Letting Go of Your Story

6:00 AM

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She was eleven years old, and she loved to read. She also loved to play make-believe with her siblings. They made up all sorts of games in their backyard (creating worlds was her favorite) and always had a lot of fun running from savages, swinging across deadly, bubbling lava to get healing water and cheese burgers from the Supply Tree, and making giant stew for the folk in the kingdom of the clouds.


It was this kind of imagination that fueled this eleven year old girl's first story. 

The story was one you'd probably expect. It was about a young, brave girl who was kidnapped and taken to another world, where a magical ice princess declared this girl had magical powers and was destined to save the world. Of course, the ice princess turned out to be an evil ruler of the land, and the young heroine is rescued by the real heroes, who tell her she IS destined to save the world, but from the ice princess, and that in order to do so she must learn how to use her magical powers that are, of course, practically limitless and very, very special, and then she must embark on an epic quest to save the magical world she's been dragged off to.

There were lots of dragons and faeries and princesses and magic in this story. There was lots of running and fighting and kidnapping and escaping and action and adventure. The story was fun.

But the story was childish. It was conceived and written by this eleven year old girl, after all. 

This eleven year old girl wrote on this story for an embarrassingly long time. In fact, she didn't realize it was time to move on until four years had passed. Only in her fifteenth year did she begin to overcome her deep attachment for her childhood story and see that it was time to move on.


As you've probably guessed, this eleven year old girl was me. This was my story. I used to be embarrassed (and perhaps I still am, just a little bit) of it. It was cliche and childish, and I knew it pretty early on into writing it. 

But I didn't care. This was deeply rooted in my heart, and I couldn't let it go.

Which poses a big question.

How do you know when the time has come to let a story go? 

Let me make sure you understand. I've spent four and a half years of my life on this series. I have all nine books planned out. All the characters and their arcs, all the big plot twists that work their way through the entire stinkin' series. Pretty complex stuff.

I have extensive maps (fourteen? fifteen?), which includes extensive world building. Lots of unique places, a lot of history (like, a LOT), tons of cultures and races and species. Lots of different beings and creatures and people. I'd built a really extensive, complex magic system.

So many characters and plots and plotlines and NOTES. SO MANY NOTES. Five journals are full of notes dedicated to just this series. Five. Completed.

see themmm? the bottom one is mostly for this series, except for the last 20
pages which contain the first brainstorming I did on my WIP.
the pink one was my very first journal to complete.


You see, I only wrote this series. From the moment I started writing and on, this was the only project I worked on (excepting a book I coauthored with my cousin).

I had some ideas, but they were simply that: ideas. I didn't really work on any of them. 98% of my creativity went pouring into this project. And I had a ton of ideas.

To let all of that go?

How? How could I do that? It was so. much. work. So many ideas. Book one: 453 pages, handwritten. Book two: 416 pages, also handwritten. The beginning of book three, almost a hundred pages. And then typed up drafts of books one and two, coming out 97k and 92k. Not to mention endless rewrites after that of book one, a book I just couldn't seem to get right.

When the thought of letting go of this story finally settled in my mind almost a year ago, I balked. How could I do this? So much work ... what a waste! Seriously. How could I just throw this story away?

(yup - those are the first three books. Book three is unfinished)

Well, point one is that I didn't throw it away.

I still plan on writing all nine books. They're in my head, and I can't get them out. I might just hand write them, not go on to type them up or edit them. We'll see.

And I think if you're losing  hope in a story, that's the first step. Put it aside for a while, but don't trash it. Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted and many other amazing books (she's such an amazing author aksjdflhkasdjflhsdkj) talked in her book, Writing Magic, about never throwing away anything you write. And that is so true.


Point two: what is your reason for writing the story? 

Are you just starting out? Maybe your WIP is your way of getting a feel for this writing thing. The best way to learn how to write is by doing it. I had to write a massive amount of words before I started to get the hang of it. All of the pages you see in the picture above are full of horrible words. So are most of the typed versions.

I had to start bad. We all do.

So why are you writing this story?

When I was trying to decide if I should give it up, let the story go and put my creativity and time into something else, my cousin came to me with wise advice (as she always does).

She said something along the lines of, "Maybe you don't need to publish this story. Maybe that's not what it's for."

At first, this idea took me completely aback. Publishing is every writer's goal, right? It hangs in the distance, a sparkling, tantalizing beacon of light that guides us on the long winding road.

I'd never really thought about not publishing.

But when I really thought about what my cousin was trying to say, I realized she was right (as usual). This series, as it is right now at least ... it doesn't want to be published. That's not why I wrote it. I wrote it because I needed to start somewhere. I needed to develop my writing style and refine my craft.

It was my "trial run" if you will.

And sure, we're constantly learning more and getting better at writing. But there does come a point when you hit this mark and your writing evens out. I can look back at some of my writing from yesterday and not flinch like I did when I was thirteen.

Ask yourself - what are you writing this book for?


Point three is that, whether you plan to keep writing it or not, whether you plan to publish or not ... we all have to let go of our stories at some point. 

It's just a given. The moment you let someone read your words, you have to let it go. Because it's not just yours anymore.

You even have to let it go before that. Before you sit down to write the first word, you have to let it go.

