When Do You Quit?

I spend a lot of time griping about how much I loathe my day job and how I want to write for a living.  But one thing I hadn’t considered too much is the safety net that my job provides.  If the writing doesn’t work out, I have a fall back.  If my sales drop, I can still pay my bills.  If I get to the point where I hate my current WIP, I can move on to something else with general impunity.  Yes, I’d prefer to finish and get new stuff out to fans in order to maintain the platform I am building, but I don’t HAVE to.

I realized today that that makes me lucky in a way that some authors are not.

I was talking to an author friend of mine who’s editing the book she intends to put out next.  It’s been on the backburner for a while as she’s worked on other projects, and now that she’s returned to it, she really hates it.  Like deep and desperate loathing.  I’m not sure that I have ever reached that particular point with any of my past WIPs, but I certainly have hit complete and utter boredom, and that’s usually the point when I walk away and work on something else.  If I am too bored with it, I won’t do it justice and it won’t be the best book I can write, which would–as far as I’m concerned–only hurt me if I put out a subpar book.

My friend isn’t so fortunate.  Writing is her sole income stream and if she doesn’t have something new to put out by Christmas in order to take advantage of the OMG I GOT AN EREADER rush, she’s going to be in dire financial straights.  So she’s faced with a horrible dilemma.  Does she try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, potentially putting out a book that isn’t quite as good as her prior work, which might turn readers off her series, or does she take the financial risk and move to something new that she’ll be excited about, which will ultimately be a better book?

What would you do?

38 thoughts on “When Do You Quit?

  1. If my choice was between starting over and making a better book or finishing a work I hated and wasn’t up to par, I think I would start over. But I’m wondering why this is a financial risk? If it’s a better book than the one she was working on, wouldn’t it be less of a risk? Unless the concern is because it’s completely different from the series she started with. In that case, she might lose some readers that were hooked on just that series. As a reader, if I like an author, I don’t care if it’s a series or not. In fact, sometimes I get tired of a series after awhile. Like the Anita Blake series, which was drawn out way too long. I’m like you, I’m lucky enough to have a full time job to fall back on. And I kind of like my job, so….

    1. The implication being that she has this 70k manuscript to polish already and it would take much much longer to write something fully new than to try to fix what’s already there. That isn’t how I work at all, and I’m not a believer that anything CAN be fixed as long as you have something on the page, but certainly not everyone falls into that camp.

      1. I am. If you saw how Kept started out, you’d know anything can be fixed with enough persistence and the right attitude. If I tossed anything that wasn’t working, I’d never finish anything, and it’s exactly how I spent over ten years not finishing anything. There comes a point where you have to commit to it like a marriage and do what needs to be done to make it work.

        1. That’s exactly it! I have a good friend who’s a poet who often says that “Poetry is a bitchy mistress.” I totally feel that way about my fiction.

  2. I figure if ‘I’m’ bored with something I’m writing, or I hate it then the reader probably will too so it’s time to move on. Revamp, rewrite, swap things up or shit-can it and start something new. If this is her bread and butter…amping it up or doing something new is the brightest thing to do.

    Kill a darling. Yeah?

    1. It definitely won’t get DONE if I’m bored with it and don’t like it, so going with something new is definitely my choice.

  3. Consider what happens in traditional publishing. You sell a book on proposal, and then you’re under contract to *produce that book*, no matter how much you end up hating it in the end. That’s the job. I know writers who have to turn in work they might not be particularly excited about because they’re under contract. It happens.

    The difference is with self-publishing, you have a chance to switch it up enough to make it something you like better, rather than having to stick to the synopsis you started with. I think with 70k words already written, I’d figure out just *why* I hated it so much, or why it was boring me so much, and revise those parts so I could live with the results. Sure, I might not be as proud of it as other works, but I could turn it into something *others* might like. And when writing is your job…I think sometimes you have to do that – you write for the readers, not just for yourself (and you write for the paycheck). Just like any job.

    So that’s what I would do. Revise the heck out of it, and get it out there. Then move on to something new and far more exciting (knowing that publishing the other one paid for the luxury of time to write something better).

    1. This is a really excellent point. When it becomes a job, it comes with some of the sucky responsible part of jobs. Sucking it up and finishing stuff we don’t want to do (like the paper I’ve been procrastinating on all morning).

    2. Yup. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. 🙂 I turned a corner last night, though. I think I can like this book again. I LOVE the ending of it… if I didn’t, I might have tossed it, but I love it and also some other elements that it’s worth saving to me.

  4. I think there are always books that we like better than others. Right now I’m working on editing a book I co-authored with someone. I helped write it before I decided that romance was my niche. If I could I’d drop it, I would, only now I’m legally bound to finish the book and I’m hating every moment of it.

    With my own writing, I can and have dropped my WIP’s if I don’t like them. However, if writing was my sole stream of income, that would be a harder choice. As much as she has finished, she should find a few readers to give her a critque on it. She might find that they like and all she has to do is a light edit. Otherwise, depending on how fast she writes she could have something else ready for Christmas or meet the just after Christmas sells.

    1. She’s had critiques. It’s been on the backburner for a LONG while because the work it needs is practically a full rewrite (she’s grown hugely as a writer since the first draft and it needs a lot of work to make it match up), which is why it seems that going with something fresh that she’s excited about would seem to make more sense.

