Tempted to Give Up on Your Story? Don't!

Tempted to Give up on Your Story? Don’t!

This week’s video talks about the greatest lesson any novelist can learn.

Video Transcript:

By now, Winston Churchill’s famous quote about never giving up or giving in has become something of a cliché. But, as with most clichés, there’s a solid gem of truth at its heart, and it’s one all authors would do well to take heed of. As we come to the last of the videos in my series about what I learned while writing my fantasy novel Dreamlander, I’d like to leave you (until next week’s regularly scheduled vlog at any rate) with perhaps the most important lesson any of us can learn during this crazy writing life of ours. And that, of course, is

Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty….

There comes a point in just about every book-writing experience when the author is tempted to just give up and chuck the darn thing while he still can. In my experience, that point comes about every other day. I absolutely experienced my share of this with Dreamlander. I remember saying at one point, “If I can make this book work, I can do anything.” Stubbornness, even more than determination, is one of the greatest assets any writer can possess.

We have to realize that writing is always going to be an uphill battle. It doesn’t get any easier after the first book. If anything, it seems to get a little more difficult, as your own expectations and those of your readers up the pressure. We are going to be tempted to give up when the going gets tough. Believe me, there are plenty of easier ways to gain personal fulfillment. But I really don’t think any feeling of fulfillment is any better than the one writers have at the end of a hard-fought battle to bring a book to fruition.

So I encourage you to stick with it. When the book demons laugh at your paltry efforts and tell you you’ll never amount to anything, laugh right back. Stick-to-it-iveness is unconquerable. I encourage you to keep writing, keep being stubborn, and never, never, never, never give up.

Tell me your opinion: Have you ever been tempted to give up writing?

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K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. Strangely, I have never been tempted to give up. Probably because as long as there’s a chance of ‘winning’ I’ll keep plugging away.

  2. This is a timely post for me because I have really been tempted to give up writing. Working 40 hours a week doesn’t leave much time for the rest of my life, and though I hate my job, it’s paying the bills. Writing is pretty cheap compared to other hobbies, but it takes so much time spent at the computer. I think my family would love to see me quit, even though they won’t admit it.

  3. I found your blog at the right time. I learned so much about writing a novel through your posts. Like you said, I never gave up. Now I am about to see my book to be published! Thanks! Keep up the good work. You have helped/inspired many people like me!

  4. Awesome post. Pretty much every day that I sit down at my writing I think that it will never amount to anything, and that I should just give it up. I’m a little stubborn too, and so I write anyway. The thing is, that I know I’m never happier than when I reach 50 pages, 100 pages, 75,000 words, 100,000 words, and so on. I’ve never finished a book, but I’m working harder than ever to finish one now. I am an embarrassing 36,000 words in, and I think about chucking it every day, but I don’t. I keep on writing, and I am happy with it at the end of the day, and just want to write more. Hopefully being stubborn pays off in the end :)

  5. Giving up is a fleeting feeling, usually coming after a rejection letter. My stubbornness is an asset though, and I keep plugging away.

    It helps me tremendously to continue reading blogs such as your own, especially re-reading the Wordplayer’s Manifesto (at the bottom of page) a couple of times, breathing deep and long, moving forward, one letter at a time. Thank you.

  6. I’m tempted to give up constantly! I have decided that it is just part of the writing process for me.

  7. This is a very timely post for me. I actually put one of my projects away for the time being (don’t think I gave up completely on it but for now) and started on another one. But I will make sure to finish both if the ideas and the passion are still there. For me, passion and enthusiasm for what I write is very important. If I start losing that passion and become bored by my writing, then to me it may be a sign to stop. But I love your article and it definitely inspired me to keep pushing.

  8. @mshatch: That’s the spirit! Discouragements come and go, but determination is all we need to get through them.

    @Shell: Keeping our priorities straight is always important. Sometimes writing *does* have to go. But I would encourage you to let it go only if you’re 100% convinced it’s the right thing for you and your family. Quitting half-cocked is never a satisfying feeling.

    @Anonymous: Congratulations! I’m so excited for you, and honored to have gotten to play a small part in your writing journey.

    @Brinda: I find that the single most difficult moment in a writer’s life is that moment when we sit down at the computer, hover our fingers over our keyboard, and then have to convince ourselves to start writing. Talk about blank terror! But as soon as we *do* lower our fingers to the keys and start typing, everything improves rapidly.

    @Alvarado: “Rejection” is never a happy word, and we’re entitled to a bit of depression when we’re suffering from it. But quitting is far worse. Dream much, dare much, conquer much!

