There are lots of phases and lots of components to the writing process. Some of us arrange them differently, and some of us approach them differently, but one stage almost every writer–if not every writer–goes through is the “If I have to edit this novel one more time I am going to punch a hole through my computer screen” phase.
I usually approach that phase toward the end of a project: after multiple edits, beta reader responses and subsequent edits, and even a proofread or two.
At this point, my story isn’t only “no longer new.” At this point I know the plot so well, and am so familiar with all its ins and outs, that I get bored with it and start to incessantly pick at little thing after little thing. I’ll change some wording and then change in back. That kind of thing.
I’ve written before about the problems of getting stuck on one paragraph or one section while editing, and what to do when that happens. I find that situation occurs for me most often when I don’t feel like looking at my novel anymore to begin with.
When people say that “familiarity breeds contempt,” they often mean familiarity with people, but the adage applies equally to works of art.
I never thought when I started writing that I would eventually get sick of my book. But that’s happened with every book I’ve written: as much as I love my characters and respect them and their adventures, I’ve gotten sick of them.
So, what do you do when this happens? I got to contemplating that and to examining my personal experience with this phenomenon, and I’ve got a few suggestions that you can take or leave or adapt as you will.
- KEEP SIGHT OF YOUR GOALS. This is particularly important if the blahs hit when you’re nearing the end of the process. Are you going to self-publish? Seek an agent? Submit your novel to competitions such as the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist competition? You can use those visions of completing your journey to motivate you through the final rough patch.
- IF NEEDED, TAKE A BREATHER. This can work well when your deadlines are self-imposed and flexible. Write a short story. Work on some poetry. Edit a different novel if you have more than one in stock. Outline or plan a new novel. Give yourself a little distance when you get sick of your project: Distance is incredibly important.
- OUTSOURCE BACK TO YOUR BETAS. Another great tactic for the final edits…. If you’ve incorporated suggestions from your beta readers, read through the changes 2 or 3 times, and can’t bear to read through the chapter another time, why not ship it out for a second opinion? Not the entire novel: just the part that required a lot of work and might still need some polish. See what someone familiar with the story has to say about the new version. You can work on something else while you wait to hear back.
So, what do you think about this? Have you reached the saturation point with a novel or short story, or maybe even a poem you worked on extensively?
How did you handle the burnout?
If you enjoyed this post, you might like these other posts about editing. And don’t forget that you can sign up to follow my blog by email at the top right of the page, if you don’t want to miss out on future posts.