Five Reasons Not to Give Up on Your WIP

6 comments

All writers have that moment. You know the one: You’re sitting hunched over at the computer, rereading your incomplete manuscript in a daze of horror, and suddenly think, “This sucks.”

It would be so easy, right then and there, to drag that file over the ever-blazing trash bin icon, the land where failed and unfinished tales go to die—so much easier than trying to turn that incomplete manuscript into something more than garbage. After all, writing is hard—definitely not a job for the faint of heart—and who could ever blame you?

Giving up on a WIP (Work in Progress) sometimes feels like the only option. When plot holes emerge, the words blur on the page, and your fingers ache from trying to remedy unraveling characters, tossing that monstrosity in the proverbial trash bin is an alluring choice. But there are also so many reasons why you shouldn’t. Here are five of them, in the hopes of preventing the deaths of many stories to come.


1. A story never written can’t be fixed.

No matter how big the plot hole or poor the quality of the words on the page, a story can always be fixed. Sometimes the solution means a complete rewrite; other times, it’s as simple as modifying a scene. The task of repairing what’s broken may seem daunting, but as long as the content is there you stand a chance. You started your story for a reason—at one point in time, the idea was good enough to put your thoughts into prose—and that means the spark can still be reignited. Giving up is a disservice to that initial fire of creativity you set out to stoke.

No matter how big the plot hole or poor the quality of the words on the page, a story can always be fixed.

2. Finishing a manuscript may renew your original passion for the project.

There have been many a time where I’ve wanted to give up on a story partway through the writing process. What keeps me going is the memory of what it feels like to finish a manuscript. There may be a hundred issues to go back and fix afterward, but the very act of writing that last word may remind you of the enthusiasm you had when you wrote the first one. In essence, when you complete a manuscript, you also complete a part of yourself.

3. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Before you hit the delete button, remind yourself that quitting isn’t the only option. Sometimes all you need is a little distance to come up with that idea that could save it all. I’ve had manuscripts that have sat unfinished for months, but I always eventually return to them after a moment of epiphany. Another benefit of time apart from your words is that when you reread them months later, sometimes the narrative doesn’t seem so awful after all. Perhaps it was just that particular day, when your head was all a jumble and your hands were cramping up, that you felt particularly uninspired by what you’d written. Keep in mind, though, that you should never turn distance into a permanent divorce. Don’t use the excuse of “needing space” to cast your manuscript into a deep corner of your computer memory where the file will never be opened again.

4. Quitting means being held accountable for your failure, but finishing means being held accountable for your success.

When I begin a manuscript, I make sure to tell as many people as possible about the storyline. I babble on about it every chance I get, recounting in vivid detail how excited I am about the concept of putting my story into words. Though I’m sure many of those on the receiving end of the conversation may not particularly care, I’ve just used them as a way to hold myself accountable. If you quit a project midway through, you open yourself up to the ever-dreaded question: “What ever happened to that book you were writing?” The last thing you want to do is tell all your friends and draft readers you’re a quitter. People notice a story’s absence when you stop discussing it or neglect to add more drafts to the workshop, and they’ll be as equally curious—though positively so—once you complete the manuscript.

5. Finishing is proof that you’ve just written a freaking book.

Writing a book is a notion many people dream about but never accomplish within their lifetime. Why be another one of those individuals who stares wistfully out the window and wonders what could’ve been? Completing a manuscript, no matter how terrible the end product may be, is still a stellar accomplishment. Be a part of the literary movement and finish what you started so that others will be inspired to do the same!


So what are you waiting for? Shake the dust off the pages of that incomplete WIP, breathe life back into the words, and reap the benefits of finishing what you started. And once you do, let others know what else you do to combat the urge to quit.

Raine Winters

Column by Raine Winters

Raine lives in Cleveland, Ohio and works as a freelance writer and graphic artist. From an early age she has harbored a love of reading and writing, and is lucky enough to incorporate both into her daily work routine. Raine is a lover of all things fantasy and horror related, has a soft spot in her heart for middle grade and young adult fiction, and spends most of her free time running, wakesurfing, or wrangling in her husband and three cats while they perpetrate a massive amount of mischief around the house.

To leave a comment Login with Facebook or create a free account.

Comments

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck March 4, 2015 - 10:48am

I have a bad habit of writing 90% of the story, then starting on something else. It's like if I reach the end it feels more permanent and I get cold feet. Even if I really like it have confidence in it. My mind latches onto something else and I feel like I have to ride that wave for a while. I'm doing that now, and just can't bring myself to write the last few scenes.

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading currently too many to list March 4, 2015 - 9:25pm

I needed to read this today. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life March 5, 2015 - 7:22am

To be fair, I've read some books where I wished the author had given up.

Redd Tramp's picture
Redd Tramp from Los Angeles, CA is reading Mongrels by SGJ; Sacred and Immoral: On the Writings of Chuck Palahniuk; The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault March 5, 2015 - 8:47am

Perfect timing, this. And every point you made was really encouraging and made a hell of a lot of sense.

MisterScott's picture
MisterScott from Originally Chicago, IL is reading The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 5 Edited by Ellen Datlow March 6, 2015 - 1:21pm

Thanks for the inspiration. I'll keep plugging along.

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb April 3, 2015 - 11:54am

Glad this appeared on Editor's Picks today because I had one of those days with writing where I needed to read something like this. I've been there in the past and learned most of the lessons in this article already, but I'm still not immune from 'How the fuck do I rescue this book?' Reading this at least reminds me how I got past it before.

I especially agree with 2. Not only do I get a renewed sense of excitement by finishing a draft, but once the thing's all laid out in front of my I often wonder how it ever seemed so hard to complete in the first place. When I need to check my first book for details, I often end up reading whole sections of it and thinking 'Why did I ever have the 'This sucks' moment over this manuscript'....looking back it seems I wrote it so easily!'