How to Keep Writing a Book | Beating Writer’s Block and Writer’s Fatigue

By Colin Sharpe

September 9, 2020


Now, this part won’t surprise you. Turns out the hardest part of writing a book is actually keeping that momentum through to the end. So in this article, we’ll talk about how to keep writing a book, including beating writer’s block and overcoming writer’s fatigue. 

And honestly, this is really when you have to have the most determination and will because there can be a long road (sometimes on the order of months!) ahead. 

Sometimes it feels like you’re in the desert, nowhere close to the finished product. 

So this section will discuss a few tools to keep in your kit for when the going gets rough. First, we’ll talk about “the desert”, the space between the excitement of starting and the thrill of finishing, and how it can be rough. We’ll also talk about writer’s block and writer’s fatigue, and how they’re different. 

Then we’ll talk about five strategies I use for chugging along — asking what happens next, celebrating every chapter, writing the best parts first, taking breaks and vacations, and accepting no excuses. 

The Desert | The Graveyard of Dead Stories

When you start out your book, everything is exciting and new. You’re planning and outlining. You’re filling out ideas, you’re discovering the book. 

When you’re close to the finish, you’re rewarded with the feeling of conclusion. You can see the end, and it’s exciting to be so close!

But the middle, well it sucks. The middle is when writing feels like work rather than play, because that’s when most of the work is done.

Writing a book isn’t always a process of raw inspiration. Think of it like designing a house. You’ve drawn it, you’ve got a plan, and that was exciting. 

But you’ve eventually got to just lay the bricks, and while you’re putting those pieces in place you have to be diligent. You have to be careful, and if you’re sloppy, you’ll end up with a shitty finished product. 

So you can’t skip this part, or cheat your way around it. At least, I haven’t figured out a way to make the middle at least a little bit of a slog. 

And ultimately, this is where the work is done that makes the book worth reading! You can have an excellent outline and ideas and purpose, but without this piece, you’ll never get to the end. 

But unfortunately this is also where stories die, due to two main reasons — writer’s block and writer’s fatigue, which are both different.

Writer’s Block

This photo was super freaky, so I had to keep it in

Writer’s block is when you have the energy to write, but for some reason, you feel like you can’t. You overedit. You endlessly tinker. You don’t commit. Nothing’s good enough. 

A lot of writer’s block comes from the little voices in your head that say the writing isn’t good enough, that it’s not inspired enough. The reason for this is because you’re finally in the weeds, and that can make the whole process feel less inspiring. You’re chasing that feeling from before, where everything was fresh and new. 

Here’s a dirty secret. We all, every single writer, have portions of great stories where we just chug along while writing. Sometimes, you just have to build the foundation to connect the ace portions of your story. And they might not feel as inspired to you, but they’re fundamental to the book.

Here we get to the true lie we tell ourselves with writer’s block. It’s not that you don’t have any ideas. It’s that you don’t think your ideas are good enough. 

Throw that out the window. Burn it. If you have the energy to write, you can always come up with ideas, and if you want to, you can power through. Always

Writing any idea is better than nothing, and even if you’re stuck and feel like you’re writing garbage, know that by writing you will come up with a better idea. I guarantee it. 

Or you might find that the idea you just threw down is something you love. 

So let’s be clear. Writer’s block doesn’t really exist. You can always write something.

Writer’s Fatigue

Writer’s fatigue is where you know your path, and you know that you could keep writing, but you’re just spent.

Now this is a real thing. There is a certain, limited amount of creative juices we all have. If you’ve exhausted your creative compost heap, or you’re weary, or you’re disillusioned, that’s okay

Sometimes, we just need to replenish. Truly good writing can ultimately be an act of the soul, and sometimes things (like this pesky thing called life) get in the way

The major difference here is that you know you could keep writing, but you’re exhausted, and continuing to write is taking a physical, emotional, or motivational toll on you.

Navigating the Desert

Now, there’s a fine line between these two challenges, and sometimes it can be difficult to figure out which you have. Sometimes you might have a little bit of both. 

The sections below will offer some tips for getting through these challenges, but one thing that’s important is that you don’t want to push yourself too hard. 

Sometimes, it’s just not the right time to write a story, and there’s no point in beating writer’s block if it’s just making you suffer. Neil Gaiman explains that when he was writing the Graveyard Book, he kept it in the background for years until he felt he was ready. 

So my recommendation is when you’re feeling yourself slow down and face writer’s block or writer’s fatigue, to check out the next five tips. If none of them work, then it might just not be the right time now.

5 Tips for Beating Writer’s Block and Overcoming Writer’s Fatigue

Ask What Happens Next

What do you think happens next?

Now this is a very similar to the strategy I suggested for starting to write. First, take what’s going on, what you have written. Re-read it, and get yourself in the right state of mind

Then simply ask “what happens next?”. You’ll often find that you know

When to use: This technique is best for beating writer’s block and helping avoid decision phobia, especially if you’re deep into the middle of the story. But, it can also help if you’re fatigued and running low on creative juices, to help take some of the raw creativity out of the process.