Remember the thing about butterflies? They're beautiful and perfect ideas when they live in your brain-garden, free from the 2D world of writing.

When you begin your book, you have to let go of that perfection.

You can't write it perfectly on your first try. There are going to be plot holes and messy descriptions and inconsistent characters. And even little things, like grammar errors and typos - they're all there in draft one. And often in draft two, three, four, and so on.

You have to let go of your story.

When you write the first word, you have to let it go. Let go of the perfection.

When you give it to a reader for the first time, be it your cousin or your mother, you have to let it go. Let go of your story so when they give you feedback/critiques, you can handle it. You can know they're not attacking you as a person. They're just trying to help you make the story better.

And if you reach a point with your book when you don't feel called to keep writing it anymore, then ... put it aside. Ponder why you started it to begin with, and why you're still working on it.

Let it go.

Have you let go of your story? Do you struggle with giving it up? 

<3

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15 comments

  1. Oh my goodness yesss this post is so TRUE AND HONEST and this is basically me with my first novel heh. XD

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    1. *pats little writers everywhere* We're so clueless when we first start out. It's inevitable XP

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  2. James Oliver1/21/17, 9:02 AM

    WHAT A BEAUTIFUL POST! I recently reread (more like lightly skimmed) my first book, and so I get this on so many levels. There wasn't even a plot, it was just adventures to show off worldbuilding that never quite connected into anything. Though there was supposedly an evil sorceress behind everything *eye rolls at younger self*. I did get something out of rereading it though, and there certainly is plenty of worldbuilding to steal.

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    1. Yessss! If I ever reinvent this series, I will keep most of the worldbuilding and at least the essences of most of the characters. They are gems in every bit of art, however small.

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  3. Oh...Hannah. When I was little, I used to go into our backyard (by a stream) and come up with the craziest things. They developed into sort of plays; I played all parts, and when I look back, how that imagination was in a 7-9 year old...I have no idea. A girl named "Pink Ink" and a whole entire series of one girl going into different worlds (like a mix of Peter Pan and Narnia *pulling hair*).

    This was also how I became a writer. My imagination.

    I never really stayed on one story (perhaps this is why I don't have to let the old ones go) because as soon as I started one, another idea would come into my head, and the last would be left unfinished. Fortunately I broke that syndrome when I was older. But I'll never forget my wild, unoriginal plots of sand-pit days.

    Rather, nature still tugs my seam away and fills me with fresh ideas. I'm still like I was. And all the new ideas I get? They have hints of the old.

    So true! Your blog is too cute girl <3 this post was the best ;) never forget your old books (but take breaks...it does help)
    -Mic

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    1. Aw <3 I always wanted to live by a stream *dreamy sigh* That would have upped the game options by a ton!

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  4. Oh I totally relate to this! Except I was 14 when I started THE SERIES OF MY LIFE and awk I wrote it for like 5 years??? Took a break, and now it's like 9 years later and I'm back to writing it. :') I think it's definitely okay to let go of books and to move on...but I also think if that story cannot let us go, then we should rework it and rewrite and re-plot and just keep at it!!

    I've got a ton of drafts that I'm okay with letting go because I'm not enthusiastic for them anymore and I know they're cliche. hehe. They're building blocks though! I learnt to write through them. SO ALL THE FOND MEMORIES. <3 So I do both. I let go and I keep holding. It just depends on what my feels are towards a particular story.

    Suuuuch a beautiful post. :')

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    1. Oh WOWWWW THAT'S SO AMAZING THAT YOU'RE WRITING IT AGAIN!!! :D I'm so happy for you! I'm pretty sure I'll revamp this series someday, but I have no idea when.

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  5. This was so heartfelt and beautiful, Hannah. I <3 this!!!!

    I have so many ideas that I'm like "this would be an epic bestseller! I have to write it!" Then I start and it just doesn't work. Recently, I TOTALLY reworked my first story idea, and now it's so radically different I can hardly tell it's the same thing. I couldn't do the last three books because they wouldn't fit anymore, and those were my FAVORITE. I totally get what it's like to let go of a book or let some ideas live forever in your head. This was so so amazing and encouraging!

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    1. Aw that's the hardest. Killing your darlings. *hands you chocolate* It makes things better though, even though it hurts <3

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  6. ugh yes basically me on my second "novel" adventure years ago. basically I wrote it, edited it and then rewrote it AND THEN I FINALLY REALIZED I SHOULD QUIT IT - like, finally. heh. xP but yes, I'm so glad I did - it did help me grow in my writing a lot.

    this post is just totally me and just yes

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    1. Letting it go is like, so rewarding but so hard. *hugs* You're so right though - it really helps you grow!

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  7. Love this Hannah! I guess I kinda let go of my first story (in a way). I had a hard time giving it up since I really liked what I had come up with. It took me awhile to realize that the new idea I'd thought of was better than the first one (I think it took me about 2-3 years to realize this). Even though I hadn't planned to, I ended up changing A LOT of what I originally had. I got my WIP page up, if you want to get an idea of what my first story (which I changed, obviously) is about. ("Strangers" is the title I gave it.) :D

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  8. I have a series that I thought I'd publish. Haha, I only plan to write two or one more book/s. I do have two other stories I gotta complete. Ugh.

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