Writing fiction is a passion for most authors, who come from all sorts of career fields and backgrounds. At the same time, it’s definitely work, too, to see a story through from start to finish. While there’s plenty to be said for work-life-writing balance in general and also sticking to deadlines when writing full-time and juggling other responsibilities, this article will focus specifically on how to avoid writing burnout when your other work involves writing and/or editing as well. For example, you might be a copywriter or marketer at a corporation or a non-profit or produce content for an online periodical. You might work as a freelance developmental editor, copyeditor, or proofreader for other authors. When much of your work day is already devoted to the written word, it can be more difficult to view your own writing and revising as an escape, a relief from your other obligations.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with your writing and editing work for clients or employer, but if you don’t treat your own work as necessary, it’s the first thing to get cut when you’re scrambling to meet other deadlines. Most work days, you should devote at least an hour to your current novel, whether that’s plotting, drafting, revising, or marketing. (However, don’t force yourself to work every day of the week if possible.) Block it out on the schedule, even if you have another deadline looming.
Find the most productive part of the day for you to focus on your fiction. For many, that’s the first hour they devote to work in the day, shortly after waking up. For others, it’s during a lunch break or an hour before bed. Don’t schedule your fiction-writing hour right after working on other writing or editing. Make sure you recharge yourself. (See next section.) If fiction writing a full hour per work day seems to be too much, start with just half an hour. The key is not to overwhelm yourself.
With deadlines looming, it can be tempting to stay up late, get up early, and forgo every other activity in order to get all the writing and editing done. In that frame of mind, you’re not only not at your best creatively, but you definitely won’t feel like fiction writing is the escape it needs to be for you to enjoy yourself and work productively during what limited time you may have during the day to work on it.
Sleep as well as you can. If the stress of everything else you have to work on or your schedule precludes you from working on fiction writing first thing after you get up—when your mind is refreshed and better able to focus—try scheduling it after you take a break from your work writing and editing. Eat a meal. Go for a walk. Do a twenty-minute workout routine at home. Do something that pulls your focus away from writing and editing entirely, preferably something that gives you more energy and gets the blood flowing, like exercise and healthy snacking. When you allow yourself this break even when you’re dealing with deadlines, you’re actually likely to be more productive and to get more work done when you sit down to do it.
For those who write or edit for a living in an office, this may be easier, but in general, separating your work station from your fiction-writing nook may boost your productivity and help you avoid writing burnout. Those who work at home may be tempted to do client/employer work and fiction writing at the same desk or in same area of the home. However, this may train your brain to blend all of this work together, making it more difficult to find the creative energy you need to jump into your own fictional worlds. Keep your client and employer work to your desk. For fiction writing, you might consider:
Fiction writing on a laptop, tablet or phone with attached keyboard, or word processor can help you write “on the go,” away from the confines of an office desktop and chair. Writing on a Wi-Fi-free device like a word processor or resolutely sticking to a period of “no Internet” (there are apps to help with this) on your laptop or phone can also help train your brain to think of this place as your fiction writing center without distractions.
Some writers can’t—and don’t necessarily want to—escape writing and editing all day, even when not working on their own fiction. However, the non-stop writing work can lead to quick burnout and fiction writing getting pushed aside sometimes more often than working in another field entirely. Treat your own writing as a necessity, reenergize yourself between tasks, and retrain your brain to be at its most productive when it’s time to work on your fiction, and you’ll still be able to achieve your fiction writing goals.
by: Amy McNulty
Amy McNulty is an editor and author of books that run the gamut from YA speculative fiction to contemporary romance under a variety of author names. A lifelong fiction fanatic, she fangirls over books, anime, manga, comics, movies, games, and TV shows from her home state of Wisconsin. When not reviewing anime professionally or editing her clients’ novels, she’s busy fulfilling her dream by crafting fantastical worlds of her own.
