For the last two years, I’ve brainstormed a secret YA book between contracted projects. I would talk about Secret Book for hours with my friends, and type quick notes on my phone at red lights. I do this a lot–think about future books while I’m in the middle of a current project. And that’s great if you can keep 85% of your focus on finishing what you already started. Because one of the biggest traps a writer can fall into is New Project Syndrome. This syndrome cripples writers by causing them to believe all their problems will be solved if they start a fresh book versus finishing their current WIP. This, my friend, is a conspiracy and a lie.
The only way to put out books is to finish books. So I stayed focused on The Collector and The Liberator and The Warrior and Fire & Flood and Salt & Stone. And one day, the time came to start a shiny, new project. So I pulled out my list of shinies that had tempted me so often, and selected The One. The one I’d dreamed about, talked about, obsessed about.
And finally, I wrote The One. And finished The One. And edited The One. And had beta readers and Agent Lady and Husband Man edit The One. And yet, I was afraid to let go. Because saying goodbye to a book is hard. At first, I couldn’t wait to get The One in front of new eyeballs. But then a funny thing happened (that always happens)–the more I stared at the book, the worse it became. Suddenly, I questioned everything. I saw how many grammatical errors still existed, and small story issues became so very LARGE. So I hugged it tight and rocked it slowly and whispered sweet nothings into its ear while secretly flicking a lighter behind my back.
Hush, little manuscript. This won’t hurt a bit.
So how do you know when to release your little bird? Here’s my answer: When you start to hate it. When you feel yourself losing the love you once had because you’re over-thinking things. And when you’re not necessarily making things better, just different. That’s when you let go. Before doubt and uncertainty turns into bitterness for your own love child.
And so I say to The One–good day! Sayonara! Go and live and breathe and stretch your wings to the sun! Or lie down and die. Either way. Just do something.
And get the hell away from me.
Because I’m starting to hate you.