Writing Tips

When to Stop Writing

When to Stop Writing

This post is inspired by a comment that happened on my Facebook Author Page recently. The other day, writer – Angie Neto – asked me a fantastic question I’m sure all writers can relate to:

“Were you nervous when you published your first novel? I have edited, rewritten and changed chapters so many times now and still doing last minute searches for errors. When do you say enough?”

My Facebook answer:

“I still get nervous. I think that’s natural. You’re working hard to share your intellectual creation. It’s nerve-racking, knowing you will be judged off of it, but it’s well worth it. But I do think – at some point – you have to step away and have beta readers and editors deal with it, and eventually, you have to turn the manuscript in, and one day, you have to know you can’t change anything anymore (even though you’ll be dying to!)”

Special shout out to Angie Neto! Because of this conversation, I wanted to expand on this topic. That being said, I believe writing is always unique to the writer. Hemingway liked to drink while writing. I couldn’t write drunk if I wanted to. But I have been found writing in a dark closet before. (Don’t ask.) So I want to take a moment to share three times that I stop writing.

1. When I’ve spent WAY too much time editing and re-editing and re-editing

I’m only starting with this one because that was the main reason of writing this post. Editing is vital. Don’t get me wrong. But it can also be destructive, and I know this because I’ve been there before. I’ve hauled myself page over page over page over year over year – only to realize I’ve been editing this manuscript to death. At this point, I’ve basically butchered the entire manuscript because I’ve sliced my confidence apart a million times. What I mean to say…well, let me describe a sad recollection of events: Shannon writes book, Shannon edits book halfway through, Shannon decides to rewrite the entire script, Shannon edits that book, Shannon edits it again, Shannon edits again, Shannon still finds the wrong “you’re” in a sentence, and Shannon breaks down about how awful of a writer she could be to miss such an editing mistake five times in a row, and now Shannon believes the entire manuscript is this way, so she deletes it and starts over…Do not – and I repeat – DO NOT do this to yourself. Edit it as many times as you want to, but always remember that other editors are out there for a reason. Let them assess it. Let them help you. Breathe. Put down the red pen. It will be okay. If we don’t learn when to stop editing, we will – literally – never stop editing. A manuscript is like a person. It will never be perfect. The imperfections give it character. (Just don’t give it too much character if you know what I mean.)


 2. When I’m physically ill

Sadly, I do not mean that I have the flu. I can admit that I – in fact – have found a pen in my hand when I was bedridden. Safe? Healthy? Probably not. But I’m a writing addict. That being said, I don’t actually mean to say the flu is the problem. The problem is when I CAUSE the flu to happen in the first place because I’ve stressed myself out so much over writing that I stop taking care of myself and – in turn – I get ill. Stress ill. Headaches and body pains from sitting at my desk for too long ill. Don’t do that to yourself. In this case, strain is not gain. Strain is sickness that will only put you behind schedule even more, and it will only cause more pain.

 3.  When I start losing my love for writing

I never lose my love for writing – not entirely anyway. But I do have days where I step back, and I realize that I am struggling. In fact, I can confess that I went through this yesterday. I’ve been so focused on the edits of Death Before Daylight that I have forgotten to give myself time to write in a current novel I am very much emotionally involved in. Don’t get me wrong. I’m involved in Death Before Daylight as well. Very involved. But working on something new is quite the refreshing energy boost that I need to keep powering through edits of a novel. Although I love editing, working on the same project for long periods of time can be draining, especially since I’m more focused on the publishing side of things rather than the writing side of things, so I have to return to the “just writing to write” part of me often because that part of me is the most important in terms of enjoying my writing. I only have to remind myself of that.

In the end, you might have noticed that I don’t necessarily “stop” writing. I simply change my focus of writing or a take a moment to step back in order to relax. In fact, I was very serious when I said I’m going through the last one right now. Between my car and my laptop breaking down this week, my stress level peaked (and not in a good way at all). Writing is my coping mechanism, but working on edits was the last thing I needed. I had to shelve Death Before Daylight, and I had to do what I wanted to do the most desperately, so I worked on a new novel I’ve referred to before on here as TGO, and I felt much better afterward – almost like I learned to breathe again, and in all honesty, I might have to do this again next week. I’m still not sure I’m over it. All that matters is getting back on my feet again one way or another.

