This week, I find myself staring at a fork in the road. There’s no way of knowing which path is the correct one to choose. One direction will continue with pretty much how things are now, the other offers something new…
June 14, 2021
Are you familiar with the sunk cost fallacy? Basically, it’s where you’ve put a considerable investment into something and therefore find it harder to walk away, no matter how it’s going. That investment could be money, time, or effort. You feel like you can’t walk away as that investment would be wasted. Sounds kind of like giving up!
So, here’s the thing. You can’t just look at everything you do and give up all the time. You wouldn’t get anywhere with that attitude. The sunk cost fallacy is more concerned with a scenario where any further investment will make you unhappy or worse off. Let’s say you invested a lot of time into a project, but it wasn’t going the way you thought it would. Do you cut your losses and walk away or keep throwing time at it? How much time? When do you call it a day?
I’m sure you’ve seen me talk about the Black Death trilogy before… if not, welcome to my blog… Well, I’ve been working on this project since the latter half of 2017. I actually took a break from my fantasy series to do it. It was a joint project with two other authors and it was supposed to be a quick project. The idea being that three authors could write a trilogy faster than one.
As of the beginning of 2018 two of us had written our parts for all three books. The third author was still working on it. Several months later, I heard from the other author that the third author had pulled out. At that point, I was on paternity leave with my son which made it hard for me to do much. The other remaining author put together a rough draft of a third arc to fill in. He then handed it all over to me to edit.
I got to work and soon discovered that there were a number of timing issues. When we decided to write these we picked a story structure and followed that so that we were all hitting the right beats at the right moments. The only problem was we never discussed the amount of time that had passed between beats. Just from the first book we had one arc taking four days, another six days, and the third one day.
Leaving as it was would be a horrible experience for any readers as the timeline bounced around all over the place. So, I time-stamped every chapter and started to look for ways to move stuff around. I did that and was pretty happy until I looked at the beats. Now, the acts weren’t aligned. By that, I mean you want the third act of each arc to happen together so that it felt like one book and not a collection of jumbled stories.
Of course, while this happened there was, and still is, a global pandemic. I was pushed to my limits, surviving on four hours of sleep a night as I tried to work, school the kids, and blog. Every time I have got back to working on this story something else has happened. If I believed in signs, I would think that the book was cursed. On top of that, it’s about survivors in a global pandemic… who is going to want to read that? We’ve all been living it (although I’m certainly glad I didn’t go through anything the characters in the book did.)
I should point out at this point that at no time did my co-author put any undue pressure on me. If anything that was me. In fact, I was putting so much pressure on myself that it pretty much blocked all other creativity. This series has been blocking my progress for about four years now… So, while speaking with my co-author recently, he said that if things are getting too much that he’s happy to give it up as a bad job. Treat it as a learning experience.
That sentence took a huge weight off my shoulders. In last week’s Author Journey, I wrote a couple of paragraphs about the Black Death series and how I wasn’t sure it fit with the direction I was planning on going with my writing. I had started to wonder if this was the best thing for my career. As for my co-author, he too is much more focused on epic fantasy now, so it would be an odd release for him as well. I deleted those paragraphs before publishing the post.
Now, I hate failing. I don’t like to lose at anything. For me, quitting is not something I do. However, this feels like it’s the right time to call it a day on the Black Death trilogy. I will still have my arc and may one day do something with it. It’s not a complete loss, but the flood of creativity that has hit me since my co-author said that sentence has been overwhelming. Suddenly, I’m thinking about my other projects and things are clicking back into gear.
I said that I would have a think about it through June, but I think that I already know the answer. It’s hard to argue with the way my mind has responded to this opportunity. I hate to give up, but maybe the Black Death needs to die so that I can live once more.
There are only three episodes left of Fruits Basket! It’s been quite the journey. With sixty episodes already, I’ve been talking about Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki for over a year. It’s going to be odd when it’s over.
I’ve got back to work on Heaven’s Lost Property, which has been a lot of fun to revisit. Since I finished watching and reviewing Otherside Picnic, I started work on the next series that I’ll be looking at. It will be taking over from Fruits Basket, although it is nothing like Fruits Basket. On top of those, I have been watching a couple of shows on a more casual basis this season and they’re coming to an end soon. Think I might do that again next season.
So, the bulk of this post has been me debating with myself about the Black Death trilogy and whether to administer it a fatal dose of penicillin. I think it would have been a great project four years ago, but today, I’m not so sure. I’d welcome any thoughts on the topic too. Have you ever had to cut your losses on a project? How did you know when to do it? Do you have any regrets?
Anyhow, I’ve got some thinking to do. Stay safe and thanks for reading.