Avoiding Manucript Mental Fatigue

Why are the first few chapters of your book great and then the yawn sets in as you continue reading through your first draft? Did two people write it?

The problem is common, happens to us all, and is something rarely if ever discussed. I believe it is because we know. We. Just. Know.

I call it Manuscript Mental Fatigue (MMF). We put so much into those first few chapters, editing as we go, and you know we do, then we make it past perhaps chapter ten and it’s over. We just write. It’s not that our ideas are but we just aren’t executing them the way we did earlier. A rule given at every turn about something not to do it, but we spent all of that time on those first few chapters. Instead of letting the words flow, we edited and tried to make those first chapters excellent when it was only a first draft. Why?

If you are like me, then you might say to yourself, “I know once I am finished writing this I am going to hate going back and just doing it all over again, so I am going to make it perfect the first time through.”

We hate going back through it because we put so much effort into the first draft in polishing as we wrote it the first time.


Every time we go through a draft of the book we keep getting tired a few chapters in, and once again, we have poorly executed chapters as the book goes on and in truth, they need executed properly in the burn barrel in the backyard.

Avoiding Manucript Mental Fatigue

How To Avoid MMF.

The First Draft

First, don’t write when you are brain tired. When you feel the brain beginning to tire—STOP. Go ahead and stop. Nothing good will come from forcing water out of a dry sponge.

While resting do nothing regarding your novel other than simply jotting down an idea that comes to mind and make sure to reference when you came up with the idea, why, and where it should go in the book. If you don’t reference and have written a three-word idea, you’ll be lost.

We have finished our first draft!

The Walk Away

Now we need to walk away and:

  • Begin our next novel.
  • Work on the second draft of a novel.
  • Beta Read for an author friend.
  • Do anything that will get our minds off that first draft. You need to give the brain and the story a rest, a time to refresh and see each other anew. I personally love doing research for books.

Time goes by; let’s say a couple of months. I know; I am being optimistic with saying two months, some people say three months to a year. (I also know I have used two semicolons together in as many sentences.) Then there is the optimism we will stay away from our work for even two months.

I have run across things I wrote years ago and had no idea it was I that wrote them. They just didn’t sound like me, but were! That’s what you want to achieve. Put your all in other things and put that book out of your mind.

  • Set some type of alarm, maybe on the computer or in the cell phone that goes off on the date to start the next draft.
  • Don’t have it marked on a calendar somewhere that will remind you of it.

The Return Part I

Now we are back to the second draft. We are reading it and making notes along the way, not corrections, just notes. If we make corrections now, we will become brain mush. Just read and take notes.


If we began corrections, we will begin to tire out during those first chapters, just as we would if we did editing as we wrote the first draft.

The Return Part II

Divide the book into three parts. Beginning, middle, and end. We will first work on the beginning, making updates/changes to the story according to notes.

Take a break of a few days to a week. Rest that brain.

Continue the same process through the middle and end parts of the book.

Walk away from the book and work on something else. No, we don’t have to be away forever, but we do want a bit of fresh eyes.

The Return Part III

Now it is time to read the book with the changes in place. We can do a few things at this time.

  • Take notes of problem areas.
  • Highlight problem areas.
  • Print the draft and mark problem areas.

The Third Draft

Work on the problem areas.

Use Word, or something like Grammarly to check grammar, spellings, word usage, and passive sentence structure, if passive sentences are something to be avoided which they normally are.

This is the time to become happy with the manuscript, happy enough for others to read it. We need to make a decision at this point to either have the manuscript edited or sent to beta-readers. There are different thoughts on which to do first, the editor or the beta-readers.

Some believe not to let beta-readers see the manuscript until it is as close to publishable as possible, with minor changes to take place at their suggestion.

I do see the merit of beta-reader last idea. If you have several beta-readers giving feedback then make the changes, send to the editor, and then publish, there may be changes made the beta-readers might like or dislike that would affect a review or recommendation.

The Book

Give it up to the reader fairies of the world.

Rinse and Repeat for the next project, that book you were working on while this one was at rest back up there after that first draft.

If you have ideas of how to avoid MMF, leave them in the comments below for others to learn from your wisdom. Appreciation in advance to anyone who comments below.


Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling by PS Bartlett and Ronovan HesterRonovan Hester is an author, with his debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in February 14, 2016. He shares his life through his blog His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as

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Author: Ronovan

Ronovan Hester is an author/poet/blogger, with a debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. "5.0 out of 5 stars: Now, I want to warn you… this is not your typical pirate tale! It’s BETTER!" "5.0 out of 5 stars: Totally unpredictable and a real gem of a discovery - Highly Recommended" "5.0 out of 5 stars: An action packed journey to piracy and revenge – all in the name of the crown, queen and county – set in 1705." He shares his life of problems, triumphs, and writing through his blog His love of writing, authors and community through his online world has led to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge and the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews and interviews known as


  1. Sol Stein in his book on writing says one should start editing in the middle. I can’t remember exactly but he calls it a three point something. (I can look it up if you want)His advice on writing and editing is really solid. I learned quit a lot about the craft by simply reading that one book, and will probably be rereading it soon.