    @Andrew: You’re right – it *is* a part of the process. Years ago, I started keeping a writing journal, charting my course through each of my novels. It’s always encouraging to look back and realize I struggled just as much with previous (and now completed) WIPS as I do with the one I’m currently working on. It’s all a process. We just have to keep chugging on through the difficult parts.

    @Yelena: I would always encourage people to finish stories – if for other reason than it sets the pattern for good habits. So long as we love what we’re working and can see the next step for improving it, we owe it ourselves to keep at it.

  9. Ummm, that was like you were talking exclusively to me, since I feel I’m at a crossroads now with one of my stories–and am debating ON giving up on the story. *sigh* Guess it’s back to the drawing board. ;)

  10. Every writer needs a few psychic skills, right? ;) Crossroads are both scary and fun. I hope you figure out which road to traverse!

  11. Yes, I’ve considered quitting and throwing all my pens in the trash, but my characters won’t let me.

    BTW, I’m SO glad you stuck with it for Dreamlander… it’s your one best yet. The world will be richer with that book in it.

    Side note: I was listening to a sermon Online the other day, and the pastor used the word “sticktoitiveness.” He said, “I know, that’s not a word. Don’t email me. But I like sticktoitiveness.”

  12. It’s a word as far as I’m concerned! And I’m glad I stuck with Dreamlander too. I’d have been in trouble as a writer had I let myself get lazy and discouraged enough to let it go.

  13. One more thing in addition to “Argo” making me think about not giving up.

    I am often confronted by demons of doubt that whisper in my ear that I am a fool, that I am failing, that everything I do will flop. For a moment, I struggle with the fear and anxiety before straightening and saying, “I may be a fool, but I am not going to fail.” I then get back to work.

    I have followed your posts for years. Over those years, you have educated and inspired me. Thank you.

  14. “I love cooking, but I can’t get a job as a chef; so I’ll just eat McDonald’s all the time.” That’s what giving up on writing sounds like to me as a proposition. I write because I love writing, I love words and languages that use them. I do not write because stories drive me, or characters drive me, or the hope of being published drives me. If I happen to be able to make a living off fiction, hooray; otherwise I’ll get a library of cookbooks and make 1,001 food dishes for myself.

  15. @Daniel – that argument makes a lot of sense. Writing is worth it for the writing alone, at least for me.

    Yet in spite of normally thinking that way, I’ve had plenty of dark nights of the soul regarding whether there is any point in continuing to write. It eats up so much time, then trying to get anybody to read it takes up even more time, and then weeding through feedback for what is constructive criticism, what is empty platitudes, what demonstrates somebody didn’t even read it, what’s negative nitpicking and what’s genuine praise takes up time too. Not to mention lots of mental energy. It’s tough being hounded by your inner critic with every word you write, then having to fret over real people turning their nose up at your work. But I’m still doing it, a handful of credits, a novel and over a decade after starting this journey in earnest. There must be some reason.

  16. @Lester: To some extent, we have to be fools to pour our souls onto the page and then risk rejection by sharing those pages with the world. But, you’re totally right, failure by giving up is far, far worse than any foolishness in our art.

    @Daniel: Fabulous attitude! I love to hear about writers who write because they’re passionate about it – people who would keep on writing even if they’re never read. Keep that mindset and you’ll always be fulfilled. Anything else is just icing.

    @Mike: Even when we’re writing for ourselves, we still want the satisfaction of believing what we’re doing has worth. That, more than anything, is where our feelings of doubt and discouragement come from. We’ll never write a perfect story, but each story we write can be *more* perfect.

  17. Great blog and great advise. I recently starting writing my first story and I would love some feedback on it from fellow writers. If you have a minute please check out my booksie page

    http://www.booksie.com/science_fiction/novel/dspeller88/stephen-dent/chapter/1

  18. Thanks for stopping by, Darryl! I’m afraid I don’t have time these days to critique manuscripts, but I wish you all the best with it.

  19. One can never write a great book, writing good fiction is like a jail with only two windows.. one window is closed.. only at the cost of the other and when you look through;cry:strange, while I was sleeping in my bed in there, certain events..things were rolling as happening on in this world that directly concerned me – and look.. no body asked me; consulted me-they went on & on … and changed my life…than and then I knew: STAND for some thing for awakening, from there on wards; I did not give up..I felt that:
    Truly this book has to become one day either a sword or shield for a few in a time-generation to come.. the book has to be a guided Missile with value & dream..
    When tired/in giving up moment, recite and ponder my meager translation of Dr. M. Iqbal’s couplet :
    This flow of breath is like a sword,
    “Selfhood” is its sharpness;
    Selfhood is the secret of life,
    It is the world’s awakening;
    Selfhood is solitary.. absorbed,
    An ocean enclosed in a drop.

