4 Signs It’s Time To Dump Your Work In Progress

No writer starts a work in progress with the intention of not taking it all the way.

That first sentence is always created with every expectation you’ll type “The end”, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

Life sidelines you. A shiny new idea comes along. Or this idea is simply the one that gets away.

4 Signs It’s Time To Dump Your Work In Progress

1. There’s No Spark

Sure, you might have felt all the things when you first got your idea, maybe the excitement even carried over into penning the opening chapters, but now that spark is gone.

If you can’t even make it to the dreaded middle stretch of your book without at least a flicker of a spark, it’s time to consider this WIP isn’t going to work out.

2. Interest Has Waned

And not just a little interest—all the interest.

If the thought of having to work on this WIP has you procrastinating, procrasta-writing, and doing everything else but sitting down to create some sentences, why are you bothering?

Yes, there are some days when the muse just isn’t there, or every typed paragraph is a hot mess, but if you have any interest in your WIP, you can still string something together.

If you’re finding that you can’t even get half a page of poorly written words together, and your interest in editing them into something readable is even worse, move on to a different WIP.

3. There’s No Communication

Sometimes you’re working on a WIP that you can sit and write, and one that holds your interest, but you’re just not getting anything from the characters.

Their communication is non-existent. You can’t hear them in your head, the dialogue doesn’t sound like words people would say, and you’re just not getting what you need to create the characters you want to write, let alone ones that readers will want to read about.

If the communication between you and your characters is not what you need to make your WIP great, it might be time to think about cutting the lines of communication for good.

4. It’s Not Them, It’s You

On the flip-side, you could have chatty characters, an idea that has legs, and the desire to work on this WIP every day. You might even sit at your desk, tea steaming, and a chocolate reward ready—and you just can’t get anything to work.

It’s not a case of words not coming out right or a lack of ideas. You have them, maybe too many, and that could be your problem.

You might churn out fifteen chapters before realizing the MC should really be your side character and vice versa. You might get to the final chapter and notice that the brilliant ending you thought up halfway through just won’t cut it.

You could eagerly write and rewrite this WIP for a year and still be no closer to finishing it. Maybe you aren’t able to move away from your original vision. Maybe you don’t yet have the writing skills to pull it off. It’s not the WIP, it’s you, and it might be time to walk away for both of your sakes.

That doesn’t mean you have to end your relationship forever, just for right now. Put the WIP in a drawer or save it in a special folder on your computer. Things might be different a few years down the track.

Or, you could find that your next WIP is The One.

There’s an ongoing spark, there’s interest, there are characters that immediately feel like you’ve known them your whole life. It’s you and them, together and working! But it might not have happened if not for the WIP that didn’t work. Dumping that WIP led you here, and for that, you’ll always be grateful for the time you spent together.

Have you ever dumped a WIP? Share your experience in the comments.

— K.M. Allan

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38 thoughts on “4 Signs It’s Time To Dump Your Work In Progress

  1. I worked and reworked and re-reworked a novel last year, and “meh.” I’m giving it until June to decide if it’s just another practice novel (I’m a newbie) or if I should give it one more go. Meanwhile, I’ve moved on to another story.

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  2. I have two WIP’s that took me over 70 pages to realize they’re just… not quite right 😦 Sigh. But, it was good writing practice, nonetheless, and it helped me see what was lacking in my plots.

    It’s hard, but sometimes it has to be done! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Definitely have dumped plenty of WIPs before. One major one I worked on for an entire year, reaching almost two hundred pages before realizing that I had no conflict and no rising action that was going to move my story along. While it was a hard loss, especially when it came to the characters, I am happy that I realized the spark was gone before continuing even further. Now, I try to feed that spark as much as possible. Thanks for the helpful tips!

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    1. I’ve shelved a novel, knowing it wasn’t meant to be. And I’ve walked away from projects until inspiration struck, or my blocks released. As of yet, I’ve not stopped writing a novel once I’ve started. Oh god, let s hope I haven’t jinxed myself. 😅

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  4. Ruth Miranda

    I’ve dumped more than I can remember ever since I first started penning down stories with real intent – by the age of 12, after I shared a fan fiction novellette starring members from Duran Duran with my entire 7th grade class. The last I dumped, though, still blares loudly in my mind, for a number of reasons. I started it right after my son was born and the intention was for it to be a high fantasy adventure that was perfectly safe to be read by a child. By chapter 3 I already had characters getting aroused by other characters and wanting to jump each other. I wrote 2 and a half books on that which was supposed to be a series only to dump it in order to write a mystery novel which ended up being my first published work. Was supposed to go back to that wip, but then the Preternaturals Series started boiling my head, and the rest is history. Am determined to go back to that wip, though, and turn it into something my son cannot read for a while yet but that many others might enjoy eheh. Was terrified my current wip would register on these signs, but nope, not registering, so I’m not about to dump, thankfully, because I’m so in love with the plot and those characters.

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  5. Alex Page

    Dumped my first two attempts at around 9000 words. I’d planned too tightly (for me) so the characters didn’t have their own momentum, everything was too forced. Third attempt I went in much more loosely and got through much better!

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  6. My WIPs (yes, multiple) have done such a number on me I’ve decided to change over to nonfiction and just write essays and articles for a while. I’m even in the process of switching my focus to another blog and letting my current one go dormant. This resolve has given me a new energy, so I’m assuming this was the right thing for me to do. 🙂

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  7. Great post, Kate – lots to think about! I’ve been considering this with my current project, although a part of me wants to make it work. I’ll have to have a think over this and make a decision. Thanks for sharing! x

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  8. I have what I thought was a great idea for a story, but I just can’t get anywhere. The beginning is fine, and so’s the ending, which I’ve already written, but I just can’t get from one to the other!

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  9. I’ve definitely dumped a WIP before. I had been working on it for so many years that not only was the spark missing, but I had outgrown the story as both a person and a writer. I decided to just put it aside for a week or two, and as soon as I do, I suddenly had a ton of motivation and new story ideas to write. It’s hard to let go of a story, but every story teaches us something and it’s all part of the process. Great post!

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  10. I thought I’d write a novel with an idea I had many decades ago. It needed a lot of fleshing out. I did actually finish it, but the idea – which was novel back then – has been overtaken by events to a degree. I lost faith in it, took another online writing course and have been writing short stories for feedback and competition entries.

    Since then, I have come across the concept of the practice novel, which I can relate to absolutely.

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  11. The one I am writing now took me years to get right. I wrote two full versions but something was off. In a nutshell it had to do with everything on your list. Thankfully things fell into place. Sometimes it just takes patience.

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    1. I’m right there with you Bryan. I’m going on nearly 4 years of working on/off with the same manuscript. The 1st draft only took like 4 months, but I’m an “under writer” so it needed to be filled out, and the 2nd, and 3rd drafts have taken forever with life getting in the way and the story needing to transform. I was really disenchanted, but kept being drawn back even when I took breaks to work on other projects. Ultimately it was a matter of re-structuring the story, and now I’m finally in the home stretch. So you’re right. Patience is key.

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