Dealing With Writer Burnout

By on December 14, 2016

When I first started publishing my stories, I thought writer burnout was a myth. Writing is fun. How could I get tired of a fun task?

Seven years later, I can assure you—younger me was an ignorant asshole. Writer burnout is VERY real. Do any task 16 hours a day, 7 days a week and it can become work. Unfortunately, almost every writer deals with writer burnout at least once in her/his life.

I know I’m getting burned out when I dread the writing. I’m tired all the time and feel overwhelmed about everything. I get every flu that is going around. I become snippy with readers and other loved ones and, well, just about everyone.

The Number One Cause

The number one cause of writer burnout is overcommitting to projects. It is tempting to participate in every project offered to you. Caution! Caution! That way lies burnout. It is much better career-wise to participate in a manageable number of projects forever than to binge on projects, get burned out, and stop writing for months or years or, in the case of a dear friend, decades.

The Fear Of Missing Out

You can’t participate in every project. You simply can’t. Have I regretted saying ‘no’ to some projects? I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass. Of course, I have. The first boxed set I was asked to participate in hit both the New York Times and the USA Today Bestseller Lists. I turned that opportunity down.

But most opportunities come around again. I’ve, since then, participated in two boxed sets that hit the USA Today Bestseller List. I’ve been offered spots in other boxed sets that made both lists.

The Fear Of Falling Behind

Another reason we hesitate to say ‘no’ to projects is the fear of falling behind. XXX is releasing a story a month. If I release a story every 3 months, I’ll fall behind. I’ll only have a third of XXX’s success.

Success in Romanceland doesn’t work that way. Fifty Shades of Grey’s E.L. James has released 4 books over the past 5 years. Yep, less than a book a year. Very few writers have a readership rivaling hers.

I have a much larger readership now than I did when I was producing a story a month. With a release a month, I didn’t have time to talk about my books. I was releasing stories but I didn’t tell anyone about them. Readers have to know about our books in order to read them.

Promotion can have a huge influence on success. The number of stories released every year? Not-so-much.

Pressure From Readers

If one of your stories is well loved by readers, you will likely be pressured to write another story in the series. Readers always want this story as soon as possible. Why wouldn’t they?

But they’ll wait for it. Most readers will choose a slow release time on quality story over a fast turnaround time on a shitty story. (Note: You CAN write a quality story in a short length of time but that’s usually not possible to do when you’re burned out and brain dead.) Romance readers, in particular, want to read new stories from their favorite writers for decades. They’ll accept longer delays between releases to ensure that happens.

Know Your Ideal Pace

Figure out what a comfortable schedule looks like for you (this ideal schedule will likely change over time).

Right now, my comfortable schedule is a 56k/200 page story releasing every 3 months. For promotion, it is 1 Facebook party a week, 3 blog posts a week, promoting on 10 Facebook groups a day, 1 newsletter a month, etc.

This is what I commit to. This is what others can count on me producing. If I want to release a story in a series every three months, this means I can only have one series on the go.

If I’m approaching burnout, THIS is the core schedule I’ll dial back to.

If I get ahead of this schedule, I’ll take on another project. Right now, I have February’s release (Hers To Command) already written, edited and available for pre-order. The next core story isn’t releasing until May (my 3 month schedule). Having time and energy, I wrote Dark Thoughts, Kralj’s story. If I had been burned out, I would have taken time to recuperate between the committed stories instead of writing that extra story.

That’s one of the many wonderful things about this career. You’re in control. You can craft the career YOU want.

If one story a year is your comfort zone, produce one story a year. You can easily promote that story for 12 months. Unless your story has sold more than 125 million copies (the number of copies Fifty Shades Of Grey has sold), you haven’t sold your story to every reader in Romanceland.

You’re Already Over Committed

What happens when you’re looking at writer burnout and you’ve already committed to more projects than you can handle?

Can Deadlines Move?

Some deadlines are set in stone. Some can move. Ask if the deadlines are flexible.

Note: If you’re going to miss a deadline, communicate the situation as soon as possible. That might save your relationship with that person or publisher.

Outsource Everything You Can

An awesome editor once told me that she could help a writer with edits and subsequent drafts but the first draft had to be written by the writer. That’s just about the only thing we can’t outsource.

Cover, formatting, promo, newsletters, all of these things can be completed by other people. You can pay these awesome folks or you can call in favors. Much of Romanceland runs on favors, asking for them and granting them.

You’re Normal

Every writer you know has either had writer burn out or they will have writer burn out. They might look like they have their shit together. They likely don’t.

If my tips don’t work for you, ask other writers for their tips. Eventually you’ll find something that jives with your unique brain.

Take care of yourself!


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Three Battered Hearts. One Perfect Love

Ace and Thrasher share a special bond. They’ve never acknowledged that connection and have never fully acted on it. The Humanoid Alliance kill cyborg males like them, deeming the warriors to be defective. Now that Ace and Thrasher have escaped, they don’t trust the cyborg council and their brethren to react any differently. Physical love is too risky for them to consider.

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4 responses to “Dealing With Writer Burnout”

  1. Kayden Claremont says:

    Wow!! This is incredible information. I have been suffering from burnout for the past few months and didn’t have a clue what to do to handle it. You are the most generous writer to share this info. Thanks Bunches.

  2. J Mason says:

    Brother do I know it. I’m still recovering from our family loss and my goal is to write ahead, and get on a schedule like this that works around all my family commitments. Thanks for always sharing what you know.

  3. Cara Bristol says:

    Excellent post with some great tips. I haven’t burned out yet, but I plan to scale back before I do. I’ll be producing fewer books in 2017.

  4. Lisa Medley says:

    Preach it, sister. The struggle is real.

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