It was recently brought to my attention by both a writing friend and my sister that I have a bad habit of starting books and not finishing them. I tend to give-up on my book babies. So, of course, I started thinking about this and figuring out how many books I’ve given up on and why.
Here is a breakdown on my stats:
I wrote my first book in 2003 (a contemporary romance). While waiting to hear back from Harlequin, I started three other contemporary romances and abandoned all of them. I know I was frustrated because I’d have a story in mind, but wasn’t able to write what I pictured. I’d never taken any writing classes, I didn’t have any critique partners, and after I was rejected from Harlequin, I let my self-doubts get the better of me and I gave up. However, one of these stories has always stuck with me, and I’ve recently reimagined and restarted it. Now that I’m a more experienced writer, I’m hoping I can craft the layered and emotional story I’d originally hoped to create.
In 2007, I re-committed to writing. I wrote an adult paranormal that was intended to be a three part series. While querying the first book, I started writing the second book, but doubts crept in. What if I couldn’t sell the first book? Did I really want to commit to two other books? When the first book received multiple rejections, I abandoned the series.
In 2009, I stared a vampire-witch story, but gave up after a couple of chapters. I was trying to write to a market trend and quickly discovered that while I enjoyed reading vampire stories, it wasn’t a genre I truly wanted to write in.
In 2010, I started a reincarnation love story. I wrote the first 45,000 words and loved the story. My critique partner also loved it, but I put it aside because I didn’t know how to finish it. I’d created this amazing complicated story of star-crossed lovers, but I’d no idea how to resolve it. It required a lot of research, which intimidated me. I probably could have pushed through all this, but instead I put it aside. This is the first story that I feel truly bad about abandoning. So, I’m proud to say that just this week, I finally typed the last sentence in this story. I knew this WIP represented the first of my books that I was really proud of – where I knew my writing was ready to be published. So finishing this book is satisfying in so many ways.
In 2010-2011, I wrote my first YA book. It was a paranormal ghost love story, and I know my plot and characters were influenced by the Twilight craze. It was meant to be a trilogy. I finished the first book and started querying it. I also began the second book, but again I worried about committing to two more books when I had no idea if the first book would find a publisher. When I started getting rejections (because it reminded agents too much of Twilight), I abandoned the second book. Recently, I’ve considered rewriting the first book. I have an idea for making it a better, stronger book that no longer leans on Twilight for inspiration, but I do worry that YA paranormal is a hard sell right now.
In early 2012, I started a stand-alone YA set in my home province of Newfoundland. I was really excited about the story and started the first few chapters. I also decided to try plotting my book beforehand (normally I am an anti-plotter). I took a course and plotted everything. When I finished, I had no desire to write the book. It was like all the magic and curiosity about the story was gone:( I learned something very important about my writing process through this experience. I’m still hoping to return to this book someday.
In late 2012, I discovered NaNoWriMo and started a new phase of actually finishing my books! Except for the hiatus that was forced on me because of my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, I’ve steadily written three stand-alone contemporary YA books. The first of these is my YA debut, THE SECRET TO LETTING GO, from Entangled Teen.
So, why was I able to finish all three of these books without much trouble? I think there were several factors:
I found a genre that suited my voice and style (contemporary YA). I stopped forcing myself to write something I wasn’t comfortable writing.
I no longer chase trends. I stopped reading best-selling books and thinking, “I want to be successful like this author, so I’ll write a book like that.”
I stopped aiming for trilogies or series. I may go back to them at some point, but right now stand-alone books feel like the best choice for me.
I’m a better writer. I’ve taken courses and worked with critique partners. I’ve entered contests and asked for feedback. Being a better writer means that when I picture a mood and tone for a story, I can actually create that mood and tone.
I know how to really evaluate a story idea before I start writing it. Before, every time I came up with a story idea, I started writing it. I’m a panster, so I don’t like to come up with a detailed plot in advance. But I do spend more time now developing the characters and their conflicts before I start writing. I have a better gauge of whether the characters are interesting enough and whether there is enough conflict to support a full novel. So, I come up with lots of ideas that don’t turn into stories, instead of writing lots of first chapters that don’t turn into novels.
I’m more committed and disciplined. I know now what’s required to write a good book and the level of work required to be an author. I also know that at some point in every novel, you’ll probably hit a rough patch – a point where it feels like you’re writing crap and the story is going nowhere. I know that if I just keep writing, I can fix these problems at the revision stage. I’m more confident in my process.
When I look back at my stats, part of me is self-conscious. It looks like I was a quitter, but another thing I’ve learned about writing is that we all have our own journeys and processes. I’d have loved to knock 5 to 10 years off my road to being published, but regrets or second-guessing won’t achieve anything. We can only learn from the past and apply these lessons to the future.
So to all my writer friends out there – have you ever abandoned your book babies? How do you feel about it now? Thanks for stopping by:)