How Do You Know When It’s Time To Quit?

It’s a genuine question. I really don’t know.

I have been close to quitting a lot lately. It’s probably a weekly thing at the moment. I don’t mean writing, by the way, I could never quit writing.

I’m referring to the process of editing and rewriting and revising a book again and again and again in the faint hope of a publisher accepting it, versus making the decision to quit editing, rewriting and self-publish it. I am also referring to my writing company, Chasing Driftwood, which I constantly think about quitting. I am torn all the time. Do I give up on all these childish dreams and get myself a proper job? I am increasingly tempted.

Failure is a horrible thing. We all face it at various times in life, and it’s never, ever nice. We actively work to avoid it. Sometimes that means we never even try in the first place because we are scared of failing. We are scared of that feeling and don’t want to see ourselves as failures.

I think I can safely say that I have at least tried. Very, very hard. And a big part of me wants to keep trying. Despite the mixed feedback from two rounds of beta readers, I still love Elliot Pie and I feel like I have worked on it and worked on it, and made it a much, much better book that it was over two years ago when I started it. I’ve listened to feedback and I’ve acted on it. I submitted to a list of small press publishers and had three of them fairly interested in it, which is pretty positive really. I’ve never had that response to any of the other books I’ve put out. I keep reminding myself of this whenever I feel down. They may still be rejections, but they are positive rejections, which all say positive things about Elliot Pie. I have confidence that at the very least, my synopsis, my concept and my first few chapters are enough to entice people in!

Good stuff. But that leads me on to the reasons it was still rejected. Too long. I did go through it again and deleted another character, but I honestly could not see where else to cut. I know, I know, hire an editor you say. But I can’t afford that right now. Not in the slightest. Another reason for rejection was more specific. They loved the concept and my writing and absolutely adored Elliot, all of which is fantastic news. But they would have preferred the book to be written from the POV of Elliot and his mum. Just to explain, the book is mostly from Elliot’s POV, but also from his mum’s and the three strangers he makes friends with.

Now I can’t stop thinking about this suggestion. It would mean yet another entire and potentially very tricky rewrite. Losing the POV of three characters would also get the word count down…

But I just don’t know. I personally like the other characters POV being there because it means the reader gets to know or assume stuff about them which Elliot does not. His mother never meets these people. Do you see how tricky it could be to rewrite? I would have to write Elliot into scenes he was never meant to be in, or find other ways to suggest elements of their characters to the reader, through Elliot’s perceptions and reactions.

A lot of work. And I have two more finished but unpublished books to tidy up and start doing something with! Plus The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series which I am working on…

Life is short, right? The way I see it right now, I have two options with this book and with my writing company. I keep trying, keep battling, keep working until I get it right, whatever ‘right’ is, or I learn to know when to quit.

These are two separate issues really. I know I won’t quit my company yet. I just desperately need more time to make it all work and I know I will get that in September when my youngest starts school. I have decided to give it my all that year, give it everything I’ve got, and if I can’t do it, admit defeat at the end of that year and get a proper job, knowing at least I tried.

With Elliot Pie…I just can’t decide whether to keep rewriting in the hope of getting a publisher for it…or admit it’s the best I can do, it’s the book I wanted it to be, self-publish and hope for the best.

Funnily enough, when searching for images to post with this, I came across the quote ‘when you feel like quitting, think about why you started’ and it’s now changed the way I am looking at this. I’ve been thinking about what the story I originally wanted to tell and I’ve been thinking about the reason I started my writing company…

But it’s tricky, isn’ it? How do you know when to quit? How do you know when you’ve done the best and you’ve nothing left to give?

Answers on a postcard please! Or alternatively, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts! Have you ever felt like quitting a project? Was there a point when you just realised you’d done the best you could, and it was time to stop?

Getting Out of The Dumps

Last week I posted very excitedly about my writing goals for 2017 and I was feeling very vibrant and energetic with the start of a new year, full of possibility. I was just brimming over with exuberance and ambition. Annoyingly so, I feel.

This week? Not so much.

Call it the post Christmas and New Year anti-climax. Maybe that’s what it is. A sort of slumping of the shoulders at the months of cold weather ahead. A general loss of enthusiasm, I guess.

Writing is a strange affliction, where you are constantly indulging your selfish dreams and passions, your desire to write, while at the same time, constantly battling self-doubt and reality checks. I know I am not alone when I ask myself on a regular basis, what the hell am I doing this for?