Celebrate Every Chapter or Section

Not the first motorcycle chase ever, but probably the best. Sometimes, it just takes pouring love into one section to rediscover your love

Now this process is something I follow extensively, especially if I’m feeling lost on the overall journey. 

Sometimes, when you’re writing it can feel like you’re going to be writing forever, like you’ve lost the magic. 

What you do, is you zoom in, and just focus on making the current chapter you’re on spectacular. Really take pride in it, and when you’re finished, celebrate it. Go out to dinner, send it to someone to read, reread it and appreciate just how hard you worked.

Taking pride in each chapter helps make each of them feel like a milestone hit, like real progress, and like you’re building something worthwhile.

When to use: I use this when the journey feels like it’s going on too long, and I’m losing the magic. Focusing on how to make my current chapter amazing and celebrating it helps shake the funk, and really helps beating writer’s block.

Writing the Best Parts First

This is the Intro to Porter Robinson’s set, which combines the highlights of his whole set into one amazing intro. I think he wrote this part first, then built the set. And by dang, it’s pretty great.

No one said that books have to be written in a linear fashion. To use this process, just focus on building the parts that are your favorites, that you know are going to be winners, and really let them shine. Knock them out of the park

Basically, just write the highlights, and you won’t get stuck in the setup.

This can also serve as a preemptive form of editing, cause you might find that some of the middle bits weren’t actually needed in the first place

When to use: I use this if I feel like I’m spending too much time just bricklaying, like I’m setting up and setting up and setting up and never paying anything up. Writing should still be exciting sometimes, and you’ve gotta have some fun parts!

Taking Breaks and Vacations

Sometimes I channel my inner Eminem. Honestly though, most of the time, I channel a fiesty Costa Rican woman named Majo who I workout with.

I talk a lot about the mental compost heap, and how it provides fuel. And sometimes, we just run out of fuel, which can cause both major writer’s fatigue and writer’s block.

The best way to refuel that compost heap, the best way to get those creative juices restored, is just to take a break. Watch a good TV show, read a good book, throw on an album, go out with friends, take a nap, exercise, or just get outside. All can provide that refresh to get back in the saddle.

To me, the key to taking a break is to be very intentional with them. It’s easy to let yourself take a break, which is never a good thing. Letting yourself take a break feels a bit guilty, it feels like you’re conceding, and if you let it happen too much then they can build up into writer’s inertia.

Instead, give yourself a break. Make a decision to stop for a bit, and be happy with it. Relish in how hard you worked to earn that break or vacation. 

Only you can find the difference between the two, but I always notice that flipping that simple switch from let to give can make your rest more restful, and completely flip around your perspective when you come back.

When to use: when you feel like you need it, but only if you feel like you’ve earned it.

Accept No Excuses

Sometimes I channel my inner Eminem. Honestly though, most of the time, I channel a fiesty Costa Rican woman named Majo who I workout with.

I find that accepting no excuses from yourself is a very, very valuable mentality to have throughout your entire writing process.

I touched on it above, about how you shouldn’t just let yourself take a break. You should take a break because you earned it.

I find that this applies to all parts of the writing process. Write with intention. When you choose not to write, do so with intention. Unless you’ve got a deadline, you are the only one you’re accountable to to finish this book, so be honest and straightforward with yourself.

And that means accepting no excuses.

When you take a day off, have a reason. When you put a chapter down and mix it up to find some inspiration, have a reason. If you decide to put the whole book down, do it with a reason.

And make sure you explain those decisions to yourself. This is huge! For the longest time, I’d dawdle, I’d move around in circles, I’d revise endlessly, I’d watch hours of TV “looking for inspiration”, I’d take naps and video game breaks, but I was giving myself excuses. 

I didn’t hold myself accountable.

When I stopped accepting my own excuses, I didn’t stop taking breaks or getting slowed down. But I found that 75% of the time, I had the strength and the inspiration to keep going and keep beating writer’s block, and the other 25% of the time I felt confident in my breaks because I could be straight with me, myself, and I that I’d earned them

When to Use: All the time

So Knock It Out of the Park

Now we’re into the part where, well, you’ve just gotta go! Go forth and write your wonderful book.

And remember all of the tools that you have at your disposal.

Now it’s in your hands, but I believe in you! The next article will be the last part of our journey — finishing your manuscript and deciding what happens next.

Introduction and Table of Contents
Part 1 — Should I Write a Book?
Part 2 — Finding Things to Write About
Part 3 — How to Write a Good Book
Part 4 — How to Plan a Book
Part 5 — How to Start Writing a Book
Part 6 — How to Keep Writing a Book

Final Notes

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Love y’all, and until next time!

Colin Sharpe

About the author

Hey y'all, my name is Colin, and I'm the writer and creator of the Seventh Valkyrie Series. Born in raised in New Orleans, currently on a tour of the world writing wherever I go, and turning it all into stories. Hope y'all like reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!

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