Something I recently struggled a lot with was whether or not I wanted to quit writing a book. I learned a lot while deciding and maybe it can help you, too.
I think a lot of writers start a few books and then stop writing them altogether. They get a few chapters in and then another, seemingly better idea comes along and they forget all about the original one. You end up thinking, Should I quit writing a book? And ultimately, you decide that yes, you should.
But does that mean you should give up every time a new idea seems more appealing?
I’m learning that this happens all the time. I actually struggled with this for a long time before settling on a book I really wanted to write. Nine months and just as many chapters later, I stopped writing it.
*Gasp* I know, I know. I shouldn’t have quit writing the book but hear me out.
Believe me, that was not an easy decision. I debated over it for weeks. This was the very first time I buckled down and actually wanted to write the full book.
I have about seven first chapters written of various book ideas that are all saved in a folder labeled, “books.” I quit them all. Finally, I decided I wanted to be an author someday and sat down and cranked out a 30-page outline with just as many chapters.
I was new to the whole process and quite frankly, I wasn’t sure what kind of writer I wanted to be.
That book was Of Defender Descent.
Now stay with me because I promise I’m getting to the good stuff.
I will still write Of Defender Descent someday. I love the story and I love the characters. My problem was that I outgrew the way I told the story. I will absolutely write this story and get it out there but it’ll be much different than the world I created for it originally.
And that brings me to the main points – reasons you should quit writing a book.
If you keep thinking, Should I quit writing this book?, you may want to consider a few of these tips in deciding if it’s time to scrap the idea altogether. Here are a few ways I decided what to do with a book I had already spent hours upon hours on.
1. You don’t love the story
If you don’t love the story, why are you even writing it? Is it just to have the label of “author?” If so, just stop writing it. It won’t ever be something worth reading if you don’t even care about it. The story you’re telling needs to be one you truly love and want to share with the world.
2. You’re second-guessing it for legitimate reasons
Are you just insecure about your writing or is there a more complex issue at play? For me, I was having issues with my story feeling very immature on but much darker and mature in my mind. This issue made me constantly second-guess my characters, their actions, and the plot in general. If you have a legitimate reason to be second-guessing your book aside from normal writer insecurity, you should step back and consider these other things, too.
3. The plot is too problematic or thin
If you have a really, really solid idea for a book and then can’t piece it together in a compelling way, that’s always an issue. You might have this one scene that’s super clear and amazing in your mind but you just can’t figure out how to make an entire book out of it. It happens. Sometimes trying to slop together the pieces leading up to that specific scene just doesn’t cut it.
For me, this was only a small problem. I can think up a shit ton of “leading up” events that all worked great but the storyline still felt off somehow. If the plot to your story is super problematic or very thin, you might want to stop writing the book and get back to your plotting and outlining stages if you truly want to continue writing it. If it’s not something you want to develop anymore, move on to another idea.
4. You wouldn’t be proud of it as a published book
This is the number one reason I stopped writing Of Defender Descent. I love the story. I love the characters. However, I was very, very unhappy with how the story was actually being told. It seemed very silly to me. It seemed pretty unrealistic (as unrealistic as fantasy stories can be, I mean).
Truth be told, I had outgrown the way the story was told. The characters were too young for what I started picturing them as and the entire story itself seemed to mature in my mind way more than it had on pages. To me, it was a very “young” feeling book even though the story in my head seemed far more mature. It seemed more silly and “dreamy” than realistic.
And so I stopped writing it. I don’t want to someday publish something I’m not 100% happy with. But I will go back and rework this same story so it’s told in a way that breathes more life to the idea sitting idly in my mind.
Reasons to not quit writing a book
There are plenty of reasons you may justifiably quit writing a book. However, there are also a long list of bullshit reasons people use as excuses to quit writing a book they truly love. Here’s when you shouldn’t quit writing a book.
1. You’re insecure about your writing
Don’t just quit because you’re insecure about your writing abilities. If you’re creative and have a solid story idea you really love, you can do it. Writing is a craft you can improve upon over time. And honestly, even mega successful authors like George R.R. Martin are insecure about their writing.
Writing a book is a vulnerable process. It gets scary. You can’t just quit every time you feel like it’s not good enough. If all authors did that, we’d have very few books to read at all.
2. A brand new idea popped into your head
Coming from someone who gets new book ideas weekly, I’m telling you that you can’t just stop because you have a “better” idea. That intense passion and excitement you’re feeling for the new ideas will go away just as it did with the one you’re currently working on.
Take a step back and remember that your new idea will still be there after this book is written. Write down that idea and keep writing your current book. You can even thought-dump and lightly outline that new idea while you’re still writing your current book. Don’t just quit writing a book because you have new ideas.
3. You just want to be called an author
If this is your sole purpose for writing a book, just quit now. Stop writing those books. There will never be heart and passion in your words and the books will basically be garbage. That might sound harsh but at least I’m being honest.
Writers don’t write their stories only so someday they can proudly wear the title “author.” That’s just a bonus for us. We want to tell our stories. We need to tell these stories. That’s why we write. If your only goal is to be able to call yourself an author and nothing more, then quit.
4. You don’t care about the story or its characters
The entire purpose of writing a book is because you love the story and you love your characters. If you don’t feel this way anymore, it might be time to move on. Truthfully, in Of Defender Descent, I didn’t like the way the story was being told. It wasn’t how I saw it and so I quit.
On the other hand, I still love my characters. And that, along with my love of the actual story itself, is why I’m still going to write it someday. But at this time in my life, I needed to stop writing it so I could focus on something more complete and solid. Of Defender Descent is simply on the back burner and in the development phases again instead of being written on pages.
The bottom line is there aren’t many good reasons to quit writing a book. There are legitimate reasons you should walk away from an idea and there are crappy excuses. Before you scrap a book you’ve worked so hard on, try taking a step back and looking at the entire thing from a whole.
And just know that it’s okay to outgrow your book ideas and move on to something that’s closer to your heart. Afterall, that’s how you grow and learn what type of writer you truly want to be.
Sometimes old ideas should be left for dead. We’re always growing as writers and if you realize what you’re writing isn’t what you want to write, it might be time to move on. But never mistake shiny new ideas as you not wanting to write what you are.