Do you have any times that you stop writing?

Feel free to share below! It’s also that time again – expect Website Wonders and October’s Ketchup to be posting soon.


30 thoughts on “When to Stop Writing

  1. Hi Shannon thanks for this post. You have described me and everything I am going thru at the moment.
    It sure helps to know I’m not alone in this state of mind.
    Trying hard to feel in the groove for editing my debut novel so I can get back to doing what I love most …. writing.
    Reading your post help squelch my guilt of sneaking away from editing to write a poem. Poetry being my first love and passion.

  2. Fantastic post! I have not yet worked on more than one thing at a time because I am obsessive. If I’m writing, that’s all I do. If I am editing, that’s all I do. If I am searching for an agent, well, you get the point. I think if I can schedule my time so I do a little of all of these things everyday (especially starting a new novel!) I will be a much happier, and less stressful, writer. I struggle with knowing when to stop editing a novel myself, and even though I stopped in my latest and began submitting, I found more errors to fix right before a full submission. Thankfully I caught them, but it makes me believe there are more I didn’t catch. And you know what, I’m good with that. I am not perfect and never will be. It’s time I let it go out into the world and trust other’s to help me make it “perfect”.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post! I think errors will always find a way to sneak through – Harry Potter has mistakes – so it’s good to try our best to get them all, but we can’t beat ourselves up when we don’t. Charles shared a great story about over-editing below that I think you would like. I hope you find your perfect agent and publisher 😀

  3. I stop writing when i find myself making changes solely to feel like I’m making progress. I realized I did this with my first book when I was editing and I found a page with no typos. I read it over and over again as if such a thing couldn’t exist. Then I switched a word with a synonym, which showed I had issues.

    Nowadays, I take breaks between projects. Ranges from a day or two between editing books to a week or two between new books. These breaks tend to be where I outline other ideas, but they’re a lot more laid back.

    1. Loved this story – thank you for sharing it – I think many can relate to the draining circumstances of over-editing. Breaks in-between projects are always great. I took a break myself this weekend. I have done nothing. It feels foreign, but I think that’s what I needed.

  4. I stop writing when it feels more like a chore than a pleasure… when I get to the point where I’m like “omg I hate my own story now”… sometimes I’ve gone over and gone over the same story I just need to either take a break from writing or focus on a different piece of work to give my mind a break there… and usually after I’ve had a good break is when the good ideas start to coming back and there I am back to making the story awesome again… I also don’t write so much on my stories when I’m having to write a lot for school… my degree requires a lot of reading and essays and putting all my effort into that sometimes doesn’t leave much over to be creative elsewhere and I don’t want to try and force it… so sometimes I have to just wait till the school load eases up a bit…

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing what you go through during these times! I think it will help other writers not feel as alone when they have to step away due to overanalyzing. Best of luck with your schoolwork!

  5. For me, the stopping point is most often when the pressure of trying to balance writing, work and other stuff causes a bout of depression. When that happens I really need to stop and rest. But sometimes I get a near-identical feeling from stress, and when that happens I feel a lot better if I start working and get past the blockage. Learning when to stop and when to go is a matter of trial and error and experience.

    1. Very true! Writers need to find what works for them, and – in the beginning especially – they need to listen to themselves. Their minds, and their bodies will tell them if they are over-straining themselves.

  6. Great, resonating post. I try to give myself some rest days between writing to try and cut off that feeling of being distant from “writing just to write”. Sometimes it doesn’t work though, especially if I’m focused on overall plot or submitting to publication… otherwise, I will occasionally get to points in writing where I’ll break into hives and have to stop because I’m so dangy itchy that I can’t type!

  7. When the writing is becoming a chore, I find I need to take step back. Writing is such a passion that it should never lose its awesomeness and it’s better to take a break than have it turn into something you end up not wanting to do! 😀

  8. I have a pretty firm schedule, and I’ve become good at putting my family’s activities out of mind during writing time. However, as teens will have serious dramas, there have been times when I had to put writing aside and focus on their needs. Or when I was too upset to concentrate. Never have stopped completely, though. Just for a day or so.

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