would love to hear your thoughts and advice. Have you had a similar experience? Are you battling with a WIP? Is there ever an excuse to quit? Comment below or tweet me @Mrkelly2u.