Abandoned Projects

My house is filling up with abandoned projects.  I have drawers of old manuscripts that went nowhere, closets full of fabric that never made it to the sewing machine, stacks of books that haven’t been read yet, boxes of photos that haven’t gone into albums yet, half-painted canvases, and…  Well, you get the idea.  

The collection keeps growing because of Shiny New Project, which sometimes tempts me away from Old Troublesome.  Does this ever happen to you?  

This is the year that I’ve decided to take control (or at least get the upper hand).  It’s the year of cleaning off my desk, as well as those closets and shelves.  Once upon a time, those abandoned projects were all shiny and new.  But then something happened to stop me.  Was it because:  

  1. the idea wasn’t good enough?
  2. the idea suddenly bored me?
  3. the idea presented a problem that I didn’t know how to work through–yet?  

Last month I dug into my file cabinet, and much to my surprise, I found a novel I’d written that I’d completely forgotten I’d written.  “Novel” is such a generous term for this manuscript.  It’s a total mess.  It’s a train wreck.  That’s probably why I’d filed it away and then forgot about it.  (What’s interesting is that I hadn’t forgotten about the two novels I wrote many years previously, before my first published one.  They were learning tools, nothing more.)  

But back to this train wreck.  It wasn’t a learning tool when I wrote it.  I’d simply abandoned it, probably because something easier and shinier happened along.  While I was digging in the file cabinet, I also found a few other unfinished stories.  I hadn’t forgotten about them; I’d just stopped working on them.  I never thought about why.  Maybe the time wasn’t right, and I didn’t know how to fix the mess.  Maybe because of category #3 above. 

Now I think I’ve figured out the problem that blocked me originally.  I hadn’t realized before, but it turns out that all of those various, unfinished pieces actually belong together.  My subconscious (aka “Fred”) had been working on the train wreck and kept trying to approach the problem in different ways–and failing.  

Good old Fred never gives up.  Now Fred has an answer and has been patiently waiting for me to catch up.  I can’t wait to see how it goes.  Old Troublesome has become the New Shiny!  

Do you have abandoned projects, and if so, what do you do with them?  

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Author: sue star

Sue Star writes mysteries about families in chaos. She is the author of the Nell Letterly series, about a single mom who teaches karate to support her teenage daughter. Sue also writes suspense with a touch of romance in exotic settings.

21 thoughts on “Abandoned Projects”

  1. I have one project that I kinda-sorta finished (but not really) that I’ll never pick up again. But I’ve often set aside a project that has shown me it’s time has not yet come by being more difficult to write than anticipated.

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  2. I am the Queen of Unfinished Projects. Unfortunately. I like starting new things but am not good at finishing. It’s so easy to get run down, worn out, or stuck. I can only work on one novel at a time, so I have to set everything else aside and focus on the project of the moment. Trying hard to make myself finish, even when I get into the slog of the middle. You can’t sell books that aren’t finished (unless you are already famous AND dead, and what good does that do you? 😉 )

    I have definitely gotten stuck on a novel and then realized what the problem was much later. I have yet to go back and fix the one I’m thinking of because I am committed to finishing the one I’m working on first, but I made lots of notes for myself so I’ll know what to do when the day comes.

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  3. I’m a former tech writer, and the name of that game is repurposing content. My first two Natalie McMasters books arose from the ashes of two short stories that didn’t sell, maybe because I really had novels at the time and didn’t realize it. For a writer, there is no such thing as wasted effort.

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  4. I’m pretty good about finishing, but ‘finished’ doesn’t equal ‘good’ so some of those are tucked away. Some projects get left behind because they’re for kids and now I write for adults … but I plan on getting back to middle grade mysteries at some point, so they sit. Some projects get left behind because I’m on a deadline for one that pays actual, real, folding-and-spending money. And some get left behind because while the idea is solid, it’s complicated and I don’t feel like I can do it justice yet. I don’t think of any of them as abandoned, just hibernating. Same with my pile of books, and everything in my workshop where I make my book purses, and the recipes I’ll attempt someday, and the photos I’ll organize better, and, and, and …

    I’m a firm believer is setting projects aside to allow them to age, much like fine wine. Ideally, we get back to them before that wine turns to vinegar.

