Pages of Awesome

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Importance of Not Writing

I spend way too much time coming up with creative titles. I also spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to find awesome pictures to go along with those titles.

But I digress.

Today I pulled out my single printed copy of the first ten chapters of The Chains of Hethra. Between and during classes I found myself engrossed in a story I hardly remembered being this good.

It was a real morale booster.

A lot of you probably know, or have noticed, that I've done very little writing on TCOH lately. I'd been very discouraged about the story already and after my marching band season started I was far too swamped to convince myself that I was writing something worth reading and that I should keep at it.

So I didn't write. Not a word.

For months.

On one hand this was really awful. I'd planned to finish my first draft before summer was over. The idea was to edit all throughout the school year. Pretty good plan right? Finish the bulk of the intensive stuff and edit, which doesn't take nearly as much time per session, while I was in the busiest part of the year.

But I didn't.

So I got very far behind.

However, as I've been reading through my own novel I've realized that this long break from writing has helped in ways I couldn't have known before. I have a fresh take on the story (even though I still have future plot problems) and it actually looks good.

Don't know how many of you have tried writing a book. But after a while, you've written so much into it that it all just looks like garbage to you.

This break helped me see it with better eyes. And so I'm excited to write the rest of it.

So I'm going to be a major proponent of taking breaks, if anything from the project you're working on. Some people say to write everyday. That's cool, I don't do it, but at least trade off what projects you're working on. I myself find it very hard to simply plow through a manuscript--maybe I'm the only one.

Pros of Taking Breaks
  • Encouragement/Motivation - When I read back through it, I was encouraged that this was a good story. And that gave me motivation to keep at it, which I don't get from many other places.
  • Fresh Take on Characters and Plot - If you're having issues with the storyline (like I was) taking a break seems to help a lot. It frees your mind of all the useless fog and opens it up to the actual story. You see it from new eyes and can often make better guesses as to what will fit the story. Same goes for characters.
  • Time to Live Life - Yeah, I needed some time away from the computer :-)
  • Batteries are Now Ready to Go - Breaks are a major energy re-filler. Knock out another chunk while it lasts!
So this is why I feel it's important to take breaks from writing in general. But for some, simply from their main project.


To the end,

PS: I just started using Gimp. It's AWESOME!


Eldra said...

I'm currently taking a break from writing my novel, and I'm also doing it out of plot issues. Not sure when I'll pick it up again, but I'll try to get something in before the summer's over.

Eldarwen said...

I take breaks from my writing as well. I agree. It does help me have a different aspect on things (a good-different:), and most of the time when I come back to my writing I have new ideas that sound even better than the former ones. :)

Star-Dreamer said...

I took a break from editing my novel, "Song of the Daystar". I was still querying though. Yesterday I got a request for a full in the mail and was very excited. Like you found out with yours, I wanted to go back and look over my book and say "oh, this is great! I'll send it and everything will be awesome!"

Well, thankfully I still think the story is good. I just have a few sections I want to tweak before I send it out.

*le-sigh* a writer's work is never done. :)

Chris said...

I think it's important to take breaks from a project, especially if you've finished it and it's time to edit.

However... I could never just stop. My palms itch everyday to write something new, so I often do.

When I need a break from one project, I just flip to another. It works fine for me. :-)

Storyteller said...

I love breaks! I haven't anything written in over a year!


While that may not be completely true, my erm... plot needs some serious imagination. Breaks are great lubricant on the old mind gears.

It is good that you've begun thinking about your story again. I am DYING to read it. :)

Galadriel said...

I had an 'involutary break' this past month--drives me crazy

Scott Appleton said...

While working on my series I have to take breaks. However, I never stop writing. Instead I work concurently on other projects. Right now I'm working on "Starmist" a sci-fi political thriller, and a seperate fantasy novel.

Araken said...

Sound advice.

Ian said...

That kind of thing happens to me all the time, when I reread some of my writing and think, "this is really good"....a couple times I actually forgot I was the one wrote it, or thought I was reading someone else's definitely helps a lot when things like that happen. :)


Anonymous said...

Loved your post! I just did that with a book I'm currently working on- I didn't write hardly anything for a while, then I got into it again. I wrote for about 3 hours a day, but school has since started and it keeps me on my toes. I haven't written anything since last Friday, though my fingers are itching to write a bit more. I find that whenever I need a break on a book, or just don't feel like working on it, I switch to my other book. I've learned over the years that it's not a great idea to have more than three or four stories going because my writing won't be as great. I'm currently working really hard on two different books- one is a fantasy fiction that I'm loving to death and trying to get longer, and another is a fictional story about a family that adopts a few kids, from the view of their 15-year-old daughter, who I envision as me sometimes. It's my way of writing what I know, having brought a new little member into my family that way. (Whenever I see others write about adoption and I know it's wrong, I get sort of annoyed. That's partially why I'm writing about adoption.) Enough about that.

Previous post, you said you were beginning your sophmore year. That's tenth grade, right? Cool! Same as me! And marching band- what instrument do you play?

Thanks for the awesome post!!

Brayden Hirsch said...

Yeah I like what you said about working on different stories, at the same time. I'm one of the few weirdos who obsess over my writing in a rather unhealthy way - I blog about this a lot, actually. It's good to admit you're a little obsessed once you are. A few days without writing is terribly hard for me - months! Would be insane. Taking a break is probably a good thing to do, though - I just don't do it. I can't. Great post, though. Write Big!

Jake said...

Whenever I take breaks from one novel, I usually work on a short story, simply for the sake of writing. I have one in particular that gives me more energy than it takes away; mostly because of the ridiculousness of the plot and the hidden jokes I hide all over the place. It's a good way to refuel my writing batteries. :D

Madeline said...

I know the feeling exactly. I've done that before - gave up on a story, went back and read it a few months later and it sounded really good, and I suddenly had a bunch of ideas for it. It's wierd that way. It's the same for me, though - when I'm writing something, I tend to think it couldn't be worse. How could I be writing this horrible??...why do I even imagine I can pull this together??...etc etc. But then I take a break, reread it after a couple weeks, and I'm like, this isn't so bad after all!

Jessica said...

Nathan, you are brilliant as usual. I wish I had read this a little over a year ago when I had finished my first novel. I focused only on that novel an NOTHING else and when I was finally finished I found myself all burned out. Completely I couldn't write anything for nearly 4 months and that gave me a real scare. I couldn't get into any other story ideas without having complete mind blanks. My second novel is just completed and I am going directly onto my third because I allowed myself breaks and to play with other writing ideas, stories, and other nothings.
So my take on this thing...TAKE A BREAK!!!! It will save you trouble later.

Joel Ball (a.k.a. Jack Stride) said...

I think that it helps to take a break from projects. However, I also think that at the same time you should continue writing things. Never the thing you're taking a break from, but just small things, to keep practicing. Some writing exercises might be helpful. Maybe work on a short story. But don't stop writing entirely, ever. That's what I say.

"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."