It can take years to shape a WIP into its book form, which is why it feels so weird to type “The End” and know for sure it is the end.
While this is seen as a job well done and the signal that it’s time to move onto the next project, for some writers, that’s a hard thing to do.
You might not know what to work on next, or you might have the perfect idea but are too burned out to sit down at your keyboard and get started. When this happens, it’s time to reset.
The Next Project Reset
I’m halfway through my current project, a four-book YA Urban Fantasy series called Blackbirch. Books 1 and 2 are published, book 3 is at draft five, and book 4 is at draft two.
I know how the project ends and only a few hundred more edits are needed to finish it. Okay, maybe not a few hundred (hopefully), but after working on this series for years, it feels that way.
As book 2 was recently published, I’m at the point where it’s time to go back to book 3. I started editing/rewriting it earlier this year but put it on the back burner as focus shifted to book 2’s release. I know exactly where I left off, and exactly what I need to do to get through another draft, but I haven’t. Finishing book 2’s release took so much out of me it’s hard to muster the inspiration.
Self-publishing is a big job. Blogging is a big job. Running social media is a big job. Combine that with the current world full of big problems and things like work, family commitments, homeschooling, and stockpiling face masks, it’s enough to put all writing projects on hold.
Life hasn’t stopped, though, and I’ve got deadlines to meet and a series I want to complete. That’s why a Next Project Reset is ideal, and this is how you do it.
Break And Recharge
One thing about burnout is that it can happen to anyone. Another is that you might not know it’s happening until it does.
If the project you just completed was years long, involved self-publishing, being your own PR person, early mornings, late nights, and every spare second you had for an extended period of time—take a break now!
It could be a week, it could be a month, it could be a weekend, but I don’t recommend less than a day. You might want to move onto the next thing, and you might be inspired to do it that very second, but you need to process everything you’ve just done and take a break from it.
Sleep-in instead of getting up early to write. Read the books you’ve been meaning to read for years. Go for a long walk. Binge-watch a series. Spend the day cooking your favorite foods, anything that will keep you away from the keyboard so you can give your creative brain a break and recharge yourself.
Journal Your Feelings/Expectations
While you may wonder why I’m advising you to write when you’re supposed to be taking a break from writing, this suggestion is to write down how you feel about the WIP you just wrapped up. Kind of like moving on from one relationship to the next, you should have some feelings about it that need to be processed.
Write down what you got from the experience, what didn’t pan out how you hoped, your expectations, and anything else you think will help. This journaling is for your eyes only. If you want to say that you hope this book becomes the next big thing, do it with no judgment. As all writers know, writing is cathartic. You’ve just achieved something huge and sorting out your feelings on paper will help you finish that job on a closed note and move openly to the next one.
Plan What To Do Next
Now that you’ve taken a break to reset your creativity and journaled the project you’ve just completed, the next step is to put on your planning hat!
You don’t need to plot the book if you can’t/don’t want to, but you can pick a project start date, an end date, or estimate how long you’ll need to complete the first draft of your next WIP. Make outlines, put together character profiles, and whatever else will get your project going.
I’m not a planner and I don’t outline until I’ve written the first draft, but I always find planning when I will start a project, how long I want to take to draft, and when I want to handover to beta readers helpful in starting the project and keeping it going. Those types of deadlines and mini-goals will keep you on track and provide some much-needed direction.
Infuse Yourself With Inspiration
Now it’s time to have some fun and gather pictures, playlists, books, movies, and whatever else will make you think of your project.
Listening to the right song or seeing the perfect image pinned to the wall of your writing space are great triggers to inspire your writing and make you want to work on your project. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to move to the last step.
Get It Done!
Now that you’ve relaxed with a break, recharged yourself with non-writing activities, given closure to the last project, planned your next project, and inspired yourself so much you can’t stay away from the keyboard, it’s time to sit at your writing desk and get it done.
Start that next WIP, enjoy the fun of its newness, and write your little author heart out!
— K.M. Allan