Readerly Person is a B.A. candidate in Political Science at U.C. Berkley in California, and blogs at Elephants On Trapezes. She is currently hard at work on an as-yet-unnamed novel (which was originally called "Project Voldemort").
About a week ago I was roughly 12,000 words into my work in progress. Now, 12,000 words isn't bad. It's about a fifth of many YA novels out there (a genre I'm tentatively placing my project in). If indeed I had been one fifth through my novel and happily puttering along, everything would have been fine. However, things weren't fine. Not in the least.
The problem was that I'd been working on this project since January, and was still only at 12,000 words. You think that's bad, try this: only 1,000 of them had been written in the last two months.
I have many problems when it comes to writing, perfectionism and procrastination being chief among them, so even while my progress on this project had slowed to the merest trickle I was still trying to power through. I tried writing by hand, writing in the morning, writing under the light of the midnight moon... Still nothing. I was completely and utterly without words. And even worse, I was completely and utterly without the motivation to continue.
I must be clear: hitting a slump does not mean it's time to throw away your baby. There are many times when a brisk walk around the block, a tweak of character here and a cliffhanger chapter there will get the writing engines rumbling once more. But this slump was not just a slump. It was the loss of all desire to write this story. And after a few nights of (hard) thinking, it came to me: I'd started out with a vision of the story, and its current position was nowhere near what I'd wanted it to be.
A little general background: this project started out as a fairy tale, but to obscure its origins I'd moved some people to an island, thrown in extraneous characters, and killed off original monsters, the end result being that I'd made it into every other generic YA fantasy/adventure in the world. Beside the fact that no one wants their story to be generic, I missed the original tale terribly. I wanted it back, and there was no way to get there from its morphed position.
So I threw it out, all 12,000 words, and started over. And now it's better. Better as in I find myself thinking about the story when I'm not writing it, world-building when I should be studying for my finals, even dreaming about it occasionally. And finally (finally!) I'm getting stuff done.
This is not to say that one should throw away every project once interest is lost. But there are times when a slump is not just a slump, and it's important to recognize that sometimes there are worse things to do than start over.