Knowing when to let go

Anyone who has ever attempted to write a novel knows it is HARD WORK, but before you hit the Mid-Section Slump or the endless Redrafts of Doom, there is this beautiful, sparkly moment at the start of the process where you’re truly, madly, obsessively in love with the story. Life, which is normally painted in beige, is suddenly a vivid, glittering rainbow! It’s a great place to be.

But like all romances, when the honeymoon period is over and you start to see your book for the plot-hole riddled thing it really is, you’re faced with a difficult decision: struggle on or let it go?

How do you know when a book is the right one for you?

I’ve been noodling around on a new novel for the past…oh, three or four months…now, and at the start of the process I was happy with the idea. It had a strong hook, an interesting world and the potential for lots of steamy romance. On paper, it ticked all the boxes.

Then I started writing it.

And with every day that passed, I realized something. I wasn’t in love with the story and no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t muster those feelings. 

I guess book relationships are similar to human relationships. No matter how perfect someone appears on their profile, if there's no spark, then no matter how much effort you put into the relationship you’ll never fall in love. All too often the people we fall in love with are the ones who don’t tick all the boxes; they’re either too short, or hate Buffy, or think Christopher Eccleston is the best Doctor (I mean, seriously, come on!). And yet they’re the ones who make our knees wobble and tummies fizz.

However, while I was working on said unloved project, I started thinking about another idea. At first I dismissed it, because on paper everything was wrong about it. But it wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t stop thinking about this new story; I became obsessed. My world became a glittery rainbow. I was enthusiastic and kept gushing about it to all my friends. I was in love.

So what was I to do now? Carry on writing my current project or admit it was time to let it go?

After much discussion with my critique partners, I finally made the difficult decision to stop writing the book. It’s not in my nature to give up on a project—I’ve written three novels under contract now, and they haven’t all been easy going. But I knew this was the right decision. And so, with trepid heart I contacted my agent and told her that my current book just wasn’t working for me. A few days later, we met up for lunch at the LBF and I explained my issues with the book and pitched my new idea to her. And boy, did I talk! I had an answer for every question; I knew exactly who the characters were, what their action and emotional arcs would be, what the world was like—heck, I even had an ending! By the end of the meeting she was as enthusiastic about the idea as I was and gave me her blessing to go ahead to write the partial.  

So now, that’s what I’m working on and I’ve never been happier. I don’t know what will come of the new idea; it may result in nothing. But at least, for now, I have love.  

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