Giving Up on Writing

Another difficult post, and this time…it’s personal.

I’ve had a lot of false starts on my writing. Like many, it’s something I’ve been passionate about for a very long time, but I never really knew how to turn it into something outside more than just a hobby. I’d try for a few months, get frustrated, and then give up. Rinse and repeat. At the beginning of 2017 I reached a point in my life where decided I had enough. No more wasting my time or waiting around for that bolt of lightning to strike. I had dreams, and it was MY responsibility to make them happen.

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Thus from the depths of my soul, the series known as The Pixie Chronicles came to be. It was magical and life-changing and mostly a lot of me staring at the screen and screaming while my brain was inundated with ideas far too great for my mortal brain to bear. Trust me, it was all pretty fantastic. And from then on I swore to protect all of my creations with the rabidness and ferocity of a wild mother cougar. Or badger. Whichever is wilder and scarier.

The only problem is, my love made me blind. I mean sure, we all have that one novel with a face only a mother could love, right? But I think I’m getting a little too deep into the parent/child analogy, so I’m going to step away from that before I dig myself a little too deep and I start wondering what the heck I’ve been doing with my life while 17-year olds are winning gold medals.


I reached a point where I started pushing my novels too far. I was so enamored with their concepts I ignored the fact that same of story-lines and characters just simply weren’t working. I thought if I just kept working at them, revising and editing and starting over, it would fix everything, despite the fact that everything was pointing to the contrary. My novel, Ocean’s Daughter, has sadly met such a fate.

Ocean’s Daughter was meant to be my retelling of The Little Mermaid. I should have known things would end badly when I jumped into writing it with only about 70% of it outlined. NEVER START WRITING WITHOUT AN OUTLINE!!!1! Well, if you’re me anyway.

I hit about 20k words and completely stalled out. A few months later, after too many nights of sobbing dramatically on my bed because it wasn’t working, I decided to completely scrap it and start over. Wouldn’t you know it, I hit almost exactly another 20k and completely screeched to a halt. Hook. Line. Sinker. (is that the right catch-phrase? Basically…it sank.) I wanted so badly for it to work, I was completely pushing away all of the signs screaming in my face that it wasn’t. After all, I’d given up on my goals and dreams so many times already, who wasn’t to say this wasn’t just me trying to run away from it all again?

But I’m starting to realize it’s not just about pushing through, no matter the costs. That’s how people rip tendons and wind up dehydrated. That’s also how crappy books get published. And I refuse to publish a crappy book.

I’ve written a lot over the years. Short stories. Half finished novels. Fully finished novels. WAY too much fanfiction (one story which was so popular a reader even asked if she could translate it into another language…not that I’m bragging or anything…mwuahahaha…), but that doesn’t matter. It’s not as though you reach a set amount of words and suddenly you’re done practicing and everything you write from then on out is going to be gold. I wish. Sadly, as much as I keep trying to prove otherwise, life doesn’t work that way.

So what are you supposed to do? Give up on writing forever?


Please. Of all things, do NOT take away that message from this. That’s not what this is about. What it IS about, however, is knowing when to move on from a project. It can be even more difficult than simply pressing on, but sometimes, for the sake of our writing, it’s the best option. Ultimately, I boil that decision down to 3 major things.

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When to STOP Writing

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1. Gut feeling

And I don’t just mean because you’re bored with it. Look, writing is hard work. There are going to be parts in the writing process that are tricky, dull or just plain frustrating. That’s the nature of the beast (the beast being your novel, not the work), and it’s something, as writers, we learn to overcome.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Instead, what I mean is something more instinctual, perhaps something that can’t be really put into words. It’s this unexplainable, deep-rooted sense that something is fundamentally flawed. Perhaps the characters, the plot, the world…it doesn’t matter. And you might not even be able to pinpoint it exactly, but every time you sit to write there is a knee-jerk reaction that something is WRONG.

If you’re lucky, you’ve already built up the skill to pull this feeling apart, to dig deep and pinpoint what isn’t working. But if you don’t have that skill yet that’s okay. We’re not all superhuman genies.

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2. You got what you needed out of it

Not every story or novel serves the same purpose. It’s why there’s so many ways to write…how many forms of poetry can you think of? We have the novel, the novella, the short story. We have scripts. Diary entries. Journaling. They’re all different and they all serve different functions.

I’m a big believer in playing with writing. Just…having fun!  Experiment. Explore. TRY NEW THINGS. But sometimes those experiences force themselves on us, and we don’t really realize until we’re halfway through and we think, ‘Hey, I didn’t know that about myself or my writing before.’ That’s not always a cue to stop either, don’t get me wrong. You may have just discovered you love writing in first person or you adore haikus, so keep going! But maybe instead you learned you abhor writing song lyrics and you’re trying to create a musical. That’s where we take a step back and have to analyze. Why were we so excited about this project in the first place? The characters? The plot? Just the general idea of it? Can it be interpreted in some other format? Can it be tweaked to suit you better? Or did you just think you thought it would be fun to write a bunch of songs and turns out…it isn’t. There’s NO shame in that. You just have to decide what aspect of the project is important to you, if it’s worth it to forge on ahead, or if you’ve gotten what you needed out of the project and it’s time to let it go.

