No one’s writing journey is the same. Sometimes, a writer will land an agent after a few tries, while others will take a handful of manuscripts and false steps. Time doesn’t invalidate success and each writer will have a different story about how they reached their goal. Publishing weighs heavily on luck, the market, and what agents and editors have in their inboxes. A rejection does not always mean your story isn’t where it needs to be.
Seriously, I highly encourage writers to read blog posts by agents. They can help your mindset beyond words.
Bearing this in mind, writers can reach a crossroads where after so many unsuccessful attempts, a question arises – does this story need work or is it time to shelve it? The answer depends upon so many factors, but it’s an important thing to discuss. The story of one’s heart is not always the one that gets an agent or a book deal. Maybe it’s the second book of your heart or the fifth. Maybe it’s one you didn’t expect.
The bottom line is you need to do what’s best for you, your story, and what you want to achieve.
If you plan to shelve a story, here are some things you should consider:
- Where are you in the revision process? Have you gone through multiple revisions from a variety of reliable people (critique partners, editors, agents) and it still hasn’t gotten requests or offers of representation?
- What’s the market like? What’s desired fluctuates. Maybe your story falls into a bracket that is no longer being asked for by the publishing industry. This doesn’t mean your story isn’t good. It just means the interest isn’t as current as it once was. Interests tend to come back around so your book may be relevant later as opposed to now.
- Are you wearing emotional blinders? Writing is and always will be personal. Has being attached to a story clouded your judgment? Separating yourself from the story could allow you to see what may or may not be working.
- Are you burnt out? Now, this isn’t always a factor that ties into shelving a story. Life could be stressful. A personal issue could prevent you from getting words down. You’re jumping between projects. What I’m referring to here is more specific. Has writing a story left you feeling more exhausted than happy? If you find you’re struggling with your love for a story or it seems to be draining you, leaving it alone may be what you need. What may have started off as a positive experience might have tipped into something you didn’t anticipate.
- Have your ambitions or goals changed? Another issue could be the story you began with isn’t the one you want to succeed or your views on it have shifted. Maybe you’ve decided to pursue a different genre or audience altogether. Maybe this story wasn’t what you hoped it would be. Shelving it to work on something you’re more excited/hopeful for could bring muse back and a newfound drive for the publishing process.
Of course, shelving a book will always be an intense and personal decision that is never easy. For some, it may hurt. For others, it may be a relief, but this is up to the writer and the writer alone.
Feel free to share your experiences if you’ve shelved a project. What made you decide this? How did you get through it? What are you working on now? No author has the same writing experience and it’s important to see the variety of paths.