There are times when a manuscript needs a firm, guiding hand to get it ship-shape. There are other times, however, when the manuscript (or muse) is guilty of manhandling the writer. This isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes, letting a manuscript have its own way can be quite a boon. I've joked many times that my characters come up with much better stuff than I write on my own. On the other hand, there are books that defy every attempt to tame them into graceful, cohesive prose. These obstinate projects refuse to bend to the author's will and have no good ideas of their own. A writer may try any number of ways to "force" the words out, but they do not come.
In these cases, it's time to STOP. Step away from the offending book slowly and let it think about what it has done.
Putting a manuscript in time out can be a frustrating prospect. When you've put so much time and effort into a project, setting it aside can feel like a failure. But just as a time out can help redirect a misbehaving tot, sticking your wayward story in a corner--for the time being--can smooth out the kinks.
This breather from begging, battling, and bribing doesn't mean all writing efforts should cease. This isn't a warning sign that it's time to consider a change in careers, or even that you should take a vacation from writing. When one child earns a time out, the rest don't get disciplined along with him. So set a mental timer for when you want to go back to the naughty volume, and then move right into the next project.
There may be fear that once a book is in the naughty corner, it may never come out again. In my years of writing, the truth is, there have been one or two that fit that description. The first is over a decade old. Oh, I revisit it from time to time, but it continues to elude a reasonable conclusion. And so it sits, waiting for the right time, and yet without the power to stop me from completing other projects.
I've just put another in time out for refusing to be completed in time for me to move onto holiday deadlines and NaNoWriMo. Let's hope that book is feeling more generous after we've had some much needed time apart.