Changing gears in the middle of a project

At the beginning of June, I hit the halfway point in my major WIP and discovered I’d written myself into a corner. Despite using a detailed outline, things became derailed enough that I had to do some serious work rearranging plot points and adding new ones to get to the ending I had in mind. This took days, but I didn’t want to lose momentum by not writing every day, so I decided to start working on something else while I worked out the problems.

Unfortunately, this became a problem on its own. The new project took off beautifully, and by the time I had the half-finished book’s issues worked out well enough to let me get back to writing, I didn’t want to put it down. I don’t have time to work on two projects at once, so this presented a tough decision. Which book gets put aside?

It’s a plight many writers share, and there are never any good solutions.

On one hand, pushing too hard on a difficult project puts you at risk of burning out. On the other hand, if we wait to write only when we feel inspired, we’d never make any progress.

Even worse is the idea of only writing when inspiration strikes for a certain project. I’ve been the writer with a half dozen projects going at once, none of them finished, none of them even remotely close.

Project-hopping can be fatal to all projects involved, but sometimes, it works out for the best. For my projects, I ultimately decided the new project was the one that needed my full attention. There were a few reasons for it.

1. The new project was shorter.

I love my epic fantasies, but writing several books in a row that break the 150k word mark, with little hope of cutting them down in size, takes a lot out of you. There’s a lot of work to be done to ensure they stay orderly and don’t contradict earlier installments in the series. My smaller side project was also a stand-alone novel, meaning I only had to keep the timeline straight for one book worth of content. Being simple, compared to what I’d been writing, I realized I’d be able to complete this book much faster than the epic, even though it was already halfway complete.

2. Having a complete story meant less wasted time.

Ideally, I’d like to get to the point where I have books in every stage of completion so I can work in a steady cycle. I’d have one in the writing stage, one being edited, and one being sent for queries. This isn’t very realistic though, since it takes me less time to edit a book than to write one, so I wouldn’t be done writing by the time the book being edited was ready to move on to queries. The next best thing I can manage is having one book in the process of being written, and one in the process of querying. Since I could finish this one faster, it’d give me something to query for while finishing the writing stage for the bigger book, meaning I’d be wasting less time between production and presentation.

3. It was a better fit for its genre expectations.

This is a big problem I’ve encountered in my work. Either it doesn’t fit the genre cleanly enough it to be desirable to traditional publishers, or it’s a great fit for the genre, but longer than what they’ll accept from an author without previous publishing credits in said genre. The side project I picked up worked out ideally for fitting into its genre label, and its projected length fell around 75,000-80,000 words, when the idea length in its genre is right around 80,000 words. It meant chances of publication were better from the get-go. The other project is more important to me on a personal level, but it’s also the third book in a series where the first hasn’t yet found representation. On the whole, the side project stood a better chance of furthering my career.

4. It was easier to write.

As I mentioned in the first point, it’s easier to write something that’s a standard length, stand-alone novel. But it’s also easier to write because it’s a modern setting, so there aren’t any times when my writing is interrupted by the need to determine whether or not a particular phrase or object is out of place in a historical timeline. It used concepts I was already familiar with and didn’t need much ground work, and the only references I’d need were in encyclopedias I already had on my bookshelf. Without these extra constraints, it just wasn’t as taxing to write it, letting me work fast without exhausting myself. My word counts each day averaged much higher, one of the reasons I’d be able to knock the book out fast, even though the word count I’d have at the end was the same as what I’d have if I finished the fantasy story.

With all that said, I won’t talk much about the project yet. It’s inching closer toward being complete, at which point I’ll give it a thorough editing, and then we’ll talk about what I’ve done.

Have you ever dropped a project midway through?

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