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Sometimes You Need To Take A Break

What do you do when your manuscript isn’t the love of your life anymore? That was where I was in April 2020. I had my manuscript completed. I read and re-read and re-read until I was sick of it. I edited. I tweaked. I highlighted huge swaths of text and hit delete. In the end, I reached the point where I was simply thrashing in the mud. I didn’t want to even think about the wretched thing.

So I didn’t.

My manuscript didn’t get shoved in a drawer because my desk is never that tidy, but I did let it sit ignored for the entire month of May. That doesn’t mean I stopped working and went on vacation. With Covid-19 locking down 90% of the planet, who did?

Instead, I started a new manuscript, which I am super jazzed about writing. It’s a ghost story and I cranked out about 16,000 words. Not a great number, but not bad. Since it is a new project, I spent a lot of May daydreaming about scenes and laying out plot-lines. I’m a plotter, not a pantser. You writers know what I’m talking about.

Now it’s June and, as I promised myself, I’m back to hacking away at my old manuscript. Let me tell you, that time away was a blessing. The old fire is back! I’ve gone through about a quarter of the manuscript and revamped the story. I’m changing character POVs. A bunch of backstory passages that weren’t necessary got cut. I’m showing more and telling less. Before the break, I wasn’t able to recognize the difference any more.

Basically, I am seeing my old manuscript with new eyes and am excited about the story again.

I suppose that’s true about most things. Taking a break seems to clear the mind, and the tougher the task, and writing’s tough folks, the more the mind needs clearing. If nothing else, it’s better than banging your head against the same old wall day after day. Change walls!

Write something new; a short story, the opening chapters to a new novel, read a new book about writing, editing, plot, and structure, or sign up for a writing class of some kind. While I was on my break, I took Focus on Genre: Young Adult through my local university’s continuing ed. program. It was terrific.

Writing can be exhausting. Getting burned out on a Work In Progress, or WIP, happens. It serves no purpose, keeping the old nose to the grindstone when the nose has been completely ground off. Let it regrow. Giving it a rest doesn’t mean you’re giving up. This is especially true if you are in the game for the long haul. I mean, have you ever read the Breaking In column in Writer's Digest? Three to five years is not that uncommon for a first novel, or even a second. That's a long time to sustain fever pitch.

I hope you find this helpful. Drop me a line and let me know how you deal with WIP nausea.

Be safe and be happy! And do yourself a favor: take a break!

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