I just finished a really big project, and have to get started right away on the next big project and another slightly smaller project, and I’ve got the Worldbuilding course going, and then there’s this other weird little project . . . I’ve got some stuff to do but I’m on top of all those things. My 3.85-hour workday has become a solid 6+-hour work day, and Facebook’s “feature” where it shows you old posts reminded both my wife and I that it’s been exactly four years since we last took a vacation. The current deadlines are off a bit in the future, which is to say I’m not behind, rushing to finish up, and so on. I’m on top of it—have been working my ass off, actually, including all weekend.

I need a break. I need my brain to do something else for a day before I start editing another book. I need to write. I need to read. I need to just sit quietly and stare off into space.

But it is Tuesday, so I still have a blog post to write, so how to reconcile needing a day off and having to write something that might be useful to someone who wants to learn how to write better?

Let’s see . . . hmm . . .

Have you ever thought maybe your characters need a day off?

Think about the last fantasy novel you read—there’s a lot going on. A lot at stake. And we don’t really see anyone just kinda, y’know . . . take a day.

And there are reasons for this, which I got into in a previous post, and that a smarter person than me once described:

The reason novels were so thick for so long was that people had so much time to kill. I do not furnish transportation for my characters; I do not move them from one room to another; I do not send them up the stairs; they do not get dressed in the mornings; they do not put the ignition key in the lock, and turn on the engine, and let it warm up and look at all the gauges, and put the car in reverse, and back out, and drive to the filling station, and ask the guy about the weather.

Kurt Vonnegut

But consider this:

No, as Mr. Vonnegut said, you absolutely should not show every detail of your characters’ days, but after you fast forward through the ten-day journey from castle to castle, maybe an offhand reference:

Rain had kept them off the road for a full day. Looking back, Galen missed that lazy afternoon in camp, the time to collect his thoughts and catch his breath.


There, a blog post. Now, the rest of the day is mine!


—Philip Athans



About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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