Is There a Time to Kill Your Novel? I Say No.

Yesterday, author Marcus Brotherton guest-posted for literary agent Rachelle Gardner, whose blog should be a must-read for all aspiring novelists. The title of his post was, “A Time to Kill… Your Novel.”

I have to say, from the get-go, I didn’t like the idea of the post — deciding when the time was right to kill a novel or put it away forever. But I read it and thought about it all night, actually. I totally identify with Brotherton’s experiences — the rejections, the promise of a publishing deal and then the thud of the deal falling through or of things never coming to fruition — but I disagree with his logic.

I don’t think there’s ever a time to kill a novel. Here’s what I wrote to Brotherton in the comment section:

Your response to Alisa made me giggle. My husband claims to be a “realist” as well, particularly when he thinks I’ve got my head in the clouds, which is pretty much all the time…

I actually read your guest post yesterday, and it unsettled me. I was thisclose to responding, but then decided to sleep on it. Now here I am no closer to a well-worded and insightful response than yesterday, but here goes:

The idealist in me says never give up. Never. Never ever ever. If you believe in what you’ve got, for the love of god, hold onto it and shout it to the world. Rejection is a part of the business.

Just as you say that so many writers have novels that never saw the light of day before they hit it big, there are just as many writers who were told their stuff sucked but carried on anyway and became successful with those “rejected” manuscripts.

Does that mean you should ignore criticism? Or course not. Use it. Learn from it. Own it. Make your novel better. Every novel can be made better.

The thing is, all writers — ALL of us — are plagued with self-doubt, whether we’re newbies or seasoned published authors. It’s a part of what we do. Who we are. And to tell us when it’s time to kill our novel is, I worry, giving us permission to give into our deepest fears instead of fighting them.

In my heart of hearts, I don’t think there is EVER a time to kill a novel. Put it on the back burner, sure. Save it for another day to edit? Why not. Self-publish? Give it a try. Use parts of it in other creative works? You bet. But don’t stick it into a drawer and forget about it. That, to me, would be the death not only of a novel, but also of a piece of the novelist.

What do you think? Is there a time to kill a novel? If I had thought that way, Baby Grand may never have come to be.


3 thoughts on “Is There a Time to Kill Your Novel? I Say No.

  1. Dina,

    I totally agree with you. We can never give up hope that someday, somehow, our hard work will pay off and one person will say “YES.” This happened to me.

    My debut novel “The Final Salute” was rejected 100 times over a 16 year period. During that time, I honed my craft. I taught myself how to write fiction. I worked. I prayed. I crossed my fingers. I cussed A LOT! But I never gave up. I walked away from writing for a time, but I didn’t walk away from HOPE. From the dream that one day I would see my novel in print.

    Then one day in 2008, the publisher of a small, traditional press in CA said he wanted to publish my novel. “The Final Salute” was released on my 50th birthday. I was 34 when I started writing it.

    I have two unfinished novels in the bottom of my file cabinet. Although I probably won’t ever try to “finish” them, I haven’t killed them because I’m already “harvesting” some of the good stuff for my new novel.

    Thanks once again for another great blog entry. And thanks for keeping it real.

    Here’s to “Baby Grand” and all those novels that are waiting for that one person to say “YES.”


  2. I’ve wondered if I should kill my novel because I’ve been working on it for what seems like fifty years. (not really) But there’s still a bit of life left in the thing. I’d hate to give up on it too soon.

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