1. Miss Red
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    Miss Red Member

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    When to let go

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Miss Red, Oct 13, 2014.

    Here's a topic that might be an interesting conversation. I don't have this problem personally, (I hoard everything *_* ) I just wanted to see what the discussion would be like. :D
    No one needs to answer all the questions, though all advice, insights and info would be appreciated. Also note that all note-worthy posts will be highlighted below.

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    - When is an appropriate time to let a story or project go?

    - When is it better to simply set a story or project aside for later?

    - What if a story has been posted/published online, and already has views/comments? Is there a responsibility to stay dedicated to a story if it's been exposed? (Even if the author has grown tired of the story? Or has lost interest in writing?)

    - Does it matter if it's fiction or non-fiction? Does it depend on the genre?

    - What about if it's just a personal story that someone was writing for themselves?

    - Does the story orphaning become more ruthless if the writer has stacks and stacks of stories, notes and ideas piled everywhere, or has a desktop choked with idea documents and blog ramblings?

    - What would be a checklist for a story that should go into a dumpster or computer trash bin?

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    Noteworthy Posts:
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    (Updated every couple of days.)
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    Thanks for reading, and sorry if this was posted before. : )

    Personally, I think that stories that are over 6 months old and haven't gotten farther then a few pages might need to be set aside for later. However, if a project has been set aside for longer then a year, it might be time to let go, especially if there are plenty of other, more engaging projects being worked on.
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    As an accountant, my working life includes the consideration that debts become statute-barred (in the UK) after 6 years...so anything 7 years old can be shredded.

    As a writer, I have tended to hoard stuff for years, and really should be a bit more hard-nosed about my "babies". However, in these days of massive storage capability, why would you bother to delete an old file? OK, you KNOW you're never going to go back to it (how would you even find it again?) but it's not as if there's a 6 foot high pile of paper cluttering up the spare bedroom, is it?
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I think when the author takes no enjoyment out of it, doesn't see the story getting anywhere, and couldn't care less about the characters within the story. The author sees no point in continuing the story.

    When the author feels there is some potential left, but he/she just can't get there right now. Take some of my older projects, they had some life in them when I put them aside, I just didn't know what the heck I was going to do with them. Now that I'm a bit older and a bit more experienced, I feel I now know how to make it work. That said, it's much easier to put aside such projects (those you will go back to later, or those you will never return to ever again). Just dump them in a folder somewhere on your computer and that's it. You don't have to worry about them.

    It would depend. If it were just fan-fiction, then I think it's up to the author to decide. If he/she is making money off of it? Eh, it gets trickier. But yes, there is that risk once the author gets a small following of people who want to see the story finished. Do you just drop it or slog through it to the end? Some would say you have to slog through it because, guess what? That's what writers do. Especially if they have an audience. They have a responsibility to finish the damned thing even if they hate it.

    In that case, the author can do whatever he/she wants. Don't like the project? Put it away forever, or for a short time. There's no external force compelling them to finish what they've stopped caring about.

    Given in this day and age, all you have to do is put them in a folder on your computer, you don't really have to use a dumpster/computer trash bin. But here is my checklist:

    Abandon the Project Forever
    - If the author couldn't care less about the story or the characters.
    - If the author sees no potential with the plot, doesn't see anything worth salvageable.
    - If the author would rather file taxes than write this particular story, as he/she no longer can get any sort of enjoyment from it.

    Put the Project Away
    - If the author still cares a bit about the story and sees some potential with the plot. The author still cares about the characters, but they just need a little time from the project.
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    With all the space on a computer why ditch anything? If you don't want to work on it just set it aside. Why put a time limit on it?
    Whether or not you go back to it depends on your interest in the idea and whether or not it has any more relevance.

    Some of my projects have an embarrassing dated quality. Ideas and cliches seeped in early 90s trends. Not worth my effort to return to them. That being said though, I still take ideas from this ditched pile. In one of the ditched stories, a very lame Scholastic Point Thriller clone, I took the characters intense childhood friendship and made it the glue for the history in one of my novels.

    I utilize settings, names, bits and pieces of things. My stories are rarely just thought of and then written. There's a lot of stewing and cross referencing different parts of my history both personal and written that goes into my story. I'm rather like a collager whose dead ideas are thrown into a box to become bits of backdrop for a greater work.

    I've got boxes and boxes of notepads and ramblings. I don't throw out anything. But I'm also not obsessive about going through them. The fact of the matter is most of these ideas I can't delete from my mind so the ideas that still plague me are the ones that usually make a second appearance.

    No. But I would respect your audience by letting them know you won't be continuing with it.

