Author Jennifer Hubbard wrote recently about one of the most difficult parts of writing a novel:
There comes a point in the writing of every book where I become sick of the book.
Actually, that’s a lie. There’s usually more than one such point per book, and they usually come near the end of a round of revisions. Come to think of it, it happened with my short stories, too. That’s how I knew I was done: when I could think of nothing else to do to the story, and I had been through every word of it so many times that the words were in danger of stale meaninglessness.
I’ve experienced this myself. There comes a point when you think the book is a colossal, irredeemable mess and you can’t for the life of you figure out if it’s actually any good or not.
The best way to deal with revision fatigue is to trust in your heart that it’s a very useful and necessary feeling: what better time to turn a critical eye on your book than when you think it is an affront to humanity?
The good news is, as Jennifer says, it means you’re almost done (at least for now). The danger is getting discouraged by your fatigue and just calling your work finished and turning it in before you’ve given yourself some time to utilize that fatigue. It can be demoralizing, after all that time and effort, to revisit your work and be unsure of what it was all for.
Just know that the feeling will pass and instead let yourself simmer in it for a while. Power through and keep working. You’ll be glad you did later.
What about you? Do you experience revision fatigue? And how do you deal with it?
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Art: First World War US propaganda poster by James Montgomery Flag
Annalise Green says
I'm not sure that I have any method for dealing with it other than remembering that book fatigue does not necessarily represent the quality of the book. If it weren't for posts like these, which remind me that it's a normal part of the process, I'm pretty sure I would quite entirely. So thanks!
Donna Hole says
Finishing that first novel was like this for me. I hated it and was ready to toss it all in the trash. I got some good feed back, fixed what I could, queried it some, and moved on.
Thanks for the pep talk Nathan.
Just spent the last four days editing my comment and now I'm in traction.
Btw, I love that picture. She looks so comfy and cozy. Makes me want to take a nap! 🙂
Deborah Niemann says
Thankfully that does not happen to me until I'm doing a rewrite requested by my editor. And she very firmly tells me that the book is NOT a complete mess, and I don't need to start over!
Susan Sundwall says
How did I find this just when I needed it? Book coming out, nervous wreck, how could anybody like a book that I'm so sick of? Glad – so glad – I'm normal.
For me, a lot of it is after I write the synopsis first, I still somehow feel the story is complete, even when I know its only a synopsis, and not the novel.
I have a hard time taking: George and Herman walked to school, to –
George and Herman were walked to school, when a evil bird pooped on their head.
I'll totally admit that I suffer revision fatigue. But what I tend to do is what you seem to be advising against – leave my fatigued work and move onto something else for a while. I guess it's not too bad 'cause I always have multiple projects on the go. I always come back to the one I was sick of in the end, though. 😉 And also, I'm unpublished and my only deadlines are the ones I set myself, so that's the easy part for me too.
G Chops says
It’s my first novel. I have a few questions.
Does the ever come when you revised more than you should and you start doing damage?
Do you get to the point you can no longer see the mistakes?
Do you ever see everything or does it still have a few mistakes when it goes out?
Nathan Bransford says
I have some guidance in this post on how to know when you’re really done: https://blog.nathanbransford.com/2018/03/how-to-edit-your-novel
And I still see mistakes in my *published* books that make me shake my head.