    Ultimately I think we should however give way to what our inner writer says. Trust your gut as to how to go about writing and editing. We tend to be an insecure bunch when it comes to the craft. Then try the methods suggested by people such as Stein.


  2. I think like in everything else, each person will have its own method, and sometimes different books seem to demand different things. I try to keep writing and don’t edit as I go along, unless I’m rereading to remind myself of some points. If I see a typo I’ll correct, but not get involved in major editing. Jerry Jenkins says he edits what he wrote the day after in the morning and carries on writing in the afternoon… Distance and taking some time off surely allows you to come back to it with a fresh eye.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, I don’t think I could do the Jerry Jenkins method. Too much of a good thing and all of that. 🙂 I would find myself caught up in the editing of that earlier writing until I couldn’t stand it. But it might depend on how much writing one does at a time.


      1. Ha! I pushed into chapter 9. I had to go cold turkey, though. Chapter one was calling to me:
        “Revise me! Reviiiiiiise me. You know you want better descriptions in the opening sceeeeeeene.” I hate you, Chapter 1. And Chapter 8, my newest one, for that was the siren song: “Passive voice. You’ve been writing in passive voice.” (Ha, see what I did there?) “Don’t you want to revise it, lest someone discover it and know you’re a fraud author, a sham?”

        Those guilt hobgoblins! I spit on the “Was”es, and just pumped out content for a little while. Then I got bogged down in looking at other drafts of stuff I’ve written and wondering what to do with it all. Some of it is salvageable, if it were only melded with, say, a plot.

        Then I was looking at my outline for the first time in a year, and I started wondering, “didn’t I construct an awesome excel spreadsheet that creates a solar system?” This lead to looking at all the XLS files I had but no planet maker. 😦 Maybe in my email somewhere…

        And this is why I only wrote 500 words today. My dog ate it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I am at the half-way mark and have had to do some minor editing to make sure the story continues to flow. This was an excellent read, Ron. Great advice. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People will beta read for free. You can even let me know and I can post your need here on the site. As for an editor, you may be able to do the barter system. Jo Robinson began the Swopsies-
      This is the article describing the idea with people are commenting they would do proofreading

      This is the form to add your own talents you may be able to offer.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful article. I literally just learned I am not alone as I am in MMF with my current book, which is my second. I was beginning to think perhaps I wasn’t cut out for the job of writing novels after all! Thank you for this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just looked at Amazon and the praise for your first book (I hope the f shows up on the word first because it keeps disappearing on my screen. :).) I do believe you are ‘cut out for the job of writing novels’ and are just feeling the pressure of the sophomore novel. I’m impressed and envious. 🙂


  5. I love this post! I experienced MMF to the point of almost throwing in the towel with my first novel. Going over from start to finish multiple times was would destroying and resulted in me missing errors, opportunities and inconsistencies at an early stage. Taking some time out helps and I implemented some of the ideas you’ve posted with my second novel. I would very often do a detailed edit on completely random chapters. That was great for line editing as plot development wasn’t my focus. Having a good editor helped with that bit though and I’d encourage anyone to invest in one rather than doing it themselves. For my third novel I’m doing something very different -whether it will work or not is something else! Driven by a massive case of “baby brain” I first of all wrote an very detailed outline, coming to around 20,000 words and which was a bit of a stream of consciousness. I left it for a couple of months and then went through that from a development perspective. Broadly happy I broke the story down into chapters. I’m now just writing a chapter (or even sub scene at a time). Bizarrely I’m starting around two thirds of the way through as the climax is what excites me the most. I’ll address other chapters or sections depending on time and inspiration. Once that’s all done I’ll go from start to finish. I have no idea if this will work but somehow having a very tight focus on a particular “scene” seems to have improved the quality – rather than targeting myself on a particular number of words. We will see how it goes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree. I’ve written those scenes that sparked it all first then did outlines to link the other parts to them. I think using different methods also keeps writing a fresh experience, although routine works as well. You never know what works for you until you try different things. 😀 Thank you very much for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Went to your Amazon Author page on to see your works. Was surprised you didn’t have bio information. 🙂 Was going to snoop about you. Your ranking for the books are not bad considering the number of books in the genre you write. Is that you modeling for the cover of Poverty, Pills, and the ‘Port? 😛


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