Writer’s Fatigue

Some time ago I was chatting with writer friend T.L. Shreffler on the phone about plotting (confession: I was picking her brain about how she plots series). As we were talking, she mentioned that she was just coming off an awesome writing spree where she’d been really productive, and now she was having a hard time focusing and enjoying her writing. As with me, when the joy of writing isn’t there, her writing feels flat, which means a great deal more revision and editing to get it to where she needs it. Not fun.

A couple months ago, I found myself in the same place. I had just sent off the ARCs for my upcoming release, fine-tuned the formatting, and gave myself a few nights “off” reading and putzing around the internet. Now it was time to buckle down to writing Book Two, and it was like trying to herd cats when you don’t even want to herd them. I’d been thinking these characters for months, working intensely on Sunbolt (Book One) to all hours of the night, and I was just tired of it. As Shreffler said about herself, I had Writer’s Fatigue.

The question in such a situation is, what to do? I expect it’s different for every author. (How’s that for an answer?) For me, I figured my mind was simply tired of engaging with the struggles my characters faced. Not that I don’t care about them, I just needed a change. So I did a sewing project, read books to my three year old, kept thinking about and poking at my story, and a few nights later I suddenly found myself pondering the well-known fairy-tale “The Princess and the Pea.”

I’m a fairy tale enthusiast, and I found it curious that this tale has very few YA-targeted retellings. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. So at 10:30 pm I opened up a new word doc, and BAM. Three hours later I had a new short story—light, fun, and with a clear happily-ever-after. I say that because it hit me that absolutely none of those words can be used to characterize my series. The Sunbolt Chronicles is fast-paced, dark and the endings are shadowed. There will eventually be a happily-ever-after, but not till the end of the series. This realization brought out the true source of my writer’s fatigue: I was emotionally and mentally drained from the toll my poor characters had taken. As much as they needed the story-space between books to build themselves up and take on a new adventure, I needed space as well.

In a nutshell: don’t underestimate the power your stories have to affect you. If you find yourself with writer’s fatigue, take a moment to ask what is really affecting you. It may be the opposite of me: your stories are lighthearted and fun and you’re in a hard place in your life; writing them becomes exhausting because they take all your reserves. Or it could be something else entirely. Whatever the case may be, give yourself permission to take a break from your current writing project. Keep writing, just try something different, something that will help you recharge so that you can come back to your initial project after a week or two, ready to write again.

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar is hard at work on two new projects. The first is a companion trilogy to her debut novel Thorn, following the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife. The second project, The Sunbolt Chronicles, is a novella series following the efforts of a young mage as she strives to bring down her nemesis, a corrupt and dangerous Arch Mage who means to bring the Eleven Kingdoms under his control.

Connect with Intisar on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/booksbyintisar
Connect with author and artist T.L. Shreffler: http://www.facebook.com/tlshreffler 


  1. Hi Jo! Thanks so much for having me here at Writers and Authors. I really appreciate the chance to take part :)

    1. You're welcome. All the best with your book.

  2. Excellent article! It gave me insight into my own writer's fatigue! Definitely food for thought. I think this could be useful and insightful for all levels of writers and kinds of work.

    1. Thanks for dropping by. I agree, writers fatigue doesn't get mentioned very often but it happens to a lot of writers.


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