Skip to main content
Publish date:

Keeping the Writing Faith: How to STOP Writing

Jennifer Haupt discusses why it's sometimes beneficial to stop writing—that is, to step back from your work-in-progress in order to maintain your motivation and find a more productive path forward.

The following article is the third in a five-part series of articles by Jennifer Haupt. In this installment, she discusses why it's sometimes beneficial to stop writing—that is, to step back from your work-in-progress in order to maintain your motivation and find a more productive path forward.

Image placeholder title

We all know that crossing the finish line of a manuscript requires marathon of writing, page after page, every day. Sometimes, though, the best thing you can do for your WIP is to put it aside for a few days, weeks, or even years. I learned this the hard way during the 11 years I worked on my debut novel, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills.

There were stretches when I dreaded waking up to my characters and their stalled stories. I sat at my desk, stared at my computer, and tortured myself with self-doubt and resistance. I wrote entire chapters, knowing that the overall structure of the novel wasn’t holding together. None of this was good for my soul or my book. Here are six strategies for how and when to stop writing that may save you time and misery.

Give yourself permission to take a break.

The biggest lesson I learned is that creativity simply can’t be forced. It seemed that the harder I tried, the more I grew to despise my WIP. There was a point when I was so discouraged and zapped of energy that I put my manuscript in a drawer for two years. Since then, I’ve made a habit of taking short breaks—before I totally burn out.

Put aside your WIP with love.

I’m a firm believer that intent does matter. When faced with a sticky plot twist, I may print out 50 pages, wrap them in yellow tissue paper, and then place them in a drawer for a few days. This act of compassion for myself and my art feels a lot better than beating myself up for being stuck.

Keeping the Writing Faith: Daily Writing Habits of Four Successful Authors

Replenish your creative energy.

In retrospect, my single-minded devotion to my novel for six years probably led to the need to completely put it aside for two years. I developed a penchant for psychedelic coloring books, treating myself to colored pencils and magic markers, learning to draw outside the lines. I cultivated a shade garden in a spot where I had always assumed nothing would grow. I changed up my exercise routine to include more time in nature and less time at the gym. All of these activities provided nourishment for the novel resting in a drawer.

Image placeholder title

Keep writing—and learning.

There comes a time when it’s futile to carve up a manuscript for the fourth or sixth time. One of the most productive things I did during the two-year hiatus from my WIP was writing a draft of an entirely new novel. I invested in workshops and hired a consulting editor when I could afford to. I read and underlined passages I wished I had written in other novels, and then collected them in a notebook as examples I could mimic with my own words. I traded pages with a few trusted friends. In short: I upped my skills and then I was ready to tackle my first novel again. The best part: Now that In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills has been published, I have a second novel in the works!

Put a clock on your time-out.

When I set aside my WIP the first few times, I worried that I would abandon it for good. It’s helpful for me to set a begin-again date even if it seems arbitrary, simply for peace of mind.

The truth is, your gut will tell you when to take a time-out from your WIP, and when to pick it up again. It’s all about making a commitment—and keeping the writing faith.

Online Course: Creativity & Expression

Image placeholder title
How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

It's not enough to know when your manuscript is ready for a professional edit—it's knowing who is the right fit to do the editing. Here, Tiffany Yates Martin discusses how to find the right professional editor for your writing.

From Script

Understanding the Writer and Agent Relationship (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read an intimate interview with Verve Literary Agent and Partner David Boxerbaum about the state of the spec market, the relationship between a writer and agent, and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is ending your story too soon.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes with Magic

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes With Magic

In this post, trained fighter and author Carla Hoch explores the process of writing fight scenes with magic—how to make the unbelievable believable, how limitations bring us closer to our characters, and more.

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

If you're a freelance writer who is able to secure assignments, an essential tool you'll need is an invoice. In this post, Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer shares a very basic and easy invoice template for freelance writers to get the job done (and get paid).

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

A career behind the curtain helped Amy Neswald in creating her own stories. Here, the author shares 3 things being a broadway wig master taught her about storytelling.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let things get a little out of control.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 14th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

After an intense writing challenge, you might feel a little lost. Here are some tips from Managing Editor and fellow Wrimo Moriah Richard for capitalizing on your momentum.