When to quit...?!

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pigfender
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Mon Apr 08, 2019 9:46 am Post

How long is too long to spend on a piece of writing? What are the tell-tale signs that a WIP has outstayed it’s welcome?

I started work on my WIP eight years ago, and while I’m still enjoying it, the constant disruptions (the day job, eight NiaDs, two emigrations, etc) have dragged the whole thing out for an age! Is an idea I came up with eight years ago still likely to be my “highest value” idea to be working on? What are the chances that my writing style has stayed consistent over that period? And should I really be hoping for my style to have not improved over the best part of a decade?

Basically, I think I’m asking for “permission” to keep going.

What do you lot think? Any advice on when to walk away and when to stick at it? Anyone faced similar situations?
"Some dice only have sixes." nom, 19 Oct 2013
"Piggy, I'm beginning to wonder if you are the best person to take advice from." Jaysen, 26 Sept 2014

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lunk
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Mon Apr 08, 2019 10:46 am Post

Read it through. Do you still like the story?
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Twolane
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Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:03 pm Post

You might want to take a look at pulp writer Dean Wesley Smith's blog. He's a very firm believer that writing practice is writing new work. Re-writing isn't. I tend to go along with that, but as always, writing is solitary work, so what works for you is what works for you.

In other words, you do what you must.

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xiamenese
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Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:37 pm Post

How about a left-field idea. Think up the plot etc. for NiaD 2019, but rather than giving that to the troops, set about writing it yourself, and reduce your old project to a NiaD plot and let others write different versions for you? You can always use some of your chapters to fill in if you don't have the requisite number of contributors to provide all the chapters for each of the books.

What about it? :)

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pigfender
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Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:59 pm Post

lunk wrote:Read it through. Do you still like the story?

Yup, but I’ve also lost all perspective on it. Is it good, or is it just familiar?!

Twolane wrote:...writing new work. Re-writing isn't.

I’m a long way from the re-writing stage. I’ve written 24 and a half chapters and I reckon that’s about 2/3 the way through.

xiamenese wrote:How about a left-field idea. Think up the plot etc. for NiaD 2019, but rather than giving that to the troops, set about writing it yourself, and reduce your old project to a NiaD plot and let others write different versions for you? You can always use some of your chapters to fill in if you don't have the requisite number of contributors to provide all the chapters for each of the books.

What about it? :)

Mr X

It’s a neat idea, but I’m not sure this one would work as a NiaD. I’m pretty sure NiaD is done now, anyway!
"Some dice only have sixes." nom, 19 Oct 2013
"Piggy, I'm beginning to wonder if you are the best person to take advice from." Jaysen, 26 Sept 2014

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zikade
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Mon Apr 08, 2019 8:47 pm Post

Since you asked...
I recently buried a project since I couldn't imagine finishing it. It used to be a screenplay and I tried everything I could to transform it into a novel. It didn't work. In the end, I got bored with it.
Which is the best motivation I know to scrap something.
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devinganger
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Tue Apr 09, 2019 7:03 am Post

pigfender wrote:I started work on my WIP eight years ago, and while I’m still enjoying it, the constant disruptions (the
day job, eight NiaDs, two emigrations, etc) have dragged the whole thing out for an age!


You said the important part in this sentence. You're still enjoying it.

pigfender wrote:Is an idea I came up with eight years ago still likely to be my “highest value” idea to be working on? What are the chances that my writing style has stayed consistent over that period? And should I really be hoping for my style to have not improved over the best part of a decade?


Those are all considerations for when the first draft is done and has been sitting for a bit while you go off and work (or not) on something else. They are NOTHING you need to be thinking about right now. If you're 2/3 done with your WIP and you still enjoy adding words, then you're doing the right thing *for you* and there is no reason why you should stop.

Basically, you need to stop when you no longer feel like you're being productive. First draft is the time for process, not results.
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auxbuss
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Sat Apr 13, 2019 8:56 am Post

If it's a first draft, then I'd blast through to the end, writing in some form of shorthand. (I presume you know your ending by now, and you're writing towards it.)

For me, consistency comes from the second draft (rewrite), which I do via each POV – if you have only one POV, then this should be easy enough, unless your character has multiple personalities :-)

My go-to book for writing dilemmas is Stephen Koch's, Writer's Workshop. (It's the only pragmatic book on finishing I've read.) It might be worth reading the chapter, Working and Reworking; especially the section, Fast Drafts and Slow Drafts.

(Aside: I don't regard this as a "beginner's" book. It's for someone who's written ~60,000 words or more, sits back scratching their head and asks themselves: what am I doing?)
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Tanith
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Sun Apr 14, 2019 10:46 am Post

It was actually after I got Scrivener and started tinkering with it that I dragged an old WIP of my own out of the filing cabinet and began working with it. Getting excited about it because Scrivener does what it does so well. My WIP was stuffed into an untidy loose-leaf binder, now it's being gradually migrated into a Scrivener project. "Gradually" because life is always getting in the way, but nothing we can do about that. :mrgreen:

Everyone's mileage will vary but I say if you still love your story, keep at it!
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JimRac
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Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:28 am Post

auxbuss wrote:My go-to book for writing dilemmas is Stephen Koch's, Writer's Workshop. (It's the only pragmatic book on finishing I've read.) It might be worth reading the chapter, Working and Reworking; especially the section, Fast Drafts and Slow Drafts.

(Aside: I don't regard this as a "beginner's" book. It's for someone who's written ~60,000 words or more, sits back scratching their head and asks themselves: what am I doing?)
Yes! I heartily second this book, whose full title is The Modern Library Writer's Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction.

pigfender wrote:Basically, I think I’m asking for “permission” to keep going.
Yes! You may keep going.

Best,
Jim
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SteveCarterFrogstory
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Mon Apr 15, 2019 4:20 am Post

pigfender wrote:How long is too long to spend on a piece of writing? What are the tell-tale signs that a WIP has outstayed it’s welcome?

I started work on my WIP eight years ago...


I started my WIP in 1972 (I have the notes to prove it - now in Scrivener). My first draft - which I finished on my 72nd birthday, last year, is 80k words. I'm about a third of the way through my second draft, and I'm sure I will need a third draft, and maybe more.
So check in with me in with me in 39 years and I'll give you my opinion on whether your should keep going. :wink:

Steve