How do you break up with a story? I’m asking for a friend… OK, maybe that friend is me.
When we last met, I described the writing tasks I was going to attempt in the new year. It was a deliberate ploy to hold myself accountable to my writing. I talked about two techniques I wanted to try. The first technique was going to be rewriting a story line by line based on this Pinterest post: Writing advice you’re not going to like.
How’d it go?
Well, I did attempt to rewrite and edit in order to finish one of my stories. It’s a short story I started a few years ago. I fell in love with the original idea and concept, but was having a hard time finishing it. I even brought it to my local writers’ critique group to get some help. That was almost two years ago.
Even though it’s been a few years, I’ve been telling myself that I still wanted to finish this story. So I sat at my computer and opened up a blank document. Next to it, I opened up the story. And then… I stared at it. I read the first sentence in the original version. Should I re-write it exactly as written? Did I want to change it? For a while, I did nothing substantial. Excuse number one was that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Excuse number two was that I had bills to pay that I should take care of right then and there. Excuse number three was all the other ways that have made me an expert procrastinator when it comes to writing.
Eventually, I started. I re-wrote the first few sentences. Then I let it sit for a few days. Then wrote a few more. I made it through the first section before pausing for a couple of weeks.
As I was working on this story (or thinking about it and not working on it), I realized I wasn’t loving my story. I wasn’t into it. The passion I originally had for it was gone.
I was stuck. Caught between the “do I finish” or “do I abandon” this story?
If I turn to the Internet, several writing blogs I subscribe to all talk about making sure you finish what you start. And the logic behind that makes sense to me. If you keep starting new things before finishing anything, you’ll never finish anything, never publish, and never be on a best- seller list. Like this post: Writer, Finish What You Start!
But then I was with my local writers’ critique group again, bemoaning this dilemma, and my fellow writers there told me it was time to abandon this story. If my heart was no longer in it, they argued, I should move on. All the time I spent angsting over this story was now wasted time and energy that I could be pouring into something I cared about. Good points, right?
Back to the original question: How (and when) do I break up with this story?
For what it’s worth, I didn’t invent this problem. Neither did anyone else, by the way… this problem is as old as time. I recently read a biography on Leonardo da Vinci. He was notorious for shiny-new-object syndrome. Even with the propensity for hopping from one subject to the next, he still managed to accomplish quite a bit which challenges the “if you never finish, you never get anywhere” argument. His success rested on how prolific he was in all areas of his life. I could probably afford to move on and on and on and only finish a little if I was a full time writer. But with the Job, the Family, the House, and the fact that I do enjoy other things in my spare time besides writing, I’m not as prolific as I think I should or could be.
Instead, I circle back to thinking I want to give this story one more change and turn to articles like these to help me combat Shiny Object Syndrome.
It’s been a couple weeks since I started this blog post and first contemplated breaking up with my story. I haven’t cut the cord just yet. With these options in mind, I slog on with this story… What do you think? Is it time to cut the cord?