Cheating on Your Book: How to Tell the Difference Between a Passing Fling and a Love that Lasts

New ideas are the sexy sirens of the writing world. At first blush, they’re so fresh and new and uncomplicated. They catch your glance while you’re hard at work, drawing your focus away from what you should be working on. And hey, who wouldn’t want to fantasize about going with the flow, just dropping it all and seeing where this shiny new thing may take you?

The allure of mystery…the thrill of the unexpected…that feeling of going rogue…. The projects piled on your desk seem nagging and frumpy by comparison. …Especially your main manuscript, the one you pledged to love and honor until THE END.

That spark of excitement you felt when first clutching that golden oldie to your chest has long ago faded, replaced by responsibility and complications that naturally develop when you live with something long term.

And hey, commitment is hard. We get it. It’s been weeks, maybe even months, since your original MS bared itself to you fully, allowing you to explore its potential with pure joy and abandonment. Instead, you’re faced on a nightly basis with an unpolished, unapologetically blemished, uncooperative (and let’s be honest, a little word-count-heavy) story that just doesn’t inspire you the way it used to. Maybe it’s your fault. Maybe you ignored the first story for too long, or let yourself forget why you loved it in the first place.

Or, maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s the original story’s fault, with its empty promises of adventure and its lies about being able to withstand the test of time. This was the story that was supposed to make you rich and famous, and live happily ever after, you scoff under your breath. Alas, you’re still working the same, soul-sucking day job, killing yourself to make ends meet. As it stands, it’s all you can do to drag yourself into the writing chair at the end of the day. I mean come on, you’re only human. Maybe your story isn’t doing enough to keep your attention. Otherwise, your mind wouldn’t have strayed in the first place. Right?

Really, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. It doesn’t matter how many excuses there are. And it definitely doesn’t matter how sexy that other story is. No matter how irresistible it might seem at first glance. Because here’s the thing: cheaters never prosper. At least, not for long. While plot adultery might sound like a good idea now, eventually you will always end up in the same place. Then you’ll start the “falling out of love” process all over again, with a new story, with entirely new problems.

In writing, much like marriage, the answer to most issues is honest and solution-based communication. Plot counseling, if you will. Ask yourself the following questions, and be as open as possible about how you really feel:

  • Why did I want to write THIS story in the first place, over all the other stories I could have written?
  • What was my favorite thing about this story when I started?
  • What is my favorite thing about this story now?
  • Are my expectations for this story realistic, or am I trying to make this story into something it isn’t?
  • How many different ways have I tried to fix this problem?
  • Have I considered that maybe I’m just not trying hard enough? Thinking creatively enough?
  • Have I lost my literary libido, or am I just stressing myself out so much that I can’t tell what works?
  • If I had to start over with this story from the beginning, what would I do differently? Is it too late to try making those changes now?

If you can’t make it work, no matter what you try, maybe it is time to move on. Hopefully, at the very least you’ll apply the lessons you’ve learned about what does and does not work for next time. Your expectations will be a little more realistic, a little more suited to your goals, maybe.

Promise me this, kids: don’t throw it out without really working at it first. To a certain extent, you have to love the one you’re with. Leave those literary home wreckers alone, at least for now. Otherwise, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that all those sexy new chapters you’ve been chasing haven’t brought you any closer to the happy ending you’re looking for.

One thought on “Cheating on Your Book: How to Tell the Difference Between a Passing Fling and a Love that Lasts

  1. Wow! I really needed to see this right now. Yes, I have been working on a manuscript for a while that I wonder will ever end and then I had a great idea last night for another script. I thought seriously about putting the first manuscript aside to start on my new idea. But you are right, that’s plot adultery and cheaters never win. Thanks for putting all this in perspective. Despite how young and hot my new idea seemed, I will work it out with my middle-aged manuscript. After all, it has been loyal to me, staying with me all this time as I changed and supported me when I had some ‘crazy’ ideas that really didn’t work on paper.

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