Writer Burn Out

The Symptoms

1) You’re drained. There comes a moment in every writer’s career when they’ve pushed themselves so hard to accomplish things that their mental and emotional self can’t keep up anymore. You tire easily and can’t see yourself writing another word.

2) Writing no longer holds your attention. There will always be those moments when you are working on a story or article and you realized that it no longer interests you. But writer burn out is when you start to lose interest in your work and you can’t see yourself continue with anything else.

3) The thought of writing fills you with dread. Working becomes harder and harder. Writing becomes stress in overdrive.

6 Tips To Avoid Writer Burn Out

1) Do something active. If the words refuse to come, doing something active can help to reboot your mind or give you a chance away from your writing to think about it. Take a walk, exercise, or do some housework.

2) Explore new topics or styles of writing. You can also change topic, stories, scenes, or even genres. A change of scenery, even if it’s just in your writing, can help stave off writer burn out.

3) Schedule one or more days off each week. This mini vacation will not only allow you to catch up on the house or yard work, but give you a break to renew your batteries and keep you from overworking yourself.

4) Take a break. You can take a spend some time with family or friends, 10 minute break, a reading break, a stretch break, meditate, take a nap, or watch a movie.

5) Don’t overload yourself. It can be so easy to take on more than we can handle. Between the writing, promoting, blogging, other jobs, housework, and social networking, it can be too much if we don’t space it out. Scheduling when to do something and giving yourself app time to accomplish it can keep stress at bay.

How do you ward off writer burn out? What to do when you already have writer burn out?

Tune in next week for Recovering from Writer’s Burn Out.

Improving the Reader-Character Interaction

While reading the Writer this month (a paid for subscription before I realized I was going to go the Self-publishing route). I came across an article that made me think. It wasn’t necessarily about character creation, but there was a moment when the writer touched on creating characters. The writer, Melissa Hart, drove home the idea that it is not only the protagonist, but every character in the book that risks something.  And we as writers need to show the readers what is at stake for the various characters—even if it’s just a passing mention or foreshadow for the next book—because characters that have something at stake are in danger of losing something if they gamble on a particular character or course of action.

Ask yourself this simple question , “What is at stake for this character?” If you can answer this question you are a step closer to learning your characters fears, hopes, motivations, and anxieties. You are closer to improving the quality of your writing. You give the readers insight into the minds of your characters and a chance to better understand them. You are a step closer to giving the reader a firm sense of who the characters are.

The writer, Melissa Hart, had a suggestion on how she does this. She creates freewrites based on questions about her characters. What do they love? What motivates them? What do they hide from the world? What are they afraid of?

I’ve also heard of authors doing Character Interviews. For example: Interview the villain about what motivates him. (e.g. Why did you murder X? Why have you sworn revenge on this particular man/family/group of people? What made you decide to run this scam?) ; interview the heroine about what drives her. (e.g. Why is it so important to you to switch jobs? Why do you want to move to a different city? What is it about X that draws you to him? How did you become estranged from your sister?) ; interview characters about a specific aspect of their lives. (e.g. What was the most significant event you can remember from your childhood? What are your political beliefs? Do you have a deep, dark secret? What is one thing that you have done that you would prefer others not to know about? What do you think would be the perfect lifestyle? How quickly can you make decisions?)

Do you have any suggestions?

Why is it so Hard to Finish a Novel?

In the 14 years I have been writing, I have only finished 1 novel with about 20 unfinished novels in the wings and a 2nd one in the rough draft stages of development. Why has it taken me so long to finish a novel? I have a theroy about that.

First, I got caught up in my first novel that keep morphing into various other plot lines and which I just wasn’t ready to let go of until December 2008. It was one of those books that should have been laid to rest 10 years ago when I finished High School and didn’t need it anymore. If you have a project like this, I found boxing it up and sticking it somewhere for a few months helps put everything into perspective.

Second, I’m a planner. Not one of those worksheet overload, over planning types of planners. But a basic planner. I need a direction for the story to go and a few points/scenes to help me along the way and I’m set. I have a very simple character sketch, setting sketches and notes about the worlds I create, along with a formatted outline which is basically a glorified rough draft. This is something I didn’t know about myself until last year.

Third, I have more ideas floating around my head then I’ll ever have the time to write. There is always this tendency for my mild ADD to kick in and for me to drop the current project for a new one. Hence, the reason that I have 20 partially written novels. 🙂 I’ve started to keep an idea folder and notebook, one on the computer and one in a three-ring binder.

And fourth, not only do I hate to let things go (abandonment issues, you know), I also fear rejection. No one fear for my house, I’m not a pack rat, but there are certian things that I just can’t let go or I don’t want to end. My fictional characters and worlds are one. Some days they are more real to me then the real world. Humm? Does this mean that I should rent out a room at the insane asylm? Probably not.

Regardless, when I first placed a piece of my work online for all to read. I was elated and nervous, this was something I wanted–I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 8-years-old–and there was that fear that my work would be rejected as so much of my writing has been over the years. Let me clarify this. I don’t fear that some one wouldn’t like my writing. I can handle some one not liking the story, its not really a personal attack as a personal preference. Its the idea that people will hate me personally for what they read in my writing. For those who think this doesn’t happen, let me tell you about the poems in the 2nd grade, the ghost story in the 6th (I think my aunt suggested my mom take me to a psychologist), or all of my High School years (I was a strange kid)….

Nay, lets not go down memory lane today. Now that I’ve told you mine reasons. Would anyone like to share theirs?

The Idea Book, Box, or Computer File

Since I finished the revisions to my current novel, I decide to take a look through my idea notebook so I could start plotting out my next novel after the one I’m writing. Confused yet. I am.

Anyways, out of curiosity, I wondering how many of you authors have an idea notebook, box, or computer file? How many of you keep it in your head and play it by ear when it comes time to write your next novel? Or what do you do to come up with new ideas?

Using Free Reads to Promote Your Novels

I am a big fan of free read, not just because I’m frugal with money, but because I hate to invest a lot of money on an author whose writing style I can’t stand. When buying the book of an unknown author online, it’s even more important that I know that I’m going to like them.

An excerpt of the novel can help sell the book, but a short story or novella showcasing a writers ability to keep the plot moving to the end is even better in my mind. However, if you plan on following this route to promoting your books, please, please, please, post your best work so you don’t scare away potential customers. I don’t know how many short stories and novellas I read this last week and am completely turned off reading any of those authors. Very few were due to mislabeled their story genres that I wasn’t interested in.

I was wondering how everyone else felt about using free reads to promote their work?

Joining Forces with other Writers

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that with the right co-author, writing books can be easy and productive. In the last three years I have joined forces with two different authors, one is my friend Ruth Ann Nordin to write My Lord Hades, the other was a writer who would like to remain anyomous, writing under the pseudonym Timothy Reese Richards.

For those looking to join forces with other writers, here are a few things I suggest you do to make your partnership a good experience.

1. Pick your partner. Pick a partner you are familiar with and work well with. Many people gravate toward their critique partners or long-time writing friends.

2. Have a contract. Even if you are best friends, have a  contract made out for each project you will be undertaking. The contract protects all the authors involved and allows you to outline all your writing tasks before hand.

3. Assign each author a task. By outlining the responsibilities and assigning a task to each author, no one is stuck doing everything. Strengths can be divided among both authors and weakness in one author can be taken by the other.

4. Figure out who gets last say. This one is important. There will be times when you and your co-author don’t agree on how something should go. It is best to decided ahead of time who will have the last say in the arguement.

An example contract