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3. You have other projects you’re passionate about

Somewhat tied into my first point, and again, I’m not asking you to give into Shiny-Object-Syndrome, because a new idea is ALWAYS going to sound better. Instead, the key word we’re looking at here is passion. Let’s say it again because it’s so beautiful.


That’s right. I’m a BIG believer in work reflects attitude. Basically being that, if you’re not, on some level, excited to work on your writing, it WILL show through. Don’t be fooled. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be super-happy-skippidy-joy-joy all the time. Yeah right. Put down the fruit loops. You’re still going to get those difficult those scenes, those long, boring, muddy scenes. Those scenes that make you wonder about your entire life’s existence. Don’t worry, that’s normal. But through all that awfulness, there should still be that glimmer of passion burning deep (sometimes way deep) inside you that’s pushing you to keep going. That reminder that it will get better and yes, you do LOVE THIS STORY.

But sometimes that passion simply burns out. Then what? Can you rekindle it? Try! Maybe you can breathe new life into it! But sometimes…sometimes you can’t. And in my experience, if I’m working on something I don’t give two wits about, the reader notices. And that’s no fun for anybody.

Now, despite what this post may imply, this doesn’t mean I’ve completely given up on writing a Little Mermaid retelling. It just means I’ve given up on writing THIS Little Mermaid story. Because you know how the saying goes, ‘Fool me once, shame on my book; Fool me twenty-three times…’ Or something like that. Pretend I’m poignant and wise.

But I’m not going to rush back under the sea (under the sea!) just yet, because I think that’s what got me into this whole mess in the first place. I was constantly trying to force something that didn’t feel natural, and pushing through despite my instincts telling me it was all wrong. Well no more. I owe it to myself as a writer, and to any future readers to deliver a book I was 100% passionate about and proud of.

What do you think about giving up on projects? Is there is ever a good reason to quit  on something? Have you ever had a story you were once excited about not work out? 


  1. Wow, this post is so important! You always hear writers and authors talk about how tough writing it, but they always motivate you to push through it! Like you said, writing is SUCH hard work and it takes a lot of time and effort so obviously you will want to push through and make it work!

    But it’s also incredibly important to realise when it’s time to step away. I think something like that is currently happening to me. Last NaNo, I started a new project with barely any outlining done, but I had the gist of the story figured out in my head! However, I realised very soon that it didn’t work and I abandoned it shortly after. I thought I was ready to face it this month because I’ve gotten a few new ideas and inspirations, but I still don’t feel READY to write it. My gut tells me that the time isn’t right to write this story and I’m thinking of stepping away and working on something else. I still love the idea of that story but I just don’t think I’ll be able to tell it the way I imagined it in my head. I think I’ll step away from the project for now, but I won’t completely abandon it because, who knows, one day I might be ready to tell that story?? Or not. And that is completely okay.

    Sorry about my rambling :’) but this post was amazing and it REALLY made me think so I thought I’d share my thoughts haha!

    1. Author

      Thank you! I’m really happy you could relate on some level and realize that halting on a project does NOT make you less serious about your craft. I genuinely think there’s something to be said for listening to your gut, because who knows our work better than ourselves? No one! If the writing isn’t ready yet or not working, WE are going to know it first, and telling someone to just ‘push through’ could ultimately ruin the story because the writer wasn’t at the right place to get it done. I know it’s a fine line because sometimes people use it as an excuse to stop when they hit the middle-of-the-novel slump, but I really think it’s 2 different situations.

      Anyway, NEVER BE SORRY FOR RAMBLING. I love rambles <3 Thanks for commenting and if you do ever decide you feel ready to dive back into your NaNo project, best of luck!

  2. GAHHH Your posts are BEYOND INSPIRING! <3 I can't get enough of them *gobbles all your words the way Cookie Monster gobbles up cookies*
    Quitting has a bad rap and even I'm guilty of judging other people who quit because they're unmotivated. But it IS important to know when to quit and let go of a creative project. And I love it when you said you're not giving up on a Little Mermaid retelling, you're just giving up on THAT Little Mermaid retelling because there's a really BIG distinction between the two. I totally agree that we have to remind ourselves of the passion that made us start whatever creative project we started 🙂
    I used to have this pet writing project, an MG fantasy, back when I was in high school and I loved it to death. I used to make an outline for a trilogy (HAHAHA) and I had character concept art and stuff but all of it just… fizzled out.
    Though she's still living inside me, still waiting to be introduced into the world. And maybe I will someday. For now, I'm content with keeping her to myself and be the only one witnessing her grow and mold to be a person my 12-year-old self will look up to 🙂