From time to time, I take a moment to reflect where I’m at in my life and where I want to go. During one of these reflections, I read about habits of successful people. You should know I define success not only as financial stability, but also about our journey as individuals and what we give to the world.
As I read, I became aware how discovering what my ten rules for success are, also complimented my journey as a writer. It takes a strong determination to reach our goals as writers. We have days where our “real” life takes over our writing times or days we feel like giving up. Or how about the days you feel as though you’re just spinning your wheels in your writing career. It’s easy to become frustrated if you feel you’re not meeting the milestones you thought you would have already reached.
A technique I developed over time to combat this was to pick out a small or big goal each day to take a step toward my ultimate goal. By breaking up the larger task into smaller chunks, it helps me feel more successful when before I know it I’m able to cross things off my list.
We all reach milestones at different paces and need to forgive ourselves if we feel we should have been farther along our writing path. Taking time out periodically to reflect also helps me keep moving through what I fondly refer to as “my writing adventures”. After all, we have to protect the reason we started down this writing path in the first place. We love to write romance with happily ever after endings.
The following are my 10 rules for success which I follow to keep myself on track.
Life has a way of pulling us off track and I have found these rules help me keep moving forward toward my goals. What are your 10 rules for success?
Lisa Romdenne is a member of RWA (PRO) since November 2014 and WisRWA member since September 2015 (served as WisRWA President 2016-2018). She writes western romance under the pen name Lianna Hawkins and is presently working on a historical western romance series. THE BOUNTY’S CATCH, book two in her Runaway Outlaw Series, won the historical category in the 2019 Utah RWA Great Beginnings Contest.
I was once asked what success meant. I remember struggling for an answer because I’d never given the definition of success much thought before. Back then, I was in customer support for a software company, so I equated success to a day of answered calls. However, that wasn’t what the asker was looking for. The person asking the question went on to explain that there was no right answer to the definition of success because what I define as success, another person might not.
His words have stayed with me through the years, and as I started my new career as an author, I found myself facing a similar question. What is success to an author? As an industry-collective thought, the answer seems to revolve around landing a traditional publishing deal. By doing so, an author has “made it” as a published author. But was that a definition of success which would satisfy me?
When I first started researching how to become published in 2012, the wheels of change had been slowly turning for years, thanks to the inception of Amazon’s self-publishing platform in 2007. That change had opened doors for many aspiring authors, who had taken a self-publishing route.
I read how, with an upload of a file, an aspiring author could instantly reach readers. I remember spending hours researching article after article about the pros and cons of self-publishing and just wishing someone would come out and say which was the right thing for me to do. There was no article with the magic answer, and the more I researched, the more I began to understand that the answer lay in the reason why I wanted to publish my books. I just wanted to share the stories that had so entertained me during their creation.
With the digital age in full swing and rising projections of readers switching to devices, I took the plunge and went the self-publishing route. January 2013, I uploaded my first book, quickly followed by a second in March and a third in April. Did I consider myself successful? Let’s look at the numbers:
No, I wasn’t very successful, but I was persistent and kept researching and learning about the market, my target audience, and my options. October 2013, everything changed when I altered my pricing strategy and my covers. I suddenly had over 2,000 downloads of Hope(less), the first book in my Judgement Series (the second book I published). I was finally reaching readers and sharing my stories.
Today, I write full-time, out earning what I’ve made in any of my previous careers. Although I do consider that a level of success, my income still doesn’t define my success. It didn’t in previous careers so why should it now?
The original reason I started writing and why I continue to write, remains my definition of success. To share the stories in my head. To give all my imaginary friends a voice. To be read. To date I’ve sold over 300,000 books and given away over 500,000 series starters.
Success can be measured in so many different ways. What’s your measure of success?
by: Melissa Haag
Melissa Haag lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children. An avid reader she spent many hours curled in a comfortable chair flipping pages in her teens. She began writing a few years ago when some ideas just refused to be ignored any longer.