Monday, February 25, 2019

When Do You Let Go of a Piece of Writing?

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

Stalled. Going nowhere. Can’t think of a way out. Nothing works. 

It happens to nearly every writer at some point. It’s happened to me before, but for a different reason. All I needed then was a brainstorming session with a crit partner, a little plotting, and I was off again, racing to the end. 

But this time it’s different. I’ve tossed parts of it before. I’ve edited, rewritten and brainstormed. None of it helped. And my story conked out at 33,506 words. One third of a novel. I had to push it to the side of the road. 

So, I’m pitching it but not to a publisher. I’m pitching this into the trash.

Why, you ask?

Because those 33K words aren’t my brand. 

Oh, they’re well-written. They’re strong writing – some of my best. But they’re not my brand. 

I can write in a different genre and readers will accept it ... as long as I write to my brand, which is Southern-fried fiction. My readers expect a little humor – or a lot – a Southern setting, and an ensemble cast of strong women, who are friends traversing life’s journey together. As long as I write to my brand, I can set the story in any era. I can add suspense. Romance. Political intrigue. Time slip. Any of that, my readers will accept.

But this book, my WIP, is dark. And I can’t seem to change that in its present form. Goodness knows I’ve tried. I’ve gone over it and over it, reading, editing, adding, subtracting, but the stubborn thing remains dark. 

I know what I need to do, and it isn’t another edit. So I’m biting the bullet and tossing it out. All 33,506 words. And then I will start over. As soon as I made the decision, the fog covering my brain lifted. I’m excited about this novel again! 

Much of it will change. I’ll use the same characters, but we’ve had a meeting of minds. I expect certain things, and so far, they seem to agree with me. I can see their attitudes changing. I can feel my brand seeping through. I’m ready to write.

Sometimes, we have to know when to let go. Have you ever had to let go of a WIP? Why did you need to? Plot? Brand? Something else?

When do you let go of a piece of #writing - insight from @AneMulligan on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Letting go when a piece of writing just isn't right - thoughts from @AneMulligan on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's an award-winningbestselling novelist, a multi-published playwright and contributor to the award-winning blog, The Write Conversation. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler who thinks he’s a teddy bear. You can find Ane at her websiteNovel RocketFacebookTwitterPinterestand The Write Conversation.


  1. Ms. Ane, I'd be fibbing if I told you I read and love your work, but I do enjoy your posts here and learn quite a bit. Enjoyed this post, but am left with a couple of questions. Can our brand change? How do we know our brand is right for us? Great post, by a wonderful writing friend and mentor, but I'm left with more questions than answers. Hoping for more of your sage counsel, mixed with just a bit of humor and some homespun encouragement. God's blessings ma'am.

    1. Jim, I'm delighted you enjoy my posts. Can a writer change brands? I suppose one can, but your brand is like your voice. It isn't something you decide to do. My brand was pinned on me by another writer. It was in an online discussion, and I had mentioned something about my work, and she said, "You mean your Southern-fried Fiction?" My agent read it, loved it and said it fit my writing. All my work has similar elements, which all fit my brand or my voice.

      Can a writer change their brand? I suppose so, but it's a rare thing. They would have to establish a while new audience, I would think. Readers aren't reading for the beauty of our prose. They are reading for the story. If the story we write moves far off our brand, they won't like it.

      Remember, brand isn't genre.

  2. I've tossed a couple of my manuscripts completely. I'd get about 20K in and realize there was no story--or not enough story--or, well, there might have been other reasons too. It's so hard to make that decision, but once that weight is lifted there is overwhelming relief. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement, Ane!

    1. It's never easy, but it's also a great learning experience - that you can write more!

  3. A very thought-provoking blog. Clearly, you did the right thing since as soon as you threw out the “dark” version - it breathed new life into it. I’m wondering if you expected that to happen or was that a happy coincidence?
    Also, just thinking out loud, if you had a number of “dark” stories inside you, then this one would have flowed and you would have looked to update your brand to include it somehow.....but since this was unusual for you and not working, it just made sense to let it go? Yes I’m just restating what you said. Lol. Great insight. Thanks. :)

    1. I honestly don't know what I expected. I just knew it wasn't going anywhere. I don't have more dark stories inside me. They aren't "me." I'm never depressed or down - okay maybe for 5 minutes once a year. When Gina Holmes first met me, she thought I was bipolar and on a manic. Then she learned I'm only polar. LOL So dark stories aren't going to become part of my brand.

      That's the thing about a brand. It's part of you. It's what you write - not the genre. My stories are lighthearted. They aren't deep, psychological reads. I've accepted that's what God called me to write. He made me the way I am to reach those who need that in their life. Why change what works? It obviously didn't. LOL

  4. Ane, I commiserate! I struggled through half a WIP and finally gave up, even though I still really like the storyline. When I finally accepted it was time to set the story aside, it was a relief.

    1. A HUGE relief, right? I'm glad to know there are others, though, as much as I dislike it for any of us.