      1. Working with it right now, I can say that a lot of the writing was already strong. There was just too much extra blah blah and a lot of flat emotion. That’s stuff that can be fixed and doesn’t require a full rewrite. I’ve fully rewritten one book in my life. That book will never see the light of day because it just ended up worse. The only way for *me* to work, is to chip away and add and chip away and add until I end up with what I need.

        Your process may be different, but your way of tossing something and starting something new, or totally rewriting the same book from scratch does not work for me and my process.

          1. I think the only thing that keeps me going as a writer is the belief that anything can be fixed. I might end up having rewritten the whole thing by the time I’m done, but the way I go about it, cutting, and adding a little bit at a time seems less painful, LOL. It’s like I’m tricking myself. It’s like if I start with a totally new draft, no progress has been made.

  5. I don’t know what I’d do! I’m so blessed because my hubby carries the financial load. I don’t think I’d ever rely on writing for income though, as it seems pretty unreliable.

    1. It can be. You have to be ruthlessly efficient and frugal with what you have come in, to plan for the lean times. I know I would HAVE to have at least a year’s worth of expenses built up in savings before I would even consider quitting my day job. And even then I’d have to consistently be displaying the same level of income from the writing that I normally bring in through the day job. It can be done, but not without a backlist (which is what most of us are striving to build).

  6. I hit a similar situation last year. I did the irresponsible thing and left “real” jobs behind to work on my first manuscript. I then found (after much head thumping and emotional suckyness) that I could not bring myself to finish the book.
    It was a tough decision, but I had to walk away, even though it meant pushing the limits of my savings and extending my leap of faith farther than I thought possible. I knew that if I kept pushing myself to finish something I did not feel passionate about, it would only end in sub-par work. I didn’t leave behind a steady paycheck and health insurance to write something I wouldn’t even read.
    With a little creativity, I found a solution. I started doing web design for fellow aspiring authors. The design projects allow me to explore my artsy side and still align with my passion (writing, helping other writers). They also bring in just enough income that I can pick and choose my fiction projects. (Woot!) Not having the stress of a looming, unloved WIP has been a huge boon and has helped me improve as a writer.
    Does your friend have any alternative income options? If so, I would encourage her to explore those options before putting her time and energy into something she does not feel passionate about.
    Great post!

    1. It’s really not that dire. My husband pays the bills. I only help a little. I just want to move forward financially. But it’s not like the bills aren’t getting paid. I *do* need to make money if I want to move forward in life. But this isn’t about starving or not making the electrci bill.

  7. Since I’m the author being referred to let me say this:

    It’s not quite a sow’s ear… it’s just hard to edit. But it’s still a worthwhile book and it needs to happen in this series because of the direction I’m taking things in.

    I never said I’d be in dire financial straits, but… I need to make money and writing is clearly the only way I can do it (judging from the monumental failure of trying to work for other people).

    @Lauralynn, you’ve read Save My Soul… way before the point I’m at now in the editing, and you loved it even back then. It’s not a bad book. I’ve just grown as a writer, and the challenge is bringing the book up to where I am now. But I will do it.

    I’m not throwing all that work out the window. That’s just stupid. So yeah, I’m going to whine and be a little emo, but at the end of the day, it’s just not that tragic. I will figure it out. And I have figured parts of it out. I think it’s a case of trimming and liposuctioning out the fat and bringing the emotion out more solidly. It’s got a strong foundation storywise. There is no major plot issue that is a problem, it’s all in the execution and the bones of what I need are there.

      1. Yeah, me too! I just have to keep swimming. It’ll work out. The book is already a lot stronger than when I started back on it again. One more pass and it should be ready for you to rip apart again.

    1. Zoe, oh, man, I never dreamed this was you! And the reason is because I loved SMS so much even back then, that I knew it had to be getting pretty awesome at this point. I want this book to be out so badly! I want to read it in it’s final awesomeness! But, at the end of the day, it’s got to be you who loves it.

      1. Thanks, Lauralynn! I think it’s a little too dialogue-heavy… but… it’s possible ALL my zoe books are a little dialogue heavy. So that might not be the problem. I think it’s emotion and relationship-building that is the biggest problem and cutting out some of the fat and blah blah> I was originally trying to write to a certain word count OVER what I write best at. The final version I hope to get down to about 70k words (it’s 77k right now). If I tighten it up that much and heighten the emotion we should be golden.

        1. I actually prefer dialogue heavy books. I love dialogue. That was one of the criticisms of my books – too much dialogue, not enough description. But I feel like dialogue is part of what helps you know the characters.

          I felt the emotion in SMS, but you have to get it the way you like it. YOU have to feel like the emotion is there. It’s really going to be great when you’re finished with it. Just don’t obsess so much that you don’t get it out there. There is a point where you have to say “ok, that’s enough tweaking”.

  8. Having a fall back is nice. My husband just joined our business full time, so our fall back is gone. It is certainly more stressful not having that easy fun money anymore. It is very hard to force creativity when it is uninspired. I have done it. I wish all the luck to your friend and you can bitch about work to me anytime you need dear.

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