Is it Okay to Stop Writing Your Novel?

David Mullin

I had planned to be finished writing the damn thing before the end of June. But then High School graduation of my oldest daughter happened and Summer began and everything went to shit. Those aren't excuses, though, because when I'm in the middle of writing a book, I stick to it, no matter what. Not with my fantasy novel, however. I climbed up to 69,000 words and called it a day. But why? And was that a smart thing to do?

This has been a weird year for me so far. Everything I've written feels like its just practice. And that's fine. There's nothing wrong with lots of practice, but at some point, you've got to produce some quality work. As I was transitioning from screenwriting to novel writing, I wrote a short story that I had edited by the wonderful Elisabeth Kaufman over at Writing Refinery and I'm in the middle of revising that sucker. I hope to release it on my website before the end of the month. Other than that, I haven't really produced anything worth showing to anyone.The first novel I started was a fantasy novel. A first in the genre for me. My wife actually reads more fantasy than I do, but I'm a fan of the genre and thought I'd give it a try. At the same time, I used it as test case for outlining a novel–which I covered in a previous post–which also caused some of the problem. I tried and tried to adhere to my outline but I found myself fighting against it so much that I found my story just drifting and going nowhere. I decided to put it in a drawer for the summer.

I wasn't too worried about stopping the novel before it was finished because I have finished three novels in the past, so I know that I have what it takes to complete a novel. Believe me, if it were my first novel, I wouldn't have stopped it for anything. It is vital as a first time novelist to complete your manuscript. Good, great, or complete shit, it doesn't matter. Finish the damn thing to prove to yourself that you can do it. The world is full of started novels.

Last week, I decided to print out the first 90 pages of my fantasy work and I read it. It started off pretty good, but there were a few chapters in there that were just total shit. That's okay, it's a first draft and there's supposed to be a lot of shit in there. But I still wasn't sure whether I wanted to put the effort into steering the story in a more solid direction. So I decided to let my wife read those 90 pages expecting her to completely agree with my dire assessment. To my surprise, she liked the story and the characters and requested to read the rest of what I had written. Today, I printed out the rest of the 330 page incomplete manuscript so that she could finish reading it and give me a more complete appraisement.

If she thinks the story is salvageable, I'll sit down with a notepad and see if I agree. In the mean time, I've begun a new story starting with a harrowing situation that hasn't been outlined or imagined further than the beginning. We'll see if that turns into a novel or a short story. I'm excited to see where it goes.

David