Writing Breaks

I thought, up until recently, that if you had momentum while writing to keep at it until it was gone. I had written about 10,000 words in a week and a half and was starting to feel the effects of burnout. I didn’t have the motivation to write, wasn’t excited about what I was writing, and didn’t feel my story was going anywhere.

I write my stories from the beginning sentence to the last sentence, in order. So when I come upon a scene that I am not sure where it is going or how it relates to the rest of the story (because I don’t outline) I get bored and my motivation and excitement about writing the story dwindles until it goes kaput.

But as I was talking to a new writing friend, I got some advice. She said I should only write for me, not for someone else. And if I needed to take a break, I should. Breaks are good. They give the brain a chance to reset, to incubate.

Those were words I needed to hear. I was scared about my lack of excitement for writing because I was losing momentum. As anyone who has ever taken a physics class knows, an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. And okay, this adage has entered the general public’s awareness in some way shape or form. If I lost momentum, would it be gone completely?

This friend’s kind words, along with an explanation of her writing process (nothing for months on end, then working furiously for a couple of weeks) gave me the courage to take a break. And I did.

That day I didn’t work on my novel at all. I watched two movies (unrelated to my novel, subject and genre wise) and read a book (in a different genre than my novel).  The next day, I watched a movie, then read a book, this time in the same genre. These two things inspired me to get writing again and I had the most productive day I had in these past (almost) two weeks. I wrote more than 3,500 words. That is a whole thousand words more than my last record in the past week.

Writing breaks, like incubation periods, allow the writer’s mind to percolate on an idea and subconsciously work out the kinks.

I reworked the scene I thought would be boring and not contribute, and formed it into a pivotal scene where it revealed more information. I am excited about this project again, and it is starting to look like it will be my longest piece yet. Most of my longer fiction tops out at around 24,000 words, from beginning to end. I honestly thought it was closer to 30,000 but I just looked up the word counts. The story I am working on now is 19,000 words and is no where near done. It is still in it’s beginning stages.

I have to be careful and not fall in to the trap of revealing action so soon. In my excitement for what’s to come I often get to the meat of the story quickly, making my writing short (hence, a full story in 24,000 words). This time around I am starting to pay more attention to pacing and revealing the story in bits and pieces, which is driving my excitement insane but will pay off in the end.

If I start to feel burn out again, I will know what to do!


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