It’s happened to me more than once. I’m all fired up about a new idea for a picture book or novel. I jump in, scribbling madly. Several paragraphs or pages later, my enthusiasm wanes and I find myself struggling to go on. Sometimes this is a result of jumping in without planning, pantser-style, and I come to a screeching halt, having no idea where the story is going nor any sense that my character will lead me.

Other times it’s because I just need a jumpstart, using one of the tips I described in last week’s post “How Do You Stay Excited About a Story Idea?”

And sometimes, it’s just not an idea that works or that I really want to do after all.

Before I decide to abandon a story idea, I do the following “taste test”:

How will I feel if I’m no longer working on this project? 

Relieved Disappointed
 Happy  Frustrated
 Pleased  Sad (or missing the characters/story)

If your emotion falls in the first column, you can probably let the story idea go. If it falls into the second column, you may need to scour the horizon to see why you aren’t feeling it right now.

Scouring the Horizon

If you don’t feel ready to let the story go, try these strategies to reignite the excitement:

  • Take a break from the story. This can be a few days or a few weeks. Come back with fresh eyes and re-read the beginning and/or some of the parts you feel are really good. How do you feel about it now?
  • Introduce or get rid of a character. Often bringing someone new on the scene or taking someone out will breathe new life into a story.
  • Write the climax and/or the ending. If you can come up with the exciting or fun climax (for a narrative picture book or novel) and/or a satisfying ending, that will nearly always get you moving.
  • See other suggestions for jumpstarting your story on my Writer’s Hangout page.

If you have a sense that you should let a story idea go, but aren’t quite ready, know that you can always come back to it another time. Life’s too short to spend time with a project that doesn’t excite us and feel worthwhile right now.

Your turn! Do you have any other suggestions for helping to determine when you should let an idea go?