Hard Lesson 1: Should You Abandon Your Project: Five Reasons Why I Didn't

So I’ve been working on a project for a long time now, over a year. It’s been a year of developing characters, story, plot, and actually writing an 80,000 word novel. It hasn’t been my only project, but there have been several hundred brain hours devoted to this project.

And the thing is…I’ve never really loved it. I mean I loved it in inception and concept, but it hasn’t been something that I fell in love with like some of my other projects. I’ve always thought about abandoning the project in full and moving on, but the further I got along the more I didn’t want to abandon the project. The more investment I had and the more I need it to work.

The problem, though, has been that the further I got on with the project, the more I disliked it. So my desire to monetarily finish the book was diametrically opposed to my desire to finish the book.

I should mention that nearly everything that I do comes with certain amount of hatred in the actually writing phase. I have always hated almost everything I’ve written until it got a lot further along. However, the hatred for this project has been stronger than most.

And I thought it would be interesting in this episode to talk about the reasons I didn’t abandon the project, which might inform whether you should abandon yours.

1.       This is a very different format than I’m used to, and I’m trying to train myself to write some more commercial books.

So the first reason I didn’t abandon the project is because I knew it was my most commercial project in the novel space. Katrina is very commercial in many ways, but this is even more commercial. Since it was commercial, and not an intimate character study, it was a very different thing for me to right, and I really wanted to get through it to see whether I hated it because it was a bad book, or because I just don’t normally write things like this.

So this one is really a business reason. I want to get more readers to read my more intimate books, and I have to pull them in with a more commercial book. Actors and other creatives do this all the time. They will do a studio movie, then go and make a random art house movie nobody watches.

I’m all about modeling what works, and if this is a functional model I need to make sure I’m writing a commercial work in order to fuel my other work.

2.       I saw a viable place for it in the marketplace, where I could put my own spin on some common tropes, and I thought that could be fun.

Another business reason. I found there were some common tropes being used in popular genre sci-fi, specifically YA, that I wanted to play with and enjoy. I generally like reading things like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and Ender’s Game, and I thought it might be fun to play in that space and put my own take on it.

This goes back to point one, as well, where I was looking at trends in the marketplace and seeing what I could do that would also be successful. I’m not saying this book will be successful, but I wanted to try this new thing. If I didn’t like it, there was no need to write more…but I had to finish one.

3.       I want to test out a new delivery format for my books.

On Amazon I’ve been seeing a lot of books that are a series, but really they are just one book broken down into four 20,000 word sections, and then bound as a full book for print. Since that’s EXACTLY how comics work, and pretty much my exact business model for Wannabe Press, I wanted to see if I could write something that was really good, was broken up into 20,000 word segments for Amazon, and then bound in a print edition for the whole book.

Again, this is a business call. This wasn’t anything to do with content. And that’s really why I went about finishing this book. If it had just been creative, I would have probably abandoned it 20,000 words in. However, this book is doing several things for me on the business side, and because of that at every step I wanted to see if it was going to succeed as a proof of concept.

4.       After a time I passed the point of no return

When you are on a flight, there is a thing called the point of no return. That is the moment where fuel-wise you must continue to your final destination. This is the same thing that happens in creation. I had sunk so many hundreds of hours into this book over the course of a year that my sunk operational costs were more to abandon the book then they would be to continue. I value my time at a specific hourly rate, and I knew that if I didn’t finish I would be out a specific amount of dollars, and if I kept going I would be out a smaller amount. So I kept going. This is the same reason many projects come into being, because the cost to finish them outweighs the cost of abandoning them.

5.       If I finish the book, it can make money for me forever.

If I abandon the book, it would sit on my computer making no return on my investment. However, if I finish the book it can make money for me in perpetuity. This book is supposed to be the intro to the rest of my library. A tiny cost to get people buying my work and enjoying it, so they buy more. And the thing about books is, you make money off the back catalog. The more robust it is, the more ability for me to monetize it. So not only does this book (or 5 books really) generate income for me itself, it also helps get people to buy more of my work over time.

 

So those are some strictly business reasons why I didn’t abandon this project. I could have. I probably should have, early on, but now that I’m in it there is no business reason why I should abandon it…especially now that I’m 2-3k words from finishing the first draft. If you are interested in the artistic reasons why to abandon your project, it’s simple:

                It doesn’t feel right.

I’ve abandoned dozens of projects because they don’t feel right, I got bored, or I lost the passion. Those are all super valid reasons as well, but I wanted to bring business reasons into the light today.

I hope it helps. If it does please subscribe on itunes, rate and review us, and keep listening! Thanks so much.

Russell