Fighting back against the writing slog
A plan to combat burnout by writing something entirely new
Welcome to another Story Cauldron, in which I write about storytelling and share my fiction and occasional pieces about my writing journey. Today I’m going to share an idea I had to try to fight through a bit of burnout
.I’m always so envious of those authors who can knock out book after book. Some people can craft entire series, writing and publishing a book every month or two.
Sadly, I’m not like that. While I can draft a novel in a month (thank you, NaNoWriMo!), it takes me a long time to revise, finish, and get it out into the world.
As I shared last time, I have been working hard on my novel The Hidden Moon. And I’m close to the end! I’m trying to expand the climactic scene and tidy up a few of the other scenes, adding details and changing up a bit of how things get resolved.
I’m so close, but it has become a terrible slog in these final days. The things I’m writing are so difficult and frustrating, and I can’t quite get them the way I want them. It’s not perfectionism rearing its ugly head—I know when I am just fussing with words for the sake of fussing—it’s that I know what I am trying to achieve, and it just isn’t quite there.
An idea emerges
As I was figuratively bashing my head against the wall working on that project, I saw a post on social media about the 3-Day Novel Contest. This is a crazy challenge that happens every Labor Day weekend (aka this weekend).
Back in 2020, when the pandemic was raging, and we literally had nothing better to do, several people in my writing group decided to take the plunge. It was an insane weekend in which I wrote 10K words the first day (a record for me!) and ended up with something like 24K for the three days. After a brief descent into madness, I emerged, I tidied it up, and submitted it.
While that novel (really a novella) didn’t win the contest, it became the first book of my Favor Faeries series, The Girl Behind the Camera. From there, I have written a second novel that I’ve serialized here (in full disclosure, it’s not quite complete, but the last chapter or two is coming soon-ish). I also have about half of both books 3 and 4 written, and they are on my future to-do list, possibly for NaNoWriMo. So that’s not a bad outcome after three days of writing my brains out.
So when I saw the announcement for this year’s contest, I paused and thought about it for a hot second. I didn’t want to pay $60, though, so I decided not to enter officially.
At the same time, I realized I am so burned out on my current project, and I need a break—even a short one.
I decided to make a deal with myself: I’ll put The Hidden Moon aside for Labor Day weekend (only!) and work on something else, as long as I get right back to finishing that novel, and then The Boy Who Can Taste Color (the aforementioned almost completed book 2), both before NaNoWriMo rolls around again in November.
The 4-day long weekend writing adventure
Between now and Friday, I’m hustling to get everything else done so that from Friday-Monday I can immerse myself in writing something fun and new.
The plan right now is to build upon my short story “The Attic Witch.” Back in 2018, I discovered that Holly Black (one of my favorite authors) was going to be participating in the Armadillocon writing workshop in Austin, TX. Talk about lighting a fire under me! I didn’t have anything appropriate for the workshop, so I dashed off a story loosely based on the concept of something I remember as a kid but haven’t been able to find. As I explained, it was really just a “proof of concept” for a longer work. As it turned out, I got to be in Holly’s group, and she really liked what I wrote and gave me great feedback. But for some reason, I never really did anything with it.
So now it’s 2023. My plan is to build on the first part of the story, in which a girl named Amy discovers a witch named Magalie living in her attic. I think I have a story arc, but I don’t have much more than that. I’m just going to write by the seat of my pants and see what comes of it.
And basically, that’s all I’m going to do this weekend. I’ll sit at the computer or with a notebook and try to write as many words as possible—and see where it goes. Believe it or not, even though I feel burned out, this plan is getting me EXCITED. It feels like a vacation! Maybe it’s because I’m feeding the part of my soul that wants to create something new, or maybe it’s because I’m giving myself four days to write, but it is firing me up. I’m already pondering where to take my laptop and wondering how long I can keep it going.
Maybe by Monday, I’ll have a good chunk of a new novel. Maybe I’ll have a new short story that works better than what I have now. Or maybe I’ll have another novella. Who knows?
I’ll report back next week with how things went.
In the meantime, if you want to cheer me on, you can comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.