    I usually keep a mental line up and new ideas sometimes go to the back of the line, and sometimes move to the head of the line, creating a bump effect. Writing is so time consuming, I never cross out ideas. Hopefully if I can manage Nanowrite I will be writing some stories whose ideas go back 2 months to 6 years ago.
     
  5. Miss Red
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    Miss Red Member

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    Sorry I came back so late!
    I've been ludicrously busy with so many different things over October. Since it's been calm for a while, I've been trying to track down all the other places I've stalked online. Thank you three for all of the engaging posts! I'll try to manage this thread far better in the future.

    Hello Shadowfax!
    That's a very good point. I haven't been deleting much of my computer documents lately, to be honest. I've been zipping up old documents in .zip files (with 7Zip) and uploading them to Google Drive, aaand then deleting them. My mom plays a bunch of computer games on the computer (that's a switch xD ) so I have to keep the clutter to a minimum, since her games take up so much RAM.

    Fair point, but I sometimes feel that I'm slightly ocd about how much 'file clutter' I have on the computer. :D

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    Thanks for the comment Link the Writer. : )
    Good points. It seems easier to salvage some parts, themes or characters from botched stories then it is to keep dragging along with the same story.

    I still have some older stories that I wrote in pencil and paper, still hidden away somewhere from when I was in my teens. I had no idea what I was going to do with it then, but I have a very clear idea what I might be able to do with it now.
    I wonder if it's easier to know when to keep something for later, and what it is exactly that makes writers keep what they keep? *shrugs*

    Fair point. There's definitely a lot to consider, and definitely a lot of variables that make each situation unique, so it could be hard to give very specific advice. (Other than to finish the 'damned thing.')
    I suppose authors could ask their fans, (if they're on that kind of level) or they could set up a poll somewhere, but I would assume It depends largely on the venue (professional for book/ebook sales, or non-profit for fanfiction or stuff posted online all willy nilly) and on the author's work load and capability.

    Agreed.

    Very nice, short and concise checklist. Although, I find both writing and filing taxes enjoyable. : 3
    Any tips or extra advice? Perhaps a quick mention on some type of method that could help other writers?

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    Thanks for your insights, Peachalulu, this is very engaging advice. : )

    I'd say the trouble can come from frazzle brained writers (like me) who write down everything that comes off of the top of their head and for me personally, have notebooks full of handwritten ideas from their (embarrassing, rampantly-emotional/irrational) teenage years. It might be helpful to other newer writers to know when to set something aside, or when to just toss something out.
    I do like these ideas though. Salvaging bits and pieces of ditched stuff and re-shaping it into something new. I'd guess it would be up to the author to decide what to keep aside, and which parts of old stories to salvage.

    I get what you mean about stuff not deleting from the mind. There are plenty of good ideas buried in bad stories that I wrote, still haunting the pen. It's kind of fun to re-purpose old work.

    So if something is done, it's done? (At least for the time being?) Very interesting, I like the implications this could hold. New opportunities for "This is my online-author agreement, I promise to do some and such but I can't make any guarantees about so and so" or something, at least for other websites, or at least a habit other writers (like fanfiction writers) could try and do.
    Perhaps this could be called "Word of the author" or something. The right to set something aside if it's been exhausting them, or if they get super busy. (Kids, pets, medical stuff, etc)

    Writing is definitely time consuming, and It's really cool you keep up with all your ideas and story notes.
    Like I explained above, I've been putting most of my inactive text files onto google drive. I'm pretty awful at juggling different stories and keeping up with different ideas, with editing and scheming responsibilities, I end up being too intimidated to try and write for that day. I have to keep a general writing schedule in order to get any work done (which I'm kind of breaking now... :D )

    Is there a method you use for keeping things organized? Any scheduling tips that could help new writers?

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    - I'll be editing the first post and adding in different sections.
    EDIT: It seems as though I cannot edit the first post of my thread. I shall pounce a moderator.
     
  6. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    Writing grows with us as we develope, essentially there are pojects, that while wonderous at the time, need to be set aside because we've moved beyond. Often the echoes of the older projects can be found in the bones of newer pieces. It is a learning curve.

    Do you need to hang on to things you wrote in high school? Only if you want to laugh yourself silly. Going back and reading through old projects as you purge is a good way to see how you're matured as a writer.

    Questions need to be brutal. Have you touched the project in the last five years. Have you actually read through it, edited, or posted it anywhere? If the answer to more than one of these questions is no, chances are it would be a wise decision to toss it. Purging is something that should be done annually, just like cleaning out the closet. This will keep files neat, ideas tighter, and work spaces uncluttered.

