When you read the title of this post, you might be wondering what “book adultery” means. It’s a term that I found on the incomparable Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog, which is where I find a lot of my writerly wisdom. Wendig posted something a while back about the importance of finishing your writing projects. One of the reasons he gave for finishing projects is to prevent book adultery. By definition, book adultery is when you “commit adultery” on your current project by starting another one.
I’m sure we all know the siren song of the new project. Compared to the one that you’re working on, that new project probably seems glittery, fresh, and enticing. It’s very tempting indeed to abandon your current project — which is, by now, musty, boring, and drab — in favor of that new one. And why, you might ask, should you prevent this abandonment? Well, Wendig sums up some very good reasons for finishing projects in his post, but I’ll say that finishing projects just makes you feel good. To write “the end” on a story and know that you’ve followed through with your idea gives you a sense of accomplishment that can then propel you into your next project, which you’re now more likely to finish because you’ve built up a habit of finishing.
Wendig also mentions the power of habit. He says, “a lot of the things we do as writers are given over to habit. We can develop bad habits…or we can develop good ones. Develop the habit that helps you finish your work. Prevent [book adultery] by keeping that new manuscript in mind (take some quick notes, write a logline, then move on) while actually finishing your current one.”
My favorite part about this piece of advice is that it allows you to cheat just a little bit. If you can’t seem to keep your mind off your new idea, jot down something about the story. Write out a bit of dialogue that keeps nagging at your brain, or start on an outline so that you don’t lose those precious nuggets of information. Always remembering, of course, to return to your current project.
So, stick with the story that you’re working on right now! If you feel that you’ve lost your enthusiasm for the story, find something to make it more interesting. Add in a spicy new detail that will get your imagination working again. With just a bit of work, you can breathe new life into a project that seems boring now. And when you finish this one, then you can move on to another. And you’ll have a finished manuscript hidden away for the day when you catch the editing bug.
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan