I’ve got two book drafts finished (one is a dystopian thriller of 140k words, second is an offbeat horror novella of 27k words) and I’m feeling exceedingly burnt out looking ahead at the Editing/ReWriting process. I’m in a writer’s group so I have a LOT of notes and general awareness of all of the changes I need to get in and do, but I’m very hesitant to dig into this post-writing work. What are your strategies for either recharging or for more joyfully embracing this grueling slog of reworking your first drafts?
First, congratulations! You’ve finished not one but two manuscripts! That’s a fantastic achievement.
Since you’re in a writer’s group, I’m sure you know that burnout is absolutely normal. As with writer’s block, what works for one person may not work for another. But here’s some spaghetti to throw at the refrigerator door:
- Walk away from it for a while if you can. The longer, the better, though even a week should help.
- Engage in other activities that are NOT writing and NOT mentally taxing. Hike somewhere pretty, go out with friends and laugh a lot, take care of things around the house that you let slide while you finished writing (you know you did).
- Do something else creative that doesn’t involve writing. Design family shirts for the next reunion, or go to one of those places where you can BYOB and paint a picture. When I was burned out from writing my master’s thesis, I signed up for voice lessons and learned some French opera.
When you do sit down to revise, you might try some of the same tricks that can help you with drafting:
- Change your locale. If you usually write at your kitchen table, try another place in your home, or at a coffee shop or library, or outdoors somewhere.
- Change your workspace. If you usually write at a desk, try a recliner or stretched out on the floor. Or if you want to stay put, clean the area thoroughly. Make sure it’s organized and contains a few items that make you happy. Line up your Funko Pop collection beside your monitor. Been meaning to print some family photos for a frame on your desk? Now’s the time to do that.
It sounds like you already pretty much know what revisions are needed, but just in case you have more to work out:
- Change the medium. If you’ve been doing most of your work in Word or Google Docs, try printing chapters and making notes by hand, with multicolored pens and highlighters. Make liberal use of sticky notes.
- Zoom out. Do you have character arcs and a good outline of your story? If not, this might be a good time to write those out. It’ll help you see whether you have big-picture issues that need tweaking.
- Prioritize. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by revision and aren’t sure where to start, try making a to-do list. Just go through the notes you have and stick ’em in a bulleted list, then see if you can group them by type and prioritize them. It might look something like this:
- Add scene about __________.
- Revise scene about __________ to add __________.
- Figure out why ch. ___ through ___ feels clunky.
- Find a good place to plant foreshadowing for __________.
- Sidekick is static. Figure out a better character arc.
- Add more background info about __________.
- [Fellow writer] said the dialogue is too stilted. Revise as needed.
- Add more setting description for __________ and __________.
….and so on.
I hope something here helps! Best of luck in your revision process.
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