When to hold 'em. When to fold 'em.
I started writing a new novel last week.
I was about 10,000 words into my second novel, a work I started two years ago and have written and re-worked and abandoned and re-started multiple times. I’ve been calling it "The Hotel Paradise”. I love the characters from it. I love the setting (a swanky hotel in Paradise Valley, AZ in the shadow of Camelback Mountain). I love what’s been written. But, it looks as though it will once again be put on the back shelf to age with the hopes of its flavor profile deepening with time.
The new one is a rom-com. Yes. I went from writing a Black Mirror meets True Detective dystopian serial killer thriller (which is the completed manuscript I’m currently shopping), to a modern rom-com with meet-cutes, tropes, and all the other fixin’s.
One of the challenges I have with longer form writing is knowing when to keep going and when to set something aside. With songwriting, the time commitment is lower, so it doesn’t feel like a big deal to take a break on something. I currently have 5 or 6 songs I’m working between, taking them in fits and starts.
But that’s not as easy to do with a novel. I’m a big believer that writing (I guess creative work in general) is the result of discipline, not inspiration. I never want to abandon a project just because I’m not feeling it or because it’s hard. But at the same time, I have limited time during my day to write fiction, so I want to spend that time on the right projects.
Needless to say, I have once again abandoned my The Hotel Paradise for something different. It will be written one day to be read by the few, happy few, readers that exist for a book like that. But for now, it’s on to something new. I would love to hear how you all decide when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em when it comes to writing.
Here is my non-exhaustive list for why I’ve decided to abandon one novel-in-progress to write a new one.
Curiosity and momentum. Curiosity is an engine for me. It’s what wakes me up to write and keeps me going when I want to quit. As I contemplated starting the new project, the biggest reason I found for exploring it was an unshakable curiosity about the idea and the characters. No matter how hard I focused on the one I was working on, I just kept thinking about the new one. Curiosity and momentum are powerful tools and, as I’ve learned over the years, should not be ignored.
Lack of momentum. If I’m being honest, even though I felt better about the Hotel novel I was working on before this, I still couldn’t quite figure out what the characters wanted and why they existed in my head. I wrote the first 5,000 words about five different ways and, as I approached 10,000 words, I still didn’t really know what they wanted. I lacked momentum and vision. I think it will be there, but maybe I’m just not ready to discover it.
Marketability. I’ve said the dreaded word. If I’m being honest, the rom-com I just started writing I think will be more marketable. As Elle Griffin of The Novelleist astutely points out, not many people read books. This won’t have too much of an effect on what I write. I don’t write to the market. But since I’m already having a beast of a time selling my first manuscript and since I was already curious and excited about writing this rom-com, marketability is not a bad motivator. I want to build a career as a writer, which means that eventually the books I write will need to be bought and read by willing participants.
So tell me. Do you have any projects you’ve put back on the shelf? What drove you to do it?
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