    I'm a neat freak so a mess in my writing area drives me to distraction. I back up on SD cards and cloud drives with inactive projects. I'm very sparing with printing projects. Only after its completed, will I print the first draft. All little weird, I'll admit, but it does push me to actually finish my projects so I can have that real, printed page in my hands. For a project to make it into my portfolio is a journey, but seeing it, I know I have the commitment to it to finish. Those are the projects I hang onto.
     
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  7. Shayla
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    Shayla Member

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    Personally, if you come to a point where you have writers block I would put that idea to one side and forget about. Then every few weeks I would go back to it, re read it and see if anything new is there. If there's still no motivation or nothing to add I'd leave it again. There's nothing wrong with that. Don't force ideas. More often I find I'll leave an idea and out of nowhere; I could be out walking, chilling in the bath, at the pub, at work - something will click and spring to mind for that story that I shelved. When this happens I can enthusiastically bring it out again and continue.

    I don't think you should ever fully let go of something. You should always keep that idea incase somehow it gets revived. You could have an idea that like you say you haven't touched for 6 months but anything could happen. In 20 years something might happen for you to go back to that idea with a new perspective. It will come to you.
     
  8. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    I'm terrible for not finishing things, I'm a bit of an ideas magpie (??) but I very rarely delete anything. I sometimes come back and get a second wave. I think in the odd ones I have deleted it's because I no longer like my characters. They feel flat, forced or as simply plot devices. Otherwise I can get oddly attached to them. My current laptop is actually very neat, but only because it's new and everything is still sat on a usb, except a couple I re-read and decided to revive.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If by "letting a story go" you mean permanently abandoning the idea, I only do that if/when I become convinced that the idea was not a good one after all, or if I decide that I can't and will never do it justice.

    When it loses forward momentum (as Michener put it in his book, My Lost Mexico). That can happen for any number of reasons - a roadblock in research, a story you just can't get to flow, loss of confidence in the idea (or the emergence of a more exciting or viable idea), not to mention the garden variety real world events that sometimes overtake us.

    Not sure what you mean by "stay dedicated". I don't see that anything meaningful can be done about a story once it's been published, other than deciding not to promote it. And that's a personal choice.

    What difference would that make? Please remember that there is nothing magical about genre. It's simply a classification, a marketing tool.

    The answer is in the question. :D

    Depends on the writer. Depends on the story. Depends on his/her disk capacity.

    No checklist for me, just a simple question - do I think this idea has a future? There really isn't a need to make it any more complicated than that.

    Perhaps, but there is an idea that I began back in my 30s but set aside because of life's flow. I've written other things, but I will at some point go back to it. As I said before, if an idea is viable, there's no reason to let it go. But these are the choices we make as writers that no one can make for us.
     
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  10. Poet of Gore
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    Poet of Gore Member

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    i would say this. let yourself get ideas and take notes. then maybe after at least a year of note taking you will see that there is one story which you have to tell.
    if it can be something dealing with a pain you are feeling or something you are going through in some way, even if only metaphorical then pick that. worked for me.
     
  11. Miss Red
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    Miss Red Member

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    Thanks everyone for their input and insights! :D
    The edit thing is still missing from my original post for some reason, so I can't really clean up or fix my first post.

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    Thanks for this answer Ed. This could definitely help in the future.

    I'm a neat freak too, Darkkin. This is sound advice as well. : )
    Keeping things neat and tidy is very important on my computer, but I haven't tried printing anything yet. Maybe printing something will give it a special 'something.' I'll try it out.

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    Lots of different and dynamic answers. It seems to depend a lot on the writer. Cool.
     
  12. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    I tend to have between 0 and 2 "active and serious" writing projects going at a time. Then there are some ancillary ones, which is the other projects that stick in my mind enough even if I don't purposefully think about them that I sometimes slip into working a little bit on them in my free time or whatever. These number about 4.

    I tend to think of about one new project that gets any sort of "traction" about once a month, and at any point in time have about 30 projects that are either active or on hold. To keep this number down I make sure to routinely go through my project folders on my computer and ask myself questions like "Is this different enough from the other projects?", "Could I combine it with another project?", "Is this something I would have liked to read?" and "Will I be able to write this?". I also have a dream of narrowing the number of projects I have at any given time to somewhere between 5 and 10, and, regardless, as I can at best hope to finish one project a year, I still have to make sure to get rid of almost as many projects as the new ones I take on.

    I'm that kind of author who likes to do a little bit of everything when it comes to genres, so several of my projects are placeholders that are basically just defined as "my take on genre X", which could be space opera, children's literature, high fantasy, poetry etc. The rest are story and/or character driven in their creation. If I get an idea for what could be the core plot of a novel and can convince myself I like it it will stay on my to-do list as long as I still believe there might be at least some chance it would at some point be worth doing.
     

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