Writing Tips

Sometimes Writing That Book Was A Waste Of Time

Before you freak at the title, please know that the point of blogging titles is to get you here, and now you’re here, so voilà. 

That said, I really do believe writing a book can be a waste of time. Why is that such a controversial thing to say? 

I know that the publishing industry loves the sentiment of “every book teaches us something new about our writing!” And though that may be true, that doesn’t mean the time and effort we put into the project was equivalent to the lesson learned. It might not have been worth your time. There are, in fact, other projects you could’ve been pursuing with that time that might have had better results. 

Saying that shouldn’t be controversial. 

I’ve personally felt like I’ve wasted time on a project before (and recently). From late 2020 to late 2021, I worked on a science fiction novel for adults that just wasn’t working. I rewrote it three times with my agent at the time, before deciding enough was enough. I put it down. I haven’t opened it since, and I don’t miss it at all. I don’t even want to think about it. 

Sure, there were parts of it I loved. I mean, it was monsters in space. Who couldn’t have fun with that? The world building was interesting. My main character had dynamic qualities. But the manuscript lacked focus. Besides the fun pitch, I couldn’t really tell you what I was trying to do or why I was trying to do it. Maybe I can’t now because I’ve done my best to forget the experience so that I could move on. (Leaving projects unfinished once I’ve decided to pursue them is hard for me! It wasn’t easy to trunk it.) However, I also believe it was a project that lacked focus at its core. In fact, I started writing it as a rage piece. It was just supposed to be a place I went when I was angry to get out my frustrations. I never intended to pursue it. At some point, though, I convinced myself I should and, honestly, I really regret it. I not only regret the time I spent, but I feel guilty for all the beta readers who I brought on to try to help me with the work, including my agent at the time. I feel like I failed them and myself. Not because I eventually said no, but because I didn’t do so sooner. 

Instead of spending the year writing a piece that ultimately fizzled out, I wish I had spent my time cultivating a new project. I could’ve written my novel-in-verse earlier on, or I could’ve already finished the revision of my historical fantasy (which is what I’m working on now). I’ve since written an adult fantasy and started a YA novel-in-verse, as well as a YA horror story I absolutely love. All of these projects are going 1000% more smoothly than my sci-fi ever did.

That said, there were some lessons (I think) I learned:

  • Three POVs is too much for me right now. I love writing two POVs. Both of my published series are written in alternating POVs with the love interests. It’s my jam. That said, I’ve written numerous novels with one POV. Two aren’t always necessary. Three just got out of control. 
  • Too many plot twists is too many plot twists. Enough said.
  • Same with betrayals/switches in alliances. I had wayyyy too many of them. 
  • Blending sci-fi and fantasy tropes can be awesome, but it can also be really hard! I should’ve been better about owning which genre my book would sit best in and leaning into those elements more. 

I acknowledge I learned a few things. But I think I learned these lessons early on in the process. I could’ve stopped a few months in, instead of dragging the book out for a whole year. Maybe I had a harder time discerning lessons earlier on since we were in the midst of a pandemic. But I’m much happier now that I’ve moved on and tackled other projects. Still, I keep regretting all the time/energy/stress I put into that sci-fi (and I’m a little paranoid I’ll do it again). I keep checking in with myself and where I’m at with my current projects. I keep questioning my intensions and my chances of success. If anything, I recognize that I lost some of my confidence writing that book, yet another reason for regret.

Right now, I feel like I wasted a lot of time and energy writing that book. Granted, that doesn’t mean my opinion won’t change one day, but I’ve felt this way for half a year now. 

But, Shannon, you might say, don’t you learn something from every book you write?

Yeah, I learned not to waste my time. 


P.S. Usually, I post on the first and third Monday of the month, but since the first Monday next month is July 4, I will share my next post on Monday, July 11. Enjoy the holiday and be safe!

12 thoughts on “Sometimes Writing That Book Was A Waste Of Time

  1. My main writing focus is reviewing, but I’ve often thought about writing a novel. I do really like to write short stories in my spare time, just as a fun hobby. I think you hit the nail on the head with focus, that’s what you really need with a novel to keep you and the story on track. Still, at least you’ve had the experience of writing the novel, and you never know, you might even go back to it one day with a fresh perspective?

    1. So true! I know I could want to go back to it one day. I could also trunk it forever. (lol) But thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Short stories are hard to write! Kudos to you!

      1. You’re welcome. Yeah, short stories are tough, but they do give you a chance to really hone your focus. I’ve never been brave enough to do anything much with them tbh, some are just a few pages in notebooks, but maybe one day I’ll put them together? Even the ones I don’t like much I still keep. If only a small part of a story or idea remains, it can become something more in itself later on, and you may well find that with you own novel one day when you dust if off and revisit it again.

      2. That’d be a good idea, thanks for the tip. My short stories are all hand-written in now books, but it wouldn’t take long to type them out. I might give it a go when I get some spare time maybe. 🙂

  2. Like you, I always try to finish at least one draft of any story I begin. My big issue, though, is writing stories where I don’t have a clear marketing category to aim at. I write so many stories that I can’t sell because there’s no market for it. Short work especially.

    1. OMG that is such a good point to bring up, too. I recently took a manuscript outline to my writers’ group where my #1 concern is marketability. I would love to write it, but I definitely don’t want to spend a ton of time on a project just to have the market says there’s no space for it. Publishing is hard as it is! Thank you for reading and commenting. Always love the discussions you start. 🙂

  3. Sorry to read of your wasted year of writing, Shannon.

    I write “expository” books wherein I try to solve various real mysteries, not fiction, but for every word I’ve had published, I’ve probably written two that never saw the light of day in print. Sci-fi author Ray Bradbury once mentioned in an interview that he had to write one million words before he got his first short story published in some ’50’s pulp sci-fi magazine. He eventually became so famous that he would only offer his work if he had complete control over it. That is, no quirky editors allowed to tamper with it. Also, if he offered a piece and the publisher rejected it for any reason, he would never submit anything else to them!

    I think in any writing it’s very important to make a detailed outline of what each chapter will cover before the first chapter is even written. It’s much easier to redo that outline as necessary than to keep going back and rewriting whole chapters. I think too many authors try to write books off the top of their heads hoping that they will come up with some clever ending that will make a book’s plot look like great and unique. Then they are surprised when that doesn’t happen and they have to start laborious rewriting or just plain quitting the whole project.

    Anyway, best of luck with your future projects. Maybe you should set a time limit on how long you will stick with a project before you decide to pull the plug on it because it’s not working out? No one likes to admit defeat, but the bigger defeat is wasting precious writing time beating a dead horse expecting it to somehow get up and finish a race!

  4. I think no one wants to be thought of as a ‘quitter’, but when something just isn’t working, it’s wise to walk away, or at least take a long break. It sounds like you put a lot of effort into your work and you only abandoned the project after a giving it a great deal of thought. The older I get, I find myself becoming more and more discriminating about how I spend my time. Not only with writing projects, but with other endeavors as well. Six months of my time now, at 68, has become more valuable to me than it was when I was 38, and certainly more than when I was 28.

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