Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quitting Before Finishing

When I was a kid, we had rules in our family like you don't quit piano lessons, don't turn on the TV till you've finished the homework, and don't toss anything out that might still have a few good uses left. In other words, Finish What You Start.

When I was 20-something I had a rule that, once started, I always finished a book. No matter how boring or poorly written. Now I have a different rule about books. Although by and large, I don't really get into a book with the intention of giving up, I'm perfectly happy to close it if the beginning chapters don't interest me. Occasionally I read for a while, find my interest waning and give the book the Page 69 Test. If it fails that, and no one is requiring me to finish, the book is history.

I also feel that way about writing and bad wine. No reason to devote too much time to either if they just aren't working.

Here's an essay with writer Varian Johnson, about his writing process. I totally understand how this feels:
I’ve found that if I still love a story after three chapters, I’ll stick with it. If not, it goes to the big recycle bin in the sky.

Amen to that.

My friend Sue Laneve once cautioned me to explore many options before starting a new writing project, trying them all out before delving into one. Once chosen, it's going to require a lot of energy. Why write past 3 chapters if it's just not working? Is this quitting too soon? Maybe 3 chapters is enough to at least put it in the drawer for a while.

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