Over the weekend, I gave my workshop CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED at the Chicago Spring Fling Conference.
Revising isn't easy. That's why I've been keeping track of how I've done it for the past 24 years. :)
But a bigger question came up before the workshop started. An early bird attendee, the first in the room, said to me, I hope you're going to tell us how we know something CAN be saved...and when to just toss it.
I thought about that on the plane home. In the workshop I hit the highlights of how you can look at your work and determine "what's wrong" and then "how to fix it" but I don't think I ever really say...Give it up!
So are there times when you should give up?
Yes. I thought of three.
1. If you've been writing the same book for 20 years (or even 3) and you just can't get it right...Hang it up. Not because the story is bad or even the writing, but because there is something funadmentally wrong with the book and a fresh story (keeping in mind all the things you learned while working on the one you're walking away from) will probably jumpstart your creativity!
2. If you've been writing the same book for two to five years (like a prison sentence), ignoring all the new ideas that are popping into your head because you want to GET THIS ONE PUBLISHED...you might be losing the opportunity to get published because you're focused on something that clearly isn't working.
3. If you hate the book. I've honest-to-Pete have had people come up to me at workshops and say, I've been working on this turkey so long that I hate it, but...and I stop them right there. If you HATE something, how can you make it great? At best you will make it workable...
And workable just doesn't cut it in this day and age. Your book needs to be great. It needs to entertain, not just contain 400 pages of text that makes sense.
To write a great book, you need to infuse it with life and energy. If you hate something...can you infuse it with life and energy?
So...If you've been working on something for a really long time and it keeps failing, you need to walk away, move on to something else and jumpstart your creativity. If you have tons of better ideas popping into your head that you're ignoring...it might be wise to move onto one of those "better" ideas. And, if you hate the book you're working on, even if it's the best idea in recorded history...it's best to move on.
susan back-from-Chicago meier