    And speaking of wine, I think you owe Fred a drink!

    Liked by 6 people

  5. I’m a finisher, but as Becky said, finished doesn’t always equal good (at least for me!). I’ve gone back to things I’ve forced to completion (writing and otherwise) and feel like, “Ooooooof. That probably could have been left undone.” I have hard time not wrapping things up. I think I’m always looking for closure.

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  6. I also have “unfinished” projects, but I am making a specific and dedicated effort to reduce that “glob” to a manageable number. My neighbor (and her sister) just started a volunteer “job” in a local charity thrift shop. (They pair with the school district to provide supplies to students) so she has motivated me to donate for the common good!?? I have decided to reduce and purpose “stuff.”
    I started with the kitchen. A water leak necessitated remodeling, so everything had to be packed up and stored during the process. When it came time to put things away, I found that I had a lot of things I had not used in YEARS, and some for which I could not even identify the function. I had all those nice packing boxes, so I just moved things into a “donate” box. My neighbor reported back that my donations “flew off the shelves” and brought in money for school supplies.
    That started me on my path to save the world through cleaning. (Who would have though that?) I found out that local Goodwill industries recycles all sorts of fabric for commercial uses. Denim brings the highest price because it is used to make carpet padding (who knew) so out went the worn out jeans in everyone’s closet. I also pulled out my boxes of fabric and kept only pieces that were a full yard. for me that was very traumatic.
    Once I got started, I found that organizing, reducing, and re-purposing was quite nice. I did find that going through my books was the most traumatic, but the workers in the library book store are always glad to seem me arrive. Of course I find that I buy about as many books as I donate, so it is a zero sum game. I did organize my books, however, and I limit my collection to what I can fit on my shelf. Of course that is a 10-foot wide multi-shelf space that covers the entire end wall in the “computer” room. Now that I can see all the books, sometimes I pull some out to artfully stack in the living room, usually by color, for a decorative and intellectual accent (HA HA HA). I do like that “by color” thing. Nothing says “Happy Independence Day” like a stack of red/white/blue books.
    Perhaps some day I will move on to the rest of the unfinished projects (yard, garage, hallway closets) but for now, I enjoy looking at my stack of spring pastel books.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Oof, I am not a finisher. Which is why it was such a big deal to me to finally finish a novel–before then, I only had a collection of random ideas that I gave up on in less than 50 pages.

    It’s also why I’m pushing myself so hard on my cozy WIP. I want to prove to myself that it wasn’t a fluke, that I have more than one book in me. But the closer I get to the end of this first draft, the harder it is for me to draw out the words. Such a weird mental block. Glad you have a new shiny again though!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. My husband is leaving Saturday for his annual eight-day golf trip with his buddies. My big project (which is conveniently in an upstairs bedroom near the end of the hall so I don’t see it on a regular basis) is to re-organize our library. He never saw my alphabetical fiction or by-topic non-fiction strategy, and piles of books appear everywhere, including the shelves. I’ll also prepare a brief tutorial just for him so we don’t find ourselves here again.

    Once a month a charity comes by and picks things up from our driveway. It’s a nice way to feel things are getting re-cycled. And THEY have to make the decision whether what I give them is good to sell or best to toss.

    Becky and I were sitting at my kitchen table one afternoon. I had a completed but not-so-good manuscript I wasn’t feeling any love for. I’d already bought a cover, so in a weird way I thought I was obligated to finish the process. Sort of like sending out the wedding invitations, finalizing all of the plans, and then waking up that morning knowing it would be a mistake, but what’s a girl to do?

    Becky gave me one of her looks and said, “Box it up. Put it away. Including the cover. If you get back to it some day, hey… you’ll already have a cover.” Within hours of following Becky’s advice, I felt insanely free and was able to tap into creative bits that had gotten all plugged up with a yucky manuscript.

    Liked by 2 people

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