  20. Beautiful poem!

  21. Terrific post, KM. I want to give up when I can see the finish line, but I can’t seem to get there. I have looked at my MS so many times that I start to second-guess both the good and the not-so-good. It’s that last bit of polishing that makes all the difference.

  22. Oh boy, do I ever hear you! There gets to be a point when you’ve been over material so many times that your eyes cross whenever you look sideways at it. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the biz. We just have to keep powering through, keep reaching deep, and keeping chugging along. It’s always worth it in the end.

  23. The big reason I’m often tempted to give up, that I can write down a character profile, and maybe think of five way to demonstrate an aspect. But I can actually think like my characters. As in if I’m writing a young adult character, I can’t think like a young adult character. And so I worry I would have to pay a chunk to hire method actors or whatever.

    I can nail down plot, but character development is sort of an issue. Plus it always seems to be passive characters.

  24. Write what you know – and imagine what you don’t. Writing instructor Josip Novakovich once commented that he was struggling writing a character from Nebraska, because he didn’t know how Nebraskans sound. A fellow writer told him not to worry about it because not even Nebraskans know what they sound like! Research all you can, then just write what feels true. Not all young adults are alike, so who’s to say your take (even if it’s unusual) won’t jive with what certain young adults have experienced?

  25. *Raises hand* I’m there right now with my current WIP. I’ll have some good days of writing and then out of nowhere, I start feeling like my idea sucks and that I should just move on. I’ll blog, write some poetry or a short story to help me come out of the funk and spark my interest for my WIP again.

  26. Is there any word on how good it is to start with a dialogue sketch before you write? I sometimes find myself writing more when I write pure dialogue, and then maybe add tags later for specificity. Of course I sometimes still need a picture to have a frame of reference for where I am.

  27. @Melissa: That’s just the way it goes. Sometimes it’s minute by minute! You ace a paragraph and you’re on top of the world, only to start thinking about that scene a few chapters back that’s maybe not so good and – clunk! – you come crashing down. The important thing is that we keeping climbing back to our feet.

    @Sarah: I’ll do that sometimes as well. Sometimes dialogue flows so fast that I don’t want to slow down to puzzle out appropriate tags. If I stop, I’ll lose the flow of the conversation. So I just get the dialogue out as fast as I can, then go back and add tags and beats as needed.

  28. Oh also, shorter narratives (Like 500 words for a script for a webcomic) is actually not to difficult. I outline more to keep myself writing past 2000 words.

    Anything below 500 I can actually scrape by on a dialogue sketch of the introduction and the ending. And then instead of info dump setting, I just do something that hints at it. Ex: Joe bob was taking a photograph at the subway wooshing by.

  29. Yes, definitely one of the biggest challenges in shorter pieces is not over-writing. But it’s often easier to go back and trim, rather than try to fluff something out after the fact.

  30. If one is grappling with say, roughly 132 years is it important to world build for each government that comes and goes? I have sort of a period of something that feels like a forever war, although its more like a series of consecutive long wars.

  31. Depends how much emphasis you’re giving each era. In my opinion, it’s always better to over-prepare than under-prepare. But if you’re only mentioning certain governments in passing, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. The most important thing will be your understanding of how each government affects those that come after it.

  32. Yeah, I’ve totally been tempted to give up. Sometimes it is because of a difficulty I’ve come across while writing that particular part/scene/whatever; sometimes it’s because I won’t have looked at it for a while, and then I come back and re-read it and think “That’s just awful.”

    The worst time once was when someone said to me that I shouldn’t be writing romance if I’ve never experienced it. They were quite… cruel in this opinion and I was severely tempted to never write again. Thankfully, some amazing friends convinced me to keep going and not to give up.

  33. People can often be unthinkingly cruel in their estimation of and advice to writers. We must learn to develop a thick skin. If we can push on through the negativity of others, we can push through just about any obstacle in our paths.

  34. Give up? No, I have a graveyard of abandoned novels but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on them. It just means I have more to learn before I can finish them, either about myself or about writing. When I’m satisfied that I’m ready I will return to all of them and finish them and it doesn’t matter what happens to them or how they’re viewed, they will always be a personal achievement.

  35. Wise outlook. Giving books time to breathe is important, not just so we can regain some small measure of objectivity about them, but also so that we can grow into the next phase of our ability as writers.

  36. Right now, even if I can write about 2200 words at day.

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