confessions / novels / writing

Bye-bye, Novel. What’s Next?

Say one day you get an idea. You’re delusional enough to think it could be a book or something. So you gather up the stamina, drive, inspiration, guts needed to write it, you dig yourself out pockets of time, you bang your head against the wall, you let go of your grip of reality, you lose friends because you’re always at your writing spot writing, you let yourself think you should be allowed to do something this extravagant like be a novelist or something and… somehow… you complete that novel. That’s the most satisfying moment in the world, isn’t it?

So fast-forward past readers and revisions and crying over revisions and agents and more revisions and writing and writing, in whatever order you’ve done all that in, and fast-forward past book deals, because yes, let’s shove a book deal in there, and wow your editor took you out to lunch, and wow you have a deadline because the novel’s not done yet, and soon here it is, the deadline, IT IS FAST APPROACHING you are minutes away from it oh wow you got a few more days… and then, before you realize it, YOU HAVE FINISHED YOUR BOOK. And then, taking a deep breath, you have hit Send.

The manuscript is now in your editor’s hands.

This is where I am right now. My editor will do her job, and one day I’ll get an editorial letter and I’ll start revising, and I can’t wait, I’m so excited, but until then I am not touching the novel. I actually think it would be a bad idea to get my hands on it before my editor’s had her say. Maybe I’m not even allowed to. So I won’t. I won’t touch it. Not till it’s time to revise.

So here I am. Novel-less. I know I should start my next one; everyone says that. I am working up ideas to show my agent. I just…

I feel strange. Thursday was the day after I’d turned in the novel, and in the morning I was so happy and loopy and practically floating on air, but by afternoon, I felt… it’s weird to admit, but… almost sad. It was just an ordinary Thursday. How could it be an ordinary Thursday!

But it was.

I realized it was over. I’d finished the book. And I missed it terribly.

I felt—I still feel—like I have no purpose. Like what’s the point of me? Like, I’m walking down Broadway and I’m… what? A writer not writing.

I have to fix this immediately. I need a new novel to write and I need it NOW. So why is it so slow in coming?

So, other writers, how do you switch gears? What helps cleanse your palate for the next book? I had rice pudding last night, but it didn’t help.

26 thoughts on “Bye-bye, Novel. What’s Next?

  1. I actually give myself a break between books. To read, to watch movies, to catch up on housework, etc.

    It IS okay to not be writing, right? Because when we’re not writing, we’re filling the well. Too much of only writing, and I think it’s easy to find that well empty after awhile.

    If ideas come to me while I’m on “break” I will jot down stuff in my journal, but I don’t write anything at the computer.

    After an official break, I’m usually ready to get back to it.

    So I say take a break for a 2-3 weeks…🙂

    • Lisa, This is such wise, sage advice—thank you. I know I should take a break, I know I SHOULD. But if I don’t write every day, what do I do with myself? Especially now that I have the time to write every day… I feel so guilty if I don’t. If I want to really build a viable career as a writer, I should already be working on my next book… right?

      I’m very hard on myself. I know I _should_ take 2-3 weeks off, but I don’t know if I can. (Then again, if I’m spinning my wheels for all those weeks, it’s a waste isn’t it?)

      It’s been only four days since turning in the novel… why this weight and guilt?

      • I know what you