Sadly we have reached the end of May Collaborations and I can't think of anyone better to leave it with. I absolutely adore Rae's blog and her writing, I'm still anxiously waiting the time she reaches out for beta readers of her novel and I think you'll fall in love with her too after you read this blog post. Without further ado here's Rae;
I’m a massive fan of staying organized with my writing, and that includes setting up a writing routine and keeping it. I’m notoriously selfish with my writing time, and guard it practically with my life if it means I can meet my daily word count goal.
Included in my writing routine, though, is something extremely important: taking breaks, and stepping away from my manuscript for a set amount of time. Today I’m bringing you my three best reasons for taking a break from writing, and each of these reasons centers around the same idea: taking a break, recharging, returning with a clear mind that’s capable of tackling whatever’s next in your writing process. The only difference is where in the writing process they show up.
1) When you finish a first (or any) draft.
This should be obvious. You can’t go anywhere in the online writing community without seeing writer after writer—traditionally published, self-published, or unpublished—tell you that when you finally type those magic words, “The End,” your novel should go into quarantine and you should probably remember what it feels like to go outside and see other people. And this needs to happen before you dive back into Chapter One and begin to edit.
This isn’t about keeping yourself from burning out. Rather, at this point the novel’s simply too fresh in your mind, and to effectively apply edits and find mistakes (plot holes, inconsistency, flat characters, etc.) you need to be able to read with an objective mind. That’s not going to happen if you’re still riding the thrill of finishing, and if you still remember with ease even the smallest details of your plot.
2) When you’re stuck on a draft.
In my experience, when a writer gets themselves stuck in the middle of their draft, they’re likely thinking too hard about the content of their novel and either considering too many what-ifs or are battling doubts about what they have or what they want to do.
When this happens, giving yourself distance allows you to de-stress, clear the “noise” from your head, and hopefully return to your project with a clear mind. By stepping away for a day, two days, even a week or so, you’ll find that you can look at your current problem a bit more logically. By the time you return, all of the pieces will have fallen into place upon your return because you’ve allowed yourself to stop worrying and give your instincts the reins.
3) When you’re writing really fast.
Wait, what? You’re a writing machine, cranking out quite a few thousand a day, maybe, and I’m telling you that maybe you should just . . . stop? Hear me out: when you’re writing so much of your project all at once, it’s a great feeling. Trust me, I’ve been there. You’re confident, you’re practically getting high off word fumes, and most importantly: you’re loving your novel.
But the problem that tends to arrive here is that maybe you start focusing less on the quality of the content, and more on finishing. You start thinking with the mindset of, “I just want to finish this draft. I can fix all of these mistakes later.”
As one of my undergraduate professors used to say: if you see the end in sight, walk away.
While the first draft is meant to be rough, and the editing stage is where you can really fix things up, taking a break when you’re “on a roll” (as I like to say) is great for two reasons: first, it keeps you from burning yourself out; second, it’ll keep you from getting inexcusably sloppy and making choices that are going to mean three times the work in the editing stage. After all, what’s the point of getting the story down, if you’re only going to completely
rewrite half of it later on? Take at least one day, and just recharge. Remember what civilization and sunlight look like. You’ll return refreshed, and you’ll likely have not lost a single ounce of your love for your WIP.
Thanks so much to Rhianne for hosting me today, and be sure to let me know in the comments what you think about taking writing breaks. When’s the best time for you to step back from your work?
Bio: Rae Oestreich has a B.A. in Creative Writing from New Mexico State University and a self-expressed love of all things literature. She’s addicted to drinking coffee, and she focuses her time on writing YA speculative fiction and reading anything she can get her hands on. An admitted grammar nerd, she edits for REUTS Publications and currently interns for World Weaver Press, and can normally be found talking about books and writing on her website, Twitter, or Facebook.