Well, the answer is still the same and always will be. I’m writing because I have to, because I’d go crazy if I didn’t, because I live in perpetual hope and aim to keep getting better.

That’s enough, believe me, it will always be enough. But when slumps like this hit, it can be hard to claw your way back up again. So I thought I would attempt to list the things I am feeling down about, and then try to counteract that with a list of things to feel hopeful about, possibly with the result of cheering myself up. We’ll see!

Down

  1. Doing my tax return. Yep, it’s that time of year again where I am smacked right in the face with how little I earn at what I do. This then leads to building guilt and panic telling me that I need to stop it all now and get a real job fast!
  2. Lack of interest/support from loved ones. This is not uncommon, in fact pretty much every indie writer I know has experienced this. I even wrote an article about it for Author’s Publish which went down rather well. Like I said in that piece, it’s not always what you think it is, it works both ways, there are so many reasons why, blah blah blah, but just for a moment let’s acknowledge that it does actually hurt. Which leads to further self-doubt and guilt and telling yourself to just stop it.
  3. Lack of reviews. It’s nice to get sales but what authors really really want are more reviews. This is so we can find out what we are getting right and wrong! Even bad reviews are helpful as they add to the overall amount. With no new reviews, writers feel totally alone. It’s nice to get the odd pat on the back or helpful suggestion. New reviews pick you up when you feel close to quitting. They keep you going and make everything worthwhile.
  4. Never ending guilt. Yes, the guilt again. Guilt about not earning enough money, guilt about being almost constantly in another world of my own construction, guilt about wishing the kids bedtime would hurry up so I can get on the laptop and get writing. Ugh! So much guilt!
  5. Feeling like a fraud. Oh, this one is bad at the moment. It rears its head from time to time! I think it’s because I’m running an adult workshop in March and although I enjoy this and have done this before, this is the first time on my own, not with Dorset Writers Network, and every time I stand up and talk to other writers I feel like a massive fraud. I feel like I should say, Google me! Then decide if I’m worth listening to!  Same goes with writing my books. Some days I feel like a writer. I am a writer. Other days, not so much.

Up

  1. Face reality. I can’t realistically look for any other work that is not in some way self-employed or done from home as I have a two-year-old to care for. When he starts nursery in September, I will be looking at my options, and again when he starts school the year after that. So maybe I should stop worrying so much that I am not contributing. I’m raising him! And he’s awesome
  2. Some friends and family are with me all the way, so I need to appreciate and concentrate on these. Remind myself that no one shows a lack of interest deliberately to hurt me and that there are many, many reasons why this happens. Move on, head held high and remember to always, always, prove them wrong.
  3. Reviews are wonderful. They will brighten an entire week! They remind you that people are reading, digesting and reacting to what you have written, so yes, they are worth their weight in gold. I need to concentrate on making sure readers realise how important they are and I need to continue to approach book bloggers in order to secure more reviews.
  4. Well, the guilt will always be there. From when I was a child nick-named ‘cloth-ears’ to now when my husband accuses me of constantly thinking about characters and plots…It’s just who I am and I don’t think I would want to change anyway. I generally only write once the youngest is in bed, so it doesn’t steal too much time from the family. Maybe I should remind myself how artistic and creative all of my older children are. They’ve followed me in my love of books and reading, and if they’re not writing their own stories, they are making music and art.
  5. I think unless I truly ‘make it’ one day (whatever making it means!) I will always feel a bit like a fraud but I will try to remind myself that I have achieved a lot, and if I can offer words of advice or just talk about the mistakes I made in the beginning, with a writer at the start of their journey, then I am doing a good thing. I love running my writing group. The writers are unbelievably talented individuals, who also all happen to be bloody fun to be around. We talk a lot and laugh a lot. The same goes for the outstanding children who come to the kids workshops. As long as people keep turning up, then I guess I am doing something right!

Right, now I think I have talked myself out of that miserable little slump, how are you all doing post Christmas and New Year? It is a really weird time of year, to be honest. We’ve all eaten too much, drank too much, and watched too much telly. We’re struggling to get back to normal life, and January just feels so bleak at times. It’s cold and dark and Summer feels like it is never going to return. How do you cope with this time of year? What are the sort of things that get you down in the dumps, and how do you manage to cheer yourself up again? Please feel free to comment and share!