    1. Author

      Aaaaah! You’re so sweet! Honestly, you make me blush haha, But I’m REALLY happy you liked this post! Quitting is one of those ‘dirty’ words, pretty much…anywhere, and I don’t think it should be. I know tons of young kids (myself included) who started a million sports and hobbies and stopped after a month or so because we decided we didn’t like it. And that’s OKAY because it’s part of growing up and figuring yourself out as a person. But why does that have to stop as you get older? Why do we suddenly have to KNOW everything about ourselves once we’re adults? Why can’t we still be learning about our passions and styles and exploring new techniques? That acceptance to learn as an adult needs to come back, and it’s directly linked to our inability to accept “quitting” once we don’t like anything anymore.
      ANYWAY, I think it’s completely valid to let your characters just be yours and not necessarily share them yet 🙂 I daresay, I have a few characters of my own like that as well 😉

  3. My first YA novel really never made it off the ground. I got 50,000 words in, but then I got completely stuck, and I ended up abandoning it. BUT that writing experience led me to others and now I’ve written a book that can really go somewhere (I hope—now I just have to get an agent!). I see that first writing experience as a stepping stone, not a failure. Maybe someday I’ll even go back to it!

    1. Author

      Maybe! And stepping-stone is the perfect term for it. Ultimately those 50,000 words helped you grow as a writer, and I wish that people would embrace that concept instead of all of the constant guilt over unfinished projects. It takes some writers longer than other to figure out how to reach the end, and that’s OKAY. The point is to not stop writing, even if there’s a lot of false starts 🙂

  4. I’m sorry your mermaid retelling wasn’t working out :-/ But this sounds like great advice. I do think there are some stories that just aren’t going to work, no matter how much you want them to. I was working on an idea (not really much writing, mind you, mostly just outlining) for a series, and I had the first book outlined in a fair amount of detail even, but there were still so many things I couldn’t quite figure out, and I started to realize it seemed kind of cliche, and I just kind of stopped working on it and am not sure if I ever will again. If I do, it’d probably need an overhaul anyway. But like you said, everything, even just brainstorming and outlining I think, is an experience that we can learn from!

    1. Author

      Honestly, I’m still pretty sad about it, but I’m trying to take it in stride and use it as a learning experience. I was so excited for it, that it’s a little embarrassing how flat it’s fallen. But as you can attest, this is a pretty common roadblock for writers! What’s important is that we grow from them 🙂 As you said, your first outline felt a little cliche, so if you did ever rehaul the whole thing, you can apply that lesson into fixing it. In which case, I think you got what you needed out of that project, even if you decided to quit on it. It’s served its purpose, even if it might not have felt that way at the time.

  5. It sucks so much when you feel like you have all of these brilliant ideas in your head, and then when you actually get on to writing them down, they end up being not?? as good?? as you expected??

    As an 11 year-old, I wanted to write a full-length novel. I’ve tried writing fantasy, contemporary, and everything in between, but like with your #1 reason, I always stopped after around 5 chapters. Maybe it wasn’t the right time, or maybe I never had ideas that were fully developed yet, but I’ve kind of stopped writing since. My gut definitely tells me I’ll end up trying again some time in the ~far~ future, though. Right now I’m more interested in non-fiction writing, in the form of book blogging. <3 This is an awesome and very inspiring post, though, and I hope it encourages other aspiring writers not to give up completely, but to know when a work's just not meant to be.

    1. Author

      I definitely think blogging is an amazing way to keep that writing muscle active. I used to think I wouldn’t like it since I thought it was more like diary entries and I was never that great at keeping a diary, but now that I’m blogging I’m realizing how different it is! I’m sure once you get back to your fiction writing you’ll find it much more fun and easier than you remember because you’ll have so much practice 🙂

      I’m glad you liked my post! Thank you so much for such a lovely comment!

  6. Great post! It’s only recently that I’ve learned the art of letting go of projects. In the past, it’s easy for me to push through things. There’s pros and cons to this. The pro: I get my stuff done, my goals accomplished. The con: I miss out on alternatives, things that I may have wanted to try out. In the past year or so, I’ve really tried to learn how to “let things go” and/or think of alternatives to my goals and projects. Some days it’s enlightening. Other days, I feel let down.

    1. Author

      I’m glad you liked it! I think it’s about realizing that sometimes we can learn more or even accomplish more if we let something go and work on something else. it can just be really hard to realize that when we’re in the thick of it, but I think of all the times in the past that I pushed myself to finish things I hated and had already sapped the life out of, and for what? Just so I wouldn’t be a quitter? Life’s too short for that sort of nonsense.

  7. This is such a brilliant post, I love it so much. I find it so hard to know when you should give up on something and to know when you should still fight for it, because there is something there. I think that, ultimately and like you said, no matter the obstacles and struggles… whenever I get this gut feeling that I want this story to live, whenever I still feel the passion, the want to tell this story, to do more with it… well, I go with that and go on 🙂

    1. Author

      I’m happy you liked it! I definitely think it’s something that comes with experiences. I think the older I get, the more I realize that some things just aren’t with it, and 100% okay, and that some things might be stupidly difficult, but deep down I know I need to keep pushing forward to the end. It’s hard to put into word, but it’s sort of like an instinct that builds up over time. 🙂

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