If 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.