Why I Stopped Writing

Why I Stopped Writing

a.k.a. The Summer of Doctor Who

Okay, okay. Don’t panic. I was purposefully being a bit cheeky with that blog title. I haven’t stopped writing for good, but I figured if the folks at Empire News can go viral with a misleading headline about Betty White dying, I can say I stopped writing without technically meaning it!

Actually, the fact is I did stop but only for a while. And the incident begs the question, when is it okay for a writer to just stop writing? We all go through periods of dormancy – a lot of us probably do so when we finally put to bed a solid draft of a project. It’s good to walk away for a bit, take a breather, and approach the work with fresh eyes before doing a serious edit. That’s how I tend to work best. But with my current project, I couldn’t even get all the way through the first draft before I simply had to throw my hands up and walk away. And things were going so smoothly, too!

Here’s what happened: I started work on my third manuscript in the spring. I had a solid premise and an energy that I didn’t have with either of my first two books. Something was different this time. My planning process was relatively similar and my writing practices hadn’t changed much, but the speed with which I wrote had certainly improved. And, based on early beta feedback, the first draft was noticeably stronger this time around. Not perfect by any means, but stronger than either of the other two had been so early in the process. That wasn’t shocking. Practice makes perfect, the more you do something the better at it you become, and all that jazz.

I coasted along smoothly, adding chapters, feeling satisfied and excited, and bragging on social media about progress. Then something happened. I got about halfway through the novel and suddenly started thinking too much. Maybe this could be a dual-POV. Am I writing in the wrong character’s head? Should this event come before that one or that one before this one? The self-imposed static became too much. I knew where Point B was on the horizon, but the path through Point A had gotten so murky, I was lost. Eventually I did the only thing I knew to do. I closed the laptop and walked away.

That was at least a month ago, maybe even a bit longer. Now you might say to yourself, “A month? Meh. That’s not so long!” And you’d be correct. It isn’t. But also it is. Every day I’m not working is a day I don’t have a book on the shelves; a day my agent isn’t making a dime off me.

I used the time to clear my head and reflect. I traveled a bit, caught up on some reading, and started watching the fabulously campy and addicting Doctor Who – which may have in fact been a mistake because now I am plowing through it on Netflix as if I have nothing else to do with my life. (So far the David Tennant/Catherine Tate era is my favorite.) Of course, this interview with Andrew Smith suggests that Doctor Who fandom could be a slippery slope!

Anyway, this weekend I returned to the manuscript and read it again in its entirety. I’m feeling some relief after the hiatus, as though I can begin again anew with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. I’m hoping the second half now comes as easily as the first half, but let’s not jinx it.

Question(s) for writers: Have you ever had to throw up your hands and take a hiatus from a project? How long did it last? Did it help? Did you become addicted to any popular British science-fiction TV shows in the process?

One thought on “Why I Stopped Writing

  1. Sometimes you have to let the story cook for a while. That's why I like to have several going on at the same time. When I need a break from one, I can work on something esle and keep the writing flowing.

    Good luck and The Doctor rocks!

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