I recently received my manuscript back from a trusted beta reader, who made a number of thoughtful suggestions and recommendations to improve my story. That was the good news. The bad news was that the changes I would need to make will take weeks, if not months, at a time when I thought the finish line was in sight. My first reaction was that I should finally pull the plug on this story, which I’ve worked on for six years.
Then I thought about all the time and effort I’ve put into this story. At an average of 10 hours a week for 52 weeks times six years, that comes out to 3,120 hours. This wasn’t the only project I worked on during this time. I drafted two novellas and numerous blog posts and a couple of short stories, but this was the project that consumed my passion. It was the centerpiece of my fiction writing and I just couldn’t throw it away.
So, I patiently went through every one of my beta reader’s excellent comments. I thought long and hard about how I could reorganize sections of the story and make adjustments to some of the scenes. I wrote down the adjustments I would need to make and then I began attacking the manuscript with a rejuvenated enthusiasm.
My experience with multiple rounds of revisions over a period of years begs several crucial question: when should a writer decide whether to pull the plug? What are the factors the writer must weigh? What process should the writer use to arrive at the best decision? I’m hesitant to tell any writer to throw away years of work. That is an individual decision each writer must make, but at some point the writer needs to make an honest, self-assessment of the work.
Here are some questions the writer should ask:
• Do you still have the passion for the project? If the answer is yes, by all means keep going.
• Are you getting closer to realizing the full potential of your story and having a publishable manuscript or do you feel after several rounds of revision you are still far from the finish line? If this is the case, you may want to consider abandoning the project?
• Is the story itself flawed? Is there something about the premise or the execution of the story that your trusted beta readers have consistently found lacking? If the answer is yes, you can always go back and fix the premise, but that will leave you with a lot of work ahead. It would be almost like starting from scratch.
• Are you comfortable moving on to something else? Or will you be second guessing yourself? A good way to find out is to start a new project. If you find a gnawing yearning to get back to your work in progress, you can always return to it. Sometimes a break from it will allow you to view it with fresh eyes and a new perspective.
This is a difficult decision and not one to be taken lightly. I hope these suggestions help and I wish you the best on whatever project has you stymied at the moment.