Sarah: I absolutely love how it conveys the message of the book without using words. It just makes me smile! (Congrats, Mariana!)
Lucia: I love how colorful and adorable it is. I definitely want to open the book!
Amber: It’s such a bright and cheerful cover! Makes me want to read the book right away! 😀
Alex: I love the cover! As a Spanish speaker myself, I can definitely relate to the words and pictures. It brings back so many memories! ☺️
Reem: The cover is absolutely adorable! I already want to buy a copy for my five-year-old cousin. Congrats Mariana!
Now, Izzy wants to know: When a writer feels burnt out from editing and trying to improve a book after getting rejections from agents or even discouraged, what would be the best advice for that person.
It’s easier to say keep going but is there something they can do literally to get out of that rut and keep trying?
While indeed ‘keep going’ is easier said than done, that’s the best advice I know of. I was in a very tough place before I got an agent. And at that time, no one really told me to keep going. In fact, the advice I kept getting was to quit or set writing aside for a while. I would’ve sold an arm and leg to have someone believe in me and encourage me to keep trying. I had to be that person for myself. Amid all the rejections, reading/editing my book and query letter to a point where my head ached to just look at them, I had to encourage myself never to give up. Why? A writer is who I am. A published author is what I want to be. And so through all the hardships, I had to keep fighting for that goal. I had to ‘keep going’.
So my advice to anyone in a rut is to ask yourself: how much do you love writing? How much do you want to see your book on a shelf? More than anything? Then do what it takes to get there—including writing and querying and editing when the devil on your shoulder tells you to quit. You can take breaks in between to keep sane. You can focus on a couple hundreds words a week if that’s what you need, but no one ever crossed a finish line by quitting.
— Lucia, The Regency And Fantasy Writer!
Confession: I’m in something of a writing rut myself at present! With that devastating bit of honesty out in the open, please let me stress: It happens to everyone. (Yes, even your favorite writers.) Every creative feels this way at some point—there is no shame in feeling burnt out or discouraged.
Now that we can admit we have a problem, how do we work ourselves out of it? Well, it’s different for everyone. I think the first step is addressing why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling.
I really struggle with drafting and tend to psych myself out upon realizing my first attempt at a story won’t be the flawless version I see in my head. I’ll hesitate… and hesitate… then feel bad for hesitating so long. Eventually, there comes a point where the voice in my head telling me ‘you won’t get it right the first time‘ becomes the truth giving me permission to go for it.
I won’t get it right the first time, and that’s the point! I have permission to write poorly, just as long as I’m writing. There’s no sentence that can’t be fixed (or, obliterated from existence), but that can’t happen if the story never exists.
When all else fails, remember this: Someone needs your story. Even if you’re that person. Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game! (Sam Montgomery’s dad said that, not me.)
—Sarah, all things YA!
This is such a good question, Izzy, thank you! I think that all writers have gone through this (maybe even more than once), so it’s something that’s very relatable and that we all can understand. The frustration when that happens is so real!! I loved Lucia’s and Sarah’s recommendation to keep on writing (and playing the game). I believe that’s exactly what it takes to make our dream come true. We have to be perseverant, to have faith, and keep moving forward to achieve our goal in spite of the hardships.
With that in mind, when I’m faced with writer’s rut, I sometimes take some time away from the story and start working on something else. I know it might be very different with novels, but so far with picture books I have been able to do it. Sometimes I put the manuscript away for weeks, and when I get back to it, I’m able to look at with different eyes and realize why it wasn’t working and what needs to be done. Often by the time I go back to it I have new ideas, or I’m ready to start over. It has happened to me more than once, and I can tell you that the time apart has really paid off.
Actually, one of those times, I participated in an event called Picture Book Zombie Week, in which we were supposed to “resurrect” a story that we had been struggling with and approach it in a different way. Through this process, I didn’t let go of the essence of my story, but I was able to rewrite it in a way that I ended up loving it more. It was something that I couldn’t see or appreciate when I was in my dark moment trying so hard to force the revision without success.
I also believe in getting/renovating my inspiration. Sometimes it’s just that I need new experiences (short trips or trying different things really help). Other times fresh ideas come from chats with family (especially my kids), friends or critique partners. Reading books, watching movies, and spending time outside really help too. I think we all have our own inspiration triggers 🙂
In conclusion, in order to escape writer’s rut I believe we need to let go of the fixation we can sometimes have with our stories (being a certain way), be flexible to keep on creating and never forget to be kind to ourselves.
