On Sunday afternoon I decided to abandon work on a manuscript. It’s one I started back in 2015, and had put a couple of hundred hours work into. It was a children’s book, so reasonably short at around 35,000 words, and I was up to the third or fourth draft.

I love the main character. She’s quirky, smart, courageous and lots of fun. But I’d had feedback that identified several problems with the manuscript, most of which all came back to the central plot, including that it split around mid-way through the story. This made the novella a story of 2 halves that didn’t quite fit together.

So why did I decide to give up on it?

  1. Timing. I already have 3 big projects underway this year, along with a couple of smaller  ones. This means I have to be super-strict with how I allocate my writing time this year.
  2. Unsolvable plot problems. I’d tried to fix the plot several ways, none of which worked. Each idea I came up with generated further problems down the track.
  3. Not enough love. I love the main character, but she had outgrown the story. I want to put her into a more bold and adventurous narrative so that she can really shine.

This isn’t the first manuscript I’ve abandoned, although I don’t usually get to the 3rd draft stage. But I’m a firm believer that all writing is good practice. We learn from our mistakes, and move on.

So how do you know if it’s time to let one of your beloved manuscripts go? I think that it’s the manuscript that let’s go of you. When you’ve written yourself into a dead end or  rewrite after rewrite is taking you nowhere, it’s time to take a break and listen to your writer’s intuition.

In some cases, the story might need more time. But if you’ve given the manuscript a few months to rest between drafts, and you’re still fighting to wrestle it into shape, maybe it’s time to let it go.

The writing geniuses may have another plan for that story, and for you. And that plan just might be way, way better than you can imagine.

Image credit: Chris Clogg