To Build A Story: Burn Out

It’s been a while since I’ve written a To Build A Story post, so I’m sorry, but I’ve been so busy with CampNaNo, I haven’t had the time. But I promised you this series would take you along the writing journey with me, the good, bad, and the ugly, so here it is.

This month, I’ve written almost everyday, and have down 17,668 words. For me, that’s a lot. My creativity juices are spent, and I am exhausted. It’s gotten to the point where I even dread sitting down to write–and I hate that.

On top of regular CampNaNo burnout, I am over 37,000 words and am starting to enter the middle slump, otherwise known as the writing Twilight Zone.

For me, this is the hardest stage in the drafting process. Somehow, when I reach about the 35k-40k mark, all the life gets sucked out of me. The story feels dull, the characters lifeless, and each word is like pulling a tooth–and even then they don’t feel right.

I still love this story. Nightfire was love at first word for me, and has been burning consistently since then. But I think with any story, no matter how great or how much you love it, you reach this stage. The initial momentum wears off, and suddenly you have to wonder, Where is this going? Does this make sense? Do the dots connect? The rose-colored love glasses are broken.

To stave off the burnout, I’ve been reading. A lot, actually. It has been a long time since I have torn through books like a knife through butter, but it feels pretty awesome to rediscover my true love for reading. And though it started out as a break from writing, reading has also helped me to write, both directly and indirectly. Directly, it’s given me inspiration for scenes or words and phrases to use, or conflicts and actions I like. Indirectly, it’s expanded my vocabulary, sparked my imagination, and refilled my creativity well.

So, I’m still plugging along, and tearing out each word like a tooth as I go.

One thing I realize as I go, is the more I write, the more I realize how much I have left to write. I’m starting to realize that there’s a lot more to this story than I thought at first–maybe even more than just one book’s worth.

Those in the writing Twilight Zone with me, how do you keep going? Those who have made it through, how did you do it?

22 thoughts on “To Build A Story: Burn Out

  1. Reading often helps me as well, and most recently it gave me the needed inspiration for how to start my new novel. Specifically, when I read the first chapter of Inkheart a few nights ago and instantly fell in love with the novel 🙂

    I know you’ll get through this, and Nightfire will glow!! Pun intended 😉


  2. I storyboard and spend a lot of time in this phase. If the characters change something I stop and edit the storyboard. When it’s time to write all I have to do is get from index card to index card.


  3. I think a lot of my writing career is spent inside the writing Twilight Zone and although I’m one huge fan of the show, I hate being in it. However, I’ve found one of the most effective ways for me to keep chugging along in this slump is to just remember how much you love your story. Think about how much time you’ve invested, how much you love your characters, how tight your plot is, how absolutely wonderful the world is that you’ve created and remember that “Hey, I’m doing this and I’m going to finish it.”

    We have a lot of ambition as writers, but sometimes we lose sight of our goals because we’re just blinded by how much we have to go through in front of us. Every now and then, it’s a nice and helpful thing to just look over the top and remind ourselves of how shining and golden that goal is at the end 🙂

    Just my 2 cents!


    • Wow, that is very true! The words do come a lot easier when I love my story–which I always do, but sometimes it gets lost in the muck. Sometimes I just need to take a break, and then read back over some scenes, and rediscover everything I love about these characters and this world 🙂 Thank you!


  4. Sometimes I would write short stories to break up the boredom. My fanfic story was 200k and I think I got burnt out after 100k. By 200k i was really burnt out. And yeah, I had no idea or plans to make it that long. It just happened XD If I would have finished it would have been about 300k. I agree that reading helps 🙂 Sometimes it gives you ideas. But I have to be careful not to use their phrasing. You’ve written a lot though! Hang in there. This month is almost over, lol.


  5. Ugh, I know how you feel! I’m almost at 30k (around 25k is usually where my burnout zone seems to start), so I’m feeling really tired of writing lately. What I try to do is write enough to be four hundred or so words away from the next days goal. That way, I see that I only have four hundred words to go that day and it’s easier to sit down and write because it doesn’t seem like that much. In the end, I usually end up writing much more than that, close to a thousand, so it’s easy to pick it up the next day because I’m only about four hundred words off of the next goal. It works for me, but that’s only because I’m competitive 😛


  6. Oof, been there. It’s not a fun place to be. I forced myself through it for my first and second novels, but by the time I was drafting my third, I realized that 1) I was going to have to do heavy revisions/rewrites, anyway and 2) my first drafts are always short, anyway. So I might take a somewhat unorthodox approach to it now, and I skip to the end. Usually I’m *super* excited to write the ending, so it helps get my momentum going again, and I work backwards until I get stuck again.
    By that point, I usually have about 50-60k (I write longer books, 80-90k, normally). So I print it out, go through it with my pink pen and highlighters and a notebook beside me and I figure out what needs to happen to get my characters from point a (written) to point b (also written). This is also the point where I start weaving in subplots, so it all fills in pretty quickly. I always have to understand what’s going on in my book before the middle comes together.
    I hope you get your momentum back soon! And congrats on 17k–that’s awesome!


    • I’ve never heard of that before! Funny how everyone’s process can be so different. I usually have a hard time with endings, which is why I get sluggish in the middle because I start to realize I don’t know where the story is going to end up, and how to get it there. I agree that a print out can really help though, and I have used that for my first manuscript (which I am still in the process of going through now, it is just on the back burner). Thank you so much, I hope so too! Thanks for reading 🙂


  7. I hear ya! I was there last week. But at least you’ve made your goal!

    I’m just over 100K in on a 200k-long book, the first in a series (which will take the rest of my life, I’m sure) I feel very bogged down in the middle. I just try to keep my mind on interested scenes that are coming up, and have been doing a lot of reading, too. I’m blasting through Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series. Love it!


    • Thank you! Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine 200k…are you sure that’s just one book and not a series itself? 🙂 No wonder you feel bogged down in the middle, 200k is definitely one hell of a word marathon! Kudos to you though, and good luck 🙂


      • I don’t know! I’m approaching a spot that might make a good ending; if I’m exhausted enough, I just might stop there. 🙂


  8. Pingback: Wonderful Team Member Readership Award | Natacha Guyot

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