–Mariana, PB writer!
Oh don’t we all hate being in a writing rut 😦 I’ve definitely been in several ruts before and sometimes I think the key is just to learn how to let go. Building on what Mariana’s said, taking a break from your writing from time to time can help you to recharge so that you are able to carry on for the long haul. When I get stuck or discouraged, I find it helpful to take time out and step away from that particular WIP. I either move to a different WIP or I stop writing altogether and immerse myself in some other aspect of life instead – like doing some exercise or going shopping! Doing something else other than staring at your work can put you in a different frame of mind and give you new perspectives that can help you climb out of the rut.
Alternatively, if you really can’t bring yourself to move on from your story (because we all love our work!), then one thing to try would be to get some fresh pairs of eyes on it. Find new betas/CPs who can give you new ideas and insights on your story. It’s also helpful to get positive passes from them, to remind yourself that there are plenty of wonderful things about your book that you may tend to overlook because you’ve read your own writing too many times!
-Amber, YA/NA SFF!
I can relate to all the answers Lucia, Sara, Mariana and Amber had said. But one of the things I’ll add that has worked for me is reading. I fervently believe that to be a better writer you need to read. Usually when I am in a writing rut is mainly because I feel discouraged and sad with all the rejections. And to get out of that funk I read. I start with fan fiction when I really want to escape and be reminded of why I love to write. I think about it this way, fan fiction is based on books that have been published and the amazing writers writing fan fiction are not thinking of getting published (at least not that piece). They are just writing their heart out and loving every second of it. This to me is an easy reminder of my love for writing. We want our book in the shelves, but we also need to be reminded that is a creative outlet and it shouldn’t feel like a prison and work all the time. Another thing I do is re-read comfort books, like the cliche I am, I go back to my favorite childhood book: Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen and read this quote: “Sometimes a little discomfort in the beginning can save a whole lot of pain down the road.”
I relate that quote to regret. I know I will regret not keep pushing forward. Once I feel better and truly memorize that quote once again, I pick up another book and still continue reading until I feel the itch to write again. It always works.
-Alexandra, YA & NA Romance Writer!
Did someone say writer’s rut? As Sarah said above, confession time, I have also been in a writing rut for quite some time (a total of four months, the longest I’ve gone without consistently working on a novel in the past two years.) The good news is, the first step is recognizing you’re in a writing rut. The harder part is pinpointing exactly why you’re dealing with pesky writer’s block.
My writing rut began right before the end of NaNoWriMo at the end of last year. I had 33K of a novel finished, but it felt too familiar and I realized I had created an odd mashup of my first three novels. I took a step back from that novel to figure out how to rework it in December, which is when I first got stuck. I couldn’t figure out why I was stuck and it was incredibly frustrating. At the same time rejections kept on piling in for the novel I was querying and despite trying to convince myself I was used to the rejection, now I realize I was not entirely okay with them. After writing and polishing three different novels and querying them in a little over a year, the growing stacks of rejections were messing with my head and I felt burnt out. I had done my best to stay positive in the trenches and not be crippled with imposter syndrome and anxiety, but both started creeping in without me realizing it. So, I decided to take a self-imposed writing and querying break to figure things out. I don’t think writers talk enough about the struggles of the writing process, even though we all go through it from time to time. In an effort to remind people that it’s normal to feel discouraged sometimes, I plan on doing a more in depth post about my whole experience with imposter syndrome and anxiety later this month, so stay tuned for that!
Other than taking a break, the best advice I have to get out of a writing rut is to continue to feed your creativity in any way possible. I might not have been writing, but I read as much as I could, ARC’s, newly published books in my genre and age category, craft books, books that I could use as comps, and books in my genre outside my age category. I listened to my WIP playlist and I created mood boards to inspire a rework of my project. I talked to my writing group about their projects which started to inspire me to continue piecing together a rework of mine. I watched movies and tv shows that could work as comps for my novel. It’s been four months of minimal to no writing for me, but I finally figured out a rework for my novel and I’m 20K into the new version. I don’t know if it has magic yet, but I’m enjoying writing again after months of dreading opening my Scrivener document. So, I count that as a win.
–Reem, All Things With Heart in YA!
How do YOU get out of a writing rut?