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  • Rachel Paige

Take a Step Back

For me, one of the hardest parts of writing is burnout. I get on a creative "high" and can write for hours upon hours and it feels like I have endless ideas and words to make those ideas come to life.


Then the words run out and the ideas dry up and I end up revising or writing a few pages (or sentences) at a time. I've talked about this in this post. I still write during those times, because I know it needs to be done, but I'm not enjoying it. I'm not looking forward to it.


A lack of creativity turns writing into a chore. When that's the case, something creative needs to be done in order to make writing fun and productive again.


So how can you get back to a creative high or excited about the project you're working on? How do you make something you're sick of looking at new again? It can be tempting to walk away from the project or take a break, but there's another way to revive your love of it that allows you to stay close.


You can take a step back. Not walk away and move on to something else, but take a step back. You can broaden your view to more than the document you've been working on and let yourself explore the world of the story. Like when you're looking at a big painting and need to step back in order to take it all in.


Personally, I might do a character interview or expand on a character interview. Or interview a minor character. I interviewed a character's mom once and did an extra interview with a main character (Juliet, who I've talked about before) that ended up being 16 single-spaced pages long.


I might write a scene from a different character's point of view. I've rewritten entire chapters from a different character's POV just to find out what they were doing. I might write something that happened prior to the events of the novel, or after. I have a document from Sam's POV, who is the brother of Chaos in G Major's narrator, with the events that happened in the few days before chapter one. That document is almost 50 pages long. I have another from his POV that contains the climax of the novel and the events immediately after, plus a few scenes from when he was a kid. That document is just over 50 pages.


During these times, I also make maps of the character's houses or other major locations of the story. I might draw the characters or draw specific items in the story. You can see a bit of that in this post.


Almost none of that will ever make it into the novel. Sam did get a POV chapter because of the extra work I did with him, but the other 90ish pages I have from him are just for me. So are the 16 from Juliet and all the other random scenes I have. The drawings and maps won't be in the novel. The interviews won't be in the novel.


But that doesn't mean I wasn't working on the novel when I did all that. I was still working on the story, I just wasn't adding to it's word count. I took a step back and let myself look at the world and everything that went into it. And the more that I knew about what went into it, the more invested I was. And the more invested I was, the more excited I was to write.


Because I stepped back, the project was no longer a chore. It was a world that I knew more about than I ever thought I would. All that extra content isn't in the novel directly, but it fed my excitement for the novel. It rounded the characters and deepened the world and made me excited for something I'd been tired of looking at.


It made the project new again.


Now, you don't have to do exactly what I do, but let yourself explore. Take a step back, close the document or notebook you keep the story in, and look at all the people and places that feed the story. It still counts as writing and it still counts as writing that story, even if the word count hasn't changed.


You don't need to walk away. Just take a step back.


How do you refuel a story? Do you have extra content that gets you excited to write again?