Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IWSG: Burning Fast and Bright or Burning Out?

I'm not one to turn away opportunity. After all, you don't know if it will come knocking again at all, or that you'll be free to take it at another time. But even though I've got a ready publisher willing to take on the fourth and fifth books of my planned 5-book series, I'm taking a pause from writing them.

It's scary as heck.

I'm worried that I'll lose momentum in sales and building buzz. But I'm also worried that if I keep going at this pace, I'm going to burn out and lose my love of the work.

A little history:

I got my first book contract in 2014 and the book (Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel) came out in spring 2015. When the first book was accepted, I was partway through writing the second, Change of Life. I finished it in early summer 2015, then quickly wrote a novella in the same world for an anthology my publisher was putting together (Indomitable Ten). Both the anthology and the second book came out in spring 2016.

Meanwhile, I wrote another novella and two short stories in the same world for other anthologies (Theme-Thology: Mad Science, The Good Fight 3: Sidekicks, and The Realms Beyond ), a handful of stories for my blog and newsletter readers, and the third novel, which is is in edits now and has a summer 2017 release planned. That makes 10 works of varying lengths in a single universe in three years writing time.

That's quite a wave I've been riding, and I'm tired.

I couldn't be more thrilled to have so much interest in my work, but this pace is exhausting (it doesn't yet pay enough to let me cut down on the day job), and worse than that, it's not fun.

Readers of this blog probably remember that I had to do a revise and resubmit on the third novel. Looking back on it, I think I ended up in that spot due to a combination of trying to work too fast and burnout.

So, I'm doing something I hope is brave and not stupid: I'm not writing the fourth novel yet. Instead, I'm going back to a completely different novel, my NaNoWriMo project from 2015 and making it my 2017 project to finish. I want to have it ready for submission by August. It's a middle grades novel, which doesn't feature any superheroes, but does have a lot of science and magic: Rat Jones and the Lacrosse Zombies.

I'm thinking this is a good idea for a few reasons: finding the fun again, not burning out, diversifying my output.

I'm thinking this is a bad idea mostly because I'm worried that I won't be able to easily pick it back up again after taking a break or that readers will have lost interest.

But I figure that it's better to have readers lose interest because of a longer wait for book four than because I release a sub-par book four. This would be a great time to have a crystal ball and know that my decision is the right one to serve my writing career, but since I don't, I'll just ask all of you to tell me I'm doing the right thing. I am, right?
If you're not already following #IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group), you should really check it out. The monthly blog hop is a panoply of insight into the writing life at all stages of hobby and career. Search the hashtag in your favorite social media venue and you'll find something interesting on the first Wednesday of every month.

This month the group asked "Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?" So far for me, the answer is no, I haven't. I've just begun reworking an "old" novel, but it's only been two years since I wrote the draft I have, so it's not really that old. In fact, I haven't been at this long enough in any serious way to have any really old work to go back to. Before I was thirty-five, I'd only written poetry and essays, not novels. I do have one trunk novel I'd like to go back and revise at some point, but we'll see what we see. 


  1. Burn out is real. I think it's a brave move and I hope you are rewarded for it. Nobody benefits from a mental break down. =) Cheese to you!

  2. I think taking a break would be much better than forcing yourself to write a book that won't come out as good.

  3. Thanks, guys. It really does help to have someone else say I'm doing the right thing. I hope we're all right!

  4. Unless you have some contractual deadline, I'm always a big proponent of trying new things and putting things aside to stew. The longer you work on something the more tedious it gets, and if you have to force it, it won't come out as well. Let yourself be creative and do something different for awhile.

    1. I am fortunate that I don't have a particular contractual deadline. There are deadlines to hit to get certain release dates, but since I'm shooting for 2019 rather than 2018 for book 4, I can pace myself a bit.

  5. Don't think you're doing ant stupid at all. It's best to replenish your well than constantly dip into it until it drys up. Take a break, get some R&R then come back to your novel refreshed and your creative well overflowing.

  6. Most definitely. I've had moments where writing stopped being fun (I was rewriting too much for too long without creating anything new) and it's horrible.

    If your readers love your characters and/or your world or voice, they won't forget you or get bored. Look at JK Rowling--she could return a decade from now with a new Harry Potter book and her fans would still be rabid. From what I've seen, readers are most disappointed when a writer starts phoning it in. So you're totally doing the right thing--leave them wanting more.

    1. Now I'm singing the opening song from Buffy the musical. The part about "walking through the part." Good advice. Thank you.

  7. You have to take breaks. I take months off at a time. I found my creativity goes splat if I don;t take a few weeks or even months off from writing. A balanced life makes for a better writer.