Avoiding Fantasy Fatigue

reading fatigueIf you’re reading this article you might be thinking two things:

1. Why would a fantasy website feature an article about being burned out with fantasy?

2. I’m burned out on fantasy, so I want to see what this guy rants about.

Well, to put this into perspective, I’m a life-long fan of fantasy, have written it for years, and consider it my bread and butter. However, I often hear the advice, “Read outside your genre.” The same can apply to writing. Embracing different styles and genres might just increase your love for your “main genre.”

Is it bad to abandon your main genre for a spell and try something else? Let’s explore this idea together, shall we?

The Sub-Genre Shuffle

Sometimes the cure for fatigue might be staying under the umbrella of fantasy, but just trying out a different sub-genre. For example, when I wrote a lot of serious sword and sorcery or epic fantasy, I got burned out on that style. Therefore, I turned to comedy to develop my Splatter Elf world, a mixture of dark comedy, weird fiction, and fantasy. This allowed me to continue to write sword and sorcery, but with a more comedic lens. I also think doing so helped me develop the ever-elusive voice that every writer seeks out. While I certainly write straight forward fantasy still, it is nice to veer off the path sometimes.

Maybe you’ve written primarily epic fantasy with huge casts and sweeping narratives. Even if you love this style, if you’re getting burned out, trying out some other sub-genre like urban fantasy, historical fantasy, or steampunk might wake up something new inside you. When you’re ready to return to your main genre, you can even add some elements of what you liked about the new sub-genre you dabbled in.

Topple Your To Be Read Tower

Reading the same kind of fiction over and over again can sometimes cause fatigue. While it’s wonderful to get immersed in worlds you enjoy, you may find yourself losing passion for what you read and write. In this case, it might be time to kick over your To Be Read Pile (for me “To Be Read Tower”) and build a new one. This doesn’t mean never again reading your preferred genre. Reading different things for a couple of months can allow you take a break from certain kinds of tales. Hell, read some non-fiction. I’m personally influenced by many events in the news and throughout history. Maintaining an eclectic selection of titles can stave off fantasy fatigue and even rekindle your passion for your beloved genre.

If you don’t want to stray too far from the fantasy road, you can always try other speculative fiction such as science fiction, horror, weird fiction, and alternate history. Once you return to fantasy, you may even integrate what you learned from the other genres into your work. Perhaps your fantasy may have a darker tone to it if you read lots of horror or have a quicker pace after reading thrillers. Experiment and don’t be afraid to let your new influences take you to exciting places.

Another recommendation is to read books by authors with different backgrounds from you. This can greatly expand your understanding of fantasy from a perspective that you may have not thought about before.

Be a Cat

Everyone loves cats, right? The internet tells me this. Therefore, why not think like a cat? From my experience going to a cat cafe in Tokyo, I learned that cats get bored very quickly by the same repetitive motion. Sure, they may play with the string for a couple of seconds, but when they see “That’s it?” then they’ll move on to sleeping or something more interesting. Usually this pertains to food and/or something shiny.

OK, I was going somewhere with this metaphor.

Basically, if you find yourself uninterested in what you’ve mostly been writing for a long time, then allow yourself to be a cat and go find something else to interest you. This doesn’t mean abandoning projects with wild, um, abandon, but it can be spreading your proverbial wings and attempting different forms. This can often mean shifting from huge novels to short stories or novellas. Or vice versa. I write mostly short stories now, but my “novel fire” is still burning inside me. I haven’t gotten fatigued on writing short stories as of yet because I’m in the midst of planning a novel. Sometimes mixing the two can be satisfying and limit the chance of losing interest. However, if you’re the type that can’t juggle many things at once and still complete them, be wary. You don’t want your forgotten manuscripts to look like the mess a cat leaves after it gets a hold of toilet paper.

There. Metaphor full circle.

