When to shelve your manuscript (and when to just take a break)

Does anyone else find it almost impossible to DNF a book?

What about you, writers, how hard is it to abandon a manuscript you’ve worked on for a long time, but know will never be ready for publishing? Or even, that you’ve simply fallen out of love with?

There’s this concept called the sunk cost fallacy, and I think a lot of us can identify with it. In a nutshell, it means you refuse to give up on something, even when it’s terrible or has come to its natural end, because you think the time and energy you put into it so far will have been wasted if you quit.

It’s used a lot to explain why people stay in relationships and jobs that no longer serve them or make them happy. But it also applies to your creative projects and WIPs.

So, how do you decide when it’s time to abandon your current novel and start working on something new?

Should you shelve your current WIP?

There are a few questions you could ask yourself to determine if it’s time to move on from that book you’ve been writing for years, or that hasn’t gotten any requests from agents or publishers:

  • Are you hoping to publish it one day, or are you just writing it for fun? (There’s nothing wrong with writing something you’re passionate about but have no intention of sharing, it’s good to have a comfort WIP you can turn to when you need a break)
  • Does it fit into a recognisable genre and have clear comparative titles?
  • Is the genre you’re writing in selling/popular right now? (If not, it doesn’t automatically mean you should abandon your WIP, trends come back around and it could be the next big thing!)
  • Have you had beta readers and editors look at it, and did they enjoy it?
  • Do you feel as though there’s still work to be done, revisions and edits that will make your story better? (If you feel like you’ve done everything you can and the story still isn’t working, it might be time to shelve the MS)
  • Do you enjoy working on your story? Do you fall asleep thinking about it and daydream your way through the work day, jotting down snippets of dialogue and ideas for plot twists? (Then it’s probably not quite time to abandon your story! Another round of betas might help you get closer to being publication ready)
  • Is there another idea or plot bunny that’s been nagging at your brain? (You’re not alone, we all get shiny new ideas, but if you give up on your current WIP every time you get a new plot bunny you’ll never finish a book, so make all the notes you want, and then get back to your WIP!)

We all hit road bumps in our writing journeys, and some days getting the words down is like pulling teeth, because writing is hard. It is hard. But we’re all in this together, even when writing feels lonely, there’s a whole community of us out here who you can reach out to for support and encouragement.

And even if you shelve an MS, that doesn’t mean you can’t take it back out months or even years later, dust it off, and get it ready for the world to read. We need your stories!

Lyndsey

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You Are Enough

It has been a long and stressful couple of years. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been challenged, we’ve all found it difficult or exhausting at times, and we’re all looking forward to the day this pandemic is considered officially over.

If you’ve found yourself feeling down or hopeless recently, you’re not alone. Many of us feel exactly the same, and it might be difficult to pinpoint the specific feeling or the reason for it, but it’s likely that your resources are completely drained after a second year of being asked to give more than you have, to endure more than you can feasibly endure, to live under the weight of an unbearable weight.

What has been asked of us these past 22 months has been beyond anything we were prepared for or could ever have anticipated, and it will have an effect for years to come, but we’re all in it together.

It’s Not Possible to Give Your Best All of the Time

If you’re anything like me, you probably find yourself thinking or even muttering aloud “I’m doing my best” at least once a day. Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to give your best all the time. Stretching yourself to the maximum isn’t supposed to be sustainable, it’s there for when you need an extra little boost to reach a particular goal or achieve a dream. Your basic level of productivity and activity is absolutely good enough for your day to day life. Anyone who expects more is asking too much of you and may need a reminder of your boundaries.

You are good enough, you weren’t put on the planet to produce and you don’t owe anybody anything, certainly not “your best” 100% of the time.

Write this on a post it note and stick it to your mirror:

If you were always at your best, it wouldn’t be your best, it would be your normal.

You Are Enough

Just being yourself is enough. So, next time you find yourself wondering why you’re struggling, remember: you’re finding it hard because it is hard.

Next time you find yourself thinking “I’m doing my best”, remember: your best is not required 100% of the time, you’re normal is good enough.

Next time you find yourself feeling like you’re not doing enough, being enough, giving enough of yourself, remember: you are enough.

Lyndsey

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Non-resolution resolutions for 2022

January is traditionally the month of the ‘fresh start’. Of turning over a new leaf and becoming a dramatically different person who gets up early and drinks green smoothies, or gets 2000 words written daily before the rest of the house wakes up. Of starting new diets and joining new gyms, only to judge and shame ourselves when we fall off the wagon by Pancake Day (or decide to have a lie in and get a zero daily word count).

Let’s all agree that 2022 is the year we don’t bother with resolutions or any of that other bullshit that is designed to make us hate ourselves and spend money we don’t have on solutions we don’t need, for issues that don’t really exist. You are beautiful and unique and perfect, exactly as you are.

Dream on little dreamer

Dreams are good. Goals are better. But with the pandemic still ongoing and an air of uncertainty around absolutely everything we do, is 2022 the year you achieve your big, stretch goals? Maybe not, and it won’t be because you didn’t try hard enough or you didn’t deserve to success. You deserve everything you want, everything the world has to give. But the world doesn’t have much to give to us right now, and we can’t predict whether it will in twelve months’ time, so don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, take this New Year as slowly and gently as you need to, because we’re all in this together and there’s no need to rush.

Reflections, not resolutions

So, instead of coming up with resolutions or even intentions for 2022, why don’t you take this year to look back at what you’ve achieved, and feel proud? Open that brand new journal you’ve been keeping for best and write a list of reflections, things you enjoyed from the last year, new things you tried, experiences you had where you were wholly present and not worrying about how you looked or getting the best camera angle.

Congratulate yourself for the incredible things you achieved and celebrate the small wins too, anything that brought you joy in 2021.

And at the bottom of your list, write ‘more of this in 2022’.

Let’s be honest, January is the Monday of the year, but if you focus on the good, treat yourself with kindness and give yourself small, manageable goals that feed your soul, then it will be a brilliant start to the new year.

Sending positive things your way!

Lyndsey

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