burnout, Dan Ariely, ebook publishing, ebooks, FarmVille, indie publishing, Joe Konrath, John Locke, revising, selling ebooks, Wired Magazine, writing addiction

Breakup: When to divorce your project

Do you have at least one novel, short story or poem you’ve been editing for years?

Do you find tweaking words easier than starting something new?

If so, you may need to divorce that project.

Breaking up is hard to do.  Describing gamers’ addiction to FarmVille in a Wired Magazine article (“Gamed,” July 2011), Dan Ariely explains why it’s hard to stop working on our creations.  “Once people take all the little steps to build a farm, they become invested in it–and thereby value it more highly.  The more complex and difficult and time-consuming a process is, the more we fall in love with our creation and the more we become interested in the game.”

Complex, difficult, time-consuming, and hard to give up. Sounds like my addiction.  Does it sound like yours?

It’s great to be invested and to love what we do.  But attachment to an old project keeps us from going forward.

Nine months ago, burned out from working too intensely on Wacky Road, I divorced that sucker and embarked on painful weeks of brainstorming a new story, The Girl on the Mountain, something very different.  I blogged about this earlier in Writing from Scratch.

Now Girl is undergoing the critique process, and I’ve transitioned to something new, inspired by John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million ebooks in 5 Months!   Locke says that a reader who enjoys your first book is likely to look for another of your books right away.  Therefore, bringing out two or more at the same time can give you a bump in sales.

Everybody acknowledges that generating ebook sales is tough, maybe next to impossible for those of us who don’t write in highly popular, sensational genres.   We need all the help we can get.  But here’s something encouraging:  Joe Konrath, in his blog A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing mentions that ebooks will last forever.  Forget shelf-life.  Your ebook has a chance to sell over time, or at least until popular tastes change.

So now I’m happily romancing a story I divorced almost ten years ago.

Separation from your story doesn’t have to be permanent.  You can fall in love again, and write better, the second time around.


10 thoughts on “Breakup: When to divorce your project”

  1. Oh, the heading frightened me–I don't like to close any doors, so the thought of divorcing a project scared me, as I interpreted it as never working with it again. A long-term separation from a project, though, I can deal with. Just so long as there's some faint chance of reconciliation!

  2. I've just taken one of my 'resting' novels out of its drawer after a two year separation. I had worked it to the bone over two years and simply couldn't face it any more. Now, though, my present wip is close to finishing its crit run so it's time to finally introduce my rested and energized baby, Mindset, to the discerning minds of C.C. New projects are exciting!

  3. I have two novels that I started and both only have about 4 chapters each of my time invested. I feel terrible having not bothered with them in several months. I did go back and polished two short stories and they are both ready for beta readers! I may ditch the whole novel idea and stick with the shorter stories! 🙂

  4. I urge everyone to divorce themselves from their first novel and write another. The second one is guaranteed to be better. Then, if you still can't get that first novel off your mind even after finishing the second, go back and rewrite it from the ground up. If the plot is good enough, it'll be worth it. Of course, this is easy to say, harder to do. I just happen to be in the process of rewriting my first novel after finishing the second. 😉

  5. SO SO SO SO SO SO true! I totally divorced my book one…and had to delete it off back up to really let it sink in. I’ve since picked up a few other projects but then decided to write an entirely new one as well. SAME EXACT thing as you. Now that that’s in editing I’m turning to another project I had started (but small enough to completely rewrite anything I don’t love from old me) and it’s great! BUT while I was deciding what next I had to stumble over the war-torn other half novels limping toward me like the risen dead ! YIKES I’m almost ready to clear things out and just delete delete delete. Almost…

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