When a friend recently said he had fallen out of love with his novels-in-progress, I could relate. There are days when I tire of Janelle or feel the plot is plodding. I want to tell the reporter to get a life, or I want something to happen that shakes things up. Then I realize that unlike with flesh-and-blood people, I can create the change I want to see.
Walking away can help give me the distance I need to come to grips with why I have lost interest in my stories. Being able to identify why I’ve fallen out of love can help me to rekindle the romance. Maybe my characters simply have become too predictable or I know them too well. Maybe the minor characters are flat and clichéd. Or perhaps the plot has become formulaic. Maybe I’m just tired of writing.
Writing can be a chore. We’ve all heard how serious writers set a place and time to write and have a goal of how much they’ll churn out each day. To be honest, I have good intentions, but I’m not always great about following those rules. The place? No problem. The time? It flexes, depending on my other commitments. The goal? When I had deadlines for my magazine articles, speeches and other pieces, I always delivered on time. Now, I usually come close, but I don’t always hit the mark.
While daily writing remains a priority without those hard and fast deadlines, it is no longer the most important thing in my life, and I’m fine with that. My critique group keeps me on track and provides unvarnished feedback to let me know when I miss the mark and when I’m doing it right. Fundamentally, I think I have a solid story, so at least with this book, the faults lie primarily in execution.
Sometimes, even after giving it all I’ve got, there are good reasons to fall out of love with my work. I’ve written pieces, labored over them, only to realize they really are terrible. There might be a salvageable nugget, but I basically have had to blow them up and start entirely different stories.
Usually, I know when to ditch a work. However, when I’m not sure, I get unbiased, honest feedback from trusted readers and other writers. I ask if they picked up this story/article/book and began reading it, would they put it down and pick up a different one. If they would, what lost their interest? If the flaws aren’t fixable, if something is fundamentally wrong and the love can’t be rekindled, the relationship is over. After having invested so much of oneself, breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes, it’s better to cut your losses and move on. As with any relationship, I’ll remember the best parts and, being a writer, they’ll end up in a new work. And I’ll fall in love with my writing again.