Break the Cycle of Failures

One thing that can certainly lead to fatigue is repeated failure. This can mean having loads of stories incomplete or finding yourself losing momentum on something you hoped would blossom into more. In this case, breaking the cycle means to conform (YES, CONFORM) to that old advice, “Finish what you start.” Even if you’re burned out on editing a huge book or finding your sagging middle makes you want to headbutt an ogre, keep going. Part of a long journey is to push through your aches and pains to make it to your destination. If you find much of your fatigue with the genre stems from an inability to finish, then setting concrete goals is hugely important.

Some things that have done wonders for me:

1. The Pomodoro Technique – A time management system that helps organize tasks into easy to handle chunks with breaks in between. You can find out more about it here.

2. Schedules – Writing down a daily schedule of writing time helped me write three to four hours a day when I had a break from work.

3. Consistency – I have been writing every day since February 2014, a humblebrag fact I crow about every chance I get. A lot of this has to do with making myself accountable by posting online (in this case in a thread on the Mythic Scribes forum called Writers’ Work). This doesn’t mean you have to write hours every day if you don’t have time. It just means being consistent in some capacity. If you can eke out 30 minutes before bed or in the morning before everyone wakes up, go for it. If your writing is regulated to weekend sessions, then do that. Just being consistent can help a lot in avoiding fatigue due to getting overwhelmed with how huge the task of finishing a novel can be.

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? I bet you thought this was going to be a hugely negative post about fantasy. Nah, I would never do that. I love fantasy and always will, but knowing when to take a slight detour has strengthened my love and showed me what can be possible if I try new ideas. Never lose sight of your passion, but be a cat sometimes and roam about. Who knows what you’ll find.

So what are some things you do to avoid getting fatigued from your favorite genre?

For discussion of all things fantasy-related, check out Philip Overby’s Fantasy Free-for-All.

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Alex
6 years ago

I read in a variety of genres – fantasy, sci-fi, gothic horror, classics, true crime, mystery, history fiction and nonfiction and mythology. I’ve just finished Doctors in Hell – the latest in the Heroes in Hell series from Perseid Press, and now I am reading a true crime book.

I write fantasy, which has been described as ‘sex and sorcery’ as primarily it’s fantasy romance. That said I’ve also got a ‘clean’ series of short stories, and I’m working on a kids fantasy set.

Reading a variety of genres keeps me interested in them all. I’ve found if I just read, say fantasy, for months on end then I’ll get to the ‘meh – just another fantasy story’ stage.

Historical and mythology are especially useful for fantasy writers. After all both play a key role.

Philip Overby
Reply to  Alex
6 years ago

Thanks for the comment, Alex! I also agree that mythology and history are huge boons for me. I’ve always loved mythology, so I try to read as much of it as I can. It often inspires me to write different kinds of fantasy if I learn about a new monster or legend.

I think fantasy will always be my “home genre” but I do want to read stuff closer to reality now and again.

Mythopoet
Mythopoet
6 years ago

I find it hard to imagine suffering fantasy fatigue, to be honest. Fantasy is such a wide and diverse genre. If you’re in the mood for romance, you can read fantasy romance. If you want a mystery, you can find a fantasy mystery. There’s literary fantasy and western fantasy and far future fantasy and coming of age fantasy just about anything that 100+ years of authors have been able to imagine.

I think if someone is suffering fantasy fatigue, I would recommend looking beyond the past couple of decades worth of books. Read some classics. There are so many older works of fantasy that are masterpieces of the genre that few readers or writers of fantasy talk about or are even aware of these days.

Philip Overby
Reply to  Mythopoet
6 years ago

Thanks for commenting, Mythpoet! I agree that it is pretty hard to grow tired of fantasy because there are so many alternatives (something I mentioned in the article.) However, I do think some people have their “wheelhouses” meaning that I know some people may exclusively read epic fantasy and wouldn’t normally read or write urban fantasy or romantic fantasy. In these cases, finding other genres to become interested in can help prevent burn out altogether. I know if I read exclusively epic fantasy series, I soon long for something different. That’s why sometimes I try out thrillers or weird fiction for something completely different. But yes, I do think it’s hard to grow tired of fantasy if you know where to look. Sometimes it can just mean digging further back or looking in places you wouldn’t normally look.

