When to Walk Away From a Manuscript

I sat down to write today for the first time in a few days. After being sick and having the rest of my family get sick, there hasn’t been much time. Yes, I started to itch like a junkie who needed a fix. When I went to open the manuscript that I have been writing most recently, an MG, I just stared at the screen blankly for a good ten minutes. I started to panic that maybe my hiatus gave me writer’s block.

During my anxiety attack, I realized, stupidly, that I had no idea where I wanted my story to go. I had reached a pretty critical part of the problem, but what now. The end was foggy and unclear. Who did I want this character to be? What did I want my message to be? Where was I going with this? I still love the character and love the story I started, but I quickly understood that I needed to think about it some more.

Then, another manuscript I started and stepped away from smacked me in the face. Again, I had had the same problem with this manuscript, an NA about a kick-ass chick with an agenda of her own and a very unique perspective. I LOVED THIS CHARACTER, but again, I was unsure of how I wanted the story to go. Today, however, the fog lifted and the climax of the novel burned into my brain like a wildfire. The words flowed off my fingertips and I wrote 3K worth of great stuff (I am partial though). My MC’s personality came flooding back to me and I was able to set up my problem in no time flat.

Writing today taught me a valuable lesson. There are times when you need to step away from a work in progress. Now, I am the last person to ever leave something and not finish it. I have the compulsion to finish the things I start and it drove me slightly mad for a while, haunting me every time I opened another file. It made me feel the way not finished a novel when I am halfway through reading it makes me feel. That hollow, gnawing feeling of unfinished business. But coming back to it today was a glorious testament to the fact that sometimes, as a writer, you need to step back, take a break, and do other things. I now have a renewed energy and drive to finish the project. Plus I learned a little something in the process.

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