A very important lesson for a writer to learn is when to let go of a story. There might be a few tears, it might hurt for a while, but sometimes it really is for the best. Why am I writing this post? Because I am there right now, so I thought I'd put my thoughts down to help others who might be struggling with this terrible problem of the "Novel Breakup".
Several years ago now, I wrote my "definitive" novel about William Wallace which I had planned to work on and publish this year. A few months ago, I had added more scenes to it, without really reading the rest of it and boy, let me tell you, my dear fellow writers, that is a mistake. I was recently going back through it in hopes of fixing it up for publishing, but reading it over, I found that the characters lacked character, they were much too cliché, the dialogue was absolutely pedestrian (to use a favorite reviewer's term) and while the history was sound, the writing style was just, bleh. Then I got to one of the parts I added and...nearly died of shock. If you add something to a novel and re-read it and have to say "Odds Fish!" when you reach the added part then...well, that's one of the signs that leads to letting a story go.
I really did try to save it, but it's going to take more work than I'm willing to give right now--as in, a whole total makeover. Yeah.
There comes a time, writers, that you will find your old stories to be less than perfect. This happens to every writer, and it should! Otherwise you're doing something wrong... It's a good experience to look back on your old stories and see how much you have grown as a writer from your first stuff to the stuff you write now. When I entered the ABNA contest the first year, I was sad and angry like anyone would be that my story didn't make it past Round Two, but now I thank those people for saving me the embarrassment that I would suffer now knowing that I had published That Old Book which is, in retrospect, pretty bad eggs.
While we are all fond of every story we wrote--sometimes in the kind way you might look at a very annoying child--we do need to learn when to let go and retire a story. This isn't to say that we might not go back to them and try to fix them up someday for publications--you'd be surprised at how much you can probably save from your old things--but you do need to realize when enough is enough and you need to move on.
This is also the case if you are no longer inspired to write something. Perhaps you gave something a little different a go, but it's not working for you. Trying something new is a great way for a writer to broaden their horizons, but it's not always going to work. For me, it was writing a WWI story which was a totally different time period than I had ever tried before, but I ended up really enjoying it. It's not like poor Hazel the historian is going to start writing paranormal vampire romances--this would be a bad choice on my part--but trying something a little different is good, and I do hope to publish my WWI book one day as well! Anyway, back to the original topic of this paragraph (I got side-tracked) if a book is not working out for you, don't worry about putting it aside for a while to work on something different! I have never known a writer with one idea in their head at a time, so I'm sure you'll never be at a loss. Fresh blood helps a lot of times, so to speak.
So in conclusion, while I have not yet decided whether to let my book go completely, I am definitely putting it away for a while while I work on something I think will end up much better. So I am going to go and get working on it, so that I can share some secrets with you soon =)
(Also, don't forget to vote on the poll! I'm going to be putting up silly little polls for you just for fun. And do remember that Mr Pepys is still taking questions for his advice column! Do write in to firstname.lastname@example.org with any you might have!)