Like most writers I have met, my mental health is suspect. No one chooses this career out of rational sanity; it’s a lot of work for (mostly) low pay, and all you really get is criticism and mounting suspicion that you did not really think through your plot before settling down to write. And so you wind up spending all of your energy arguing that yes, the fact that a character you described as one-armed in chapter one did, in fact, grow a second arm over the course of the book (the hidden literary clues are there, man, you just have to be smart enough to notice them), all over a book you sold approximately 33 copies of, 23 to yourself as you tried to correct a maddening kerning problem in your Word Doc.
So, stipulated: We’re all crazy. When are we craziest? When our work-in-progress (WIP) isn’t going well. Because we so often give up.
Take It to The Limit
So, when should you give up on your new novel? You gonna get differing opinions on this, and some folks will have a pretty complex equation involving word counts and palm readings and what quadrant of the sky Mars is currently sailing through, but here’s my answer: Don’t.
Don’t give up on your projects. I don’t care how borked they are (borked being a legal term meaning “incoherent and incomprehensible”), there’s gold in there if for no other reason than the simple fact that you were inspired enough to start writing. There’s a few thousand words or a plot twist or a single golden sentence in there that’s worth saving, so instead of giving up on a WIP that’s not working, start cutting. Hit Save As and start stripping away all the non-working stuff, starting with the most recent work you’ve done. When you start hesitating about the deletions, stop. Think about what you can re-purpose, what could be revised, re-used, stolen.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be a novel. Maybe it’s a short story or novella that got uppity, or maybe it’s an epic poem, or a scene from another novel, or the backstory to something else. The point is, use the material you’ve created, somehow. Don’t just walk away from it.