saeed sabbagh
saeed sabbagh
6 years ago

great arcticle i 3 books at a time each different genre i have interest as a reader. as a writer i find inspiration from anything from a picture of a blue to tolkien lord of the rings trilogy. even harry potter , twilight has inspired me i am even inspired by arabian history which is evident in the demon cycle by peter v. brett i remember talking a friend during lunch and took a look at his teeth (he had braces ) what if a nerd had unfunate luck of catching the popular beautiful girl (who not normal) dark comdey wip

Philip Overby
Reply to  saeed sabbagh
6 years ago

Thanks, Saeed! Good luck with your upcoming work. It’s good to find inspiration from a variety of places.

Rob
Rob
6 years ago

I approved of this blog post. Keep up the good work Mythic Scribes!

Philip Overby
Reply to  Rob
6 years ago

Thanks, Rob! I approve of your comment. 🙂

Stephen S. Power
6 years ago

I’d recommend writers read a lot of history. There’s so much you can steal. I’m reminded of something Jack Vance once said about his fantastic worlds: None of it is made up. It’s all pulled from real life, actual cultures and history.

Philip Overby
Reply to  Stephen S. Power
6 years ago

Great point, Stephen. There is so much wonderful history out there in the world that can be a huge inspiration for new fantasy stories. I think the focus has been primarily Europe, but there are even parts of Europe that had distinctly different cultures that haven’t been explored yet, let alone the rest of the world.

Alex
Reply to  Stephen S. Power
6 years ago

Agreed. Even if you read about some epic battle, or great person from history then that can lead to inspiration. Mythology too is a must.

Ciara Ballintyne
6 years ago

Actually, the question I asked myself as I came here was “How can you be burned out on fantasy?!” LOL

It’s never actually happened to me. I do read outside my genre, although not often, and most frequently it’s still within the SF genre. When I come back to fantasy, I always have a ‘coming home’ feeling.

I don’t write outside of fantasy, and have never felt the desire to do so.

Philip Overby
Reply to  Ciara Ballintyne
6 years ago

Thanks, Ciara! You make a good point, one I touched on a little bit. There isn’t ever really a need to leave the fantasy genre since it’s so wide open. The fatigue may sometimes set in with people that right the same kind of stories with the same characters over a long period of time. Ditto with reading them.

Aderyn Wood
6 years ago

Well, fantasy is my main (reading) squeeze, but I do love other genres too – murder mysteries for example. The thing is, when I do come back to fantasy I’m even more excited than usual – so I think mixing it up as a reader is also a good thing.

Philip Overby
Reply to  Aderyn Wood
6 years ago

Thanks for commenting, Aderyn! I also read thrillers on occasion and they have definitely helped me with pacing. Still a work in progress though!

Selah Janel
6 years ago

Love this post, and I’ve definitely been there. I’ve found that getting too immersed in any genre for me can make me static after a while, but writing on my Kingdom City series (which is huge, involved, and has more world building than is healthy for any human or troll) definitely can do it to me faster than other stuff. I’ve found that if I carry around a loose leaf notebook to write whatever I think of at any moment throughout the day, that gets me focused on other things and keeps it fresh and interesting. I also like anthology calls because they force me out of the box of my own thought processes. One thing with my TBR pile that I’ve noticed, as well, (because I do tend to read everything and not stick to a genre) is that when I’m restless or feeling meh, I gravitate to graphic novels, manga, and kid lit that I grew up with. For whatever reason, that recharges me and gets me prepared to actually use my brain again.

Thought all your points were excellent in this – glad I’m not alone!

Philip Overby
Reply to  Selah Janel
6 years ago

Glad you liked the post, Selah! I also carry around a notebook with me, but it’s mostly for writing when being around computers distracts me too much. I find the still most of what I read is fantasy, but I’ve recently shown more interest in urban fantasy as of late. I’m curious where this will take me. Should be fun though!

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