Maybe you’ve spent hours rewriting and editing your short story, essay, poem, or novel. Perhaps you’re stuck on an ending or having trouble finding the right imagery. Or possibly you’ve sent out your writing submission and received nothing but rejections—again. At this point, you may find yourself at a crossroads: Should you keep trying, or give up on a piece that seems to be going nowhere? To guide you in making that decision, the experts at Writer’s Relief have a list of signs to help you know when to give up on a writing project.
When To Finally Give Up On A Writing Project
Giving up may seem counterintuitive: Writing is supposed to be hard, right? And we don’t recommend you immediately toss out your writing project the moment you get stuck or receive your first rejection.
If you’re struggling with your WIP (work in progress), set it aside and do something else for an hour, a week, or even a month or two (or longer!). When you can return to your project and see it with fresh eyes, the solution to your problem may be clear.
If your submission has been rejected, hunker down and start researching more markets to determine where you should—and shouldn’t—send your work next.
But sometimes, putting a project aside doesn’t result in a bolt of inspiration. Or, more submissions simply lead to more rejections. Here’s when you might want to consider giving up on a writing project.
No Interest From Agents Or Editors
Getting an acceptance is not easy, even for well-targeted submissions of good writing. A publishing industry rule of thumb is an average of one acceptance out of every one hundred submissions. Even if your poetry or prose is well written, it may not be what journal editors or literary agents are looking for. If you’ve made at least one hundred submissions and haven’t had a nibble, it’s time to move on. You may want to come back to this piece in the future, but for now, put it on the back burner and move on to something new.
Editing Or Revising Isn’t Working
Try as you might, you can’t seem to complete your writing project. The poem isn’t flowing the way you hoped, or you’re having trouble coming up with the right ending. You’ve even tried putting the work aside and coming back to it, but are still stymied. At this point, you should accept that this particular piece is not going to work, and let it go. Put your energy toward a new project. And here’s a bonus tip from our experts: There may be elements of this discarded work that you can repurpose in something completely different and better!
It Doesn’t Live Up To Your Vision
Sometimes an inspired writing idea can’t be captured effectively in words. You might have an incredible idea, but no matter how you try to accomplish your vision, you still aren’t satisfied with the result. Don’t keep pursuing a dead end if a project is simply not gelling. Literary journals and agents expect your best work: If something you’ve written doesn’t meet that criteria, you should turn your efforts to another, more promising project.
Not every idea for a poem, short story, or book manuscript is going to pan out. Instead of trying to force a project, give it your best effort—and then move on. The next thing you write may be the one that garners an acceptance or a request from an agent!
If you think your submissions could benefit from expert targeting, Writer’s Relief can help! Our research team pinpoints the best markets for your work and can boost your odds of success. Submit your writing samples to our Review Board today!
Question: Have you ever had to give up on a writing project? Why?
I have 50+ short autobiographical pieces (1-20 pages). In Google/history books I’m “the first” woman distance runner. I got my PhD and spent 25 years as an animal behaviorist (bats, gorillas,Trinidad, Australia etc.), made the NYT for being the oldest Med School graduate (walked away from tenure at Barnard at age 49). adventure, discrimination, collapse of a wealthy refined Quaker family: Rhodes scholar father dies in the asylum. But at age 3, I declare to myself “I’M NOT NOTHING”. Canoeing to school, hitch-hiking, fed by teachers, shod by my doctor, lost in the rainforest with my 6 year old son. Can you help organize me?
Unfortunately, that is not a service we offer. We recommend looking into hiring an editor.