Thursday, November 15, 2012

Taking a Break Between Drafts: Knowing When to Set Your Book Aside

Perhaps this is a strange post, considering that I blog about writing, editing, and publishing. It’s also going to be one of my shorter posts. I mean, there’s not too much to say about the art of taking a break.

I’ve met writers who’ve spent years dedicated to a single book. Your perseverance is extremely admirable. For the rest of us, working on a single project for too long brings out our violent tendencies.

So today I want to talk about when it’s a good idea to take a break from a project, how long is long enough, why in the end it’s a good decision to take a break, and why setting a project aside does not mean stop writing.

When is it a Good Idea to Take a Break?
I feel like I’m about to give some relationship advice. I’ll distill my answer down to a single word: burnout. If you are sick of your project, you’re likely not making the huge improvements you might otherwise be. That’s because writers’ fevered inspiration comes from their excitement. If you do not feel passionate about your idea anymore, then you’re not producing work you feel proud of or care about.

I’ve had to take breaks with my own work due to burnout. I put too much energy in too quickly, and it backfired. However, burnout can come about in many different ways. Maybe you have been working on your book for years and just need a break. Maybe you’ve gotten yourself stuck, and you don’t know how to pull everything together. I’m sure there are many other reasons—and I’d love to hear about them—but, for whatever reason, you are tired of your idea.

How Long Should I Set a Project Aside?
At minimum, aim for at least a week—two is better. You’ll know if you need to take a year hiatus. Otherwise, make it a week to several weeks.

I’m Afraid that if I Set a Project Aside, I’ll Never Pick it Back Up
This just isn’t true. Most of the writers I’ve worked with have spent years working on their book on-and-off. In fact, I recently began editing a draft I’d set aside for nearly a year.

Why Taking a Break is a Good Idea in the Long Run
There are two reasons why taking a break on your book is a good thing. One, when you eventually open your document back up, you might just find that you’re excited all over again for a story you’d thought you’d given up on. And two, taking a break from your book will allow you to see your book’s weaknesses better. Together, the two will help make your next round of edits much easier and more helpful than they might currently be.

Setting a Project Aside Does Not Mean Stop Writing
Please don’t. Writing is a habit. It shouldn’t cease because the idea is gone. Instead apply your creativity to another idea. I know you all have another one bouncing around, ready to be realized on paper. Go for it. Be inspired again.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services


  1. One of the best things about taking a break, aside from recharging creative batteries that often occurs, is the ability to go back and take a fresh look at your work. We often get too close to our work so we can't really see it objectively - things either seem much better or much worse than they actually are.

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