Knowing When to Let Go

by K.C. Maguire

“If you love something, let it go ….”

We have probably all said or thought these words about something or someone at some point in our lives, but how often have we considered our writing projects in this vein?

We all love our words. Our stories can be like our children or beloved pets, but sometimes it’s time to let go either because the story is done or because the story has hit a wall and needs to be put aside.

I was reminded of this at a recent SCBWI conference when I was talking to an editor about knowing when to revise a project, but also knowing when to take a step back from it. Stepping away doesn’t mean you’re going to lose the project forever. It might mean you’re going to come back to it later with fresh eyes. But trying to force something to work when you’ve lost the passion for it can be both a waste of time and incredibly disheartening.

Some projects are supposed to be “practice” projects – you haven’t wasted the time you’ve spent developing them to this point, but moving forward might not be the right thing to do. Some projects can be revived later. And maybe some projects are ready to leave the nest and actually be published.

As a writer, I often find it hard to know the difference, particularly between a project that’s dead and one that just needs a little rest time. (I’m generally sure about when something SHOULDN’T be published, but not always.)

When you’re very close to a story, it can be difficult to be objective about it and that’s where good beta readers come in. It’s important to find other writers who are honest and can tell you when the life is gone or when something isn’t working. Of course, the final decision about what you do with your story is always up to you, but don’t be afraid to take a step back when you get too close to be objective, particularly if you feel you’ve lost the fun of a story.

I’ve given myself permission to take a step back from something recently and feel a great weight off my shoulders. I don’t know if or when I’ll return to it, but I need to not be stressing about it now. It’s the first day of fall today and I’m going to enjoy the sunshine and give myself a break from tying myself in knots over these characters. That can be a really good feeling too and a necessary part of the writing journey.

3 thoughts on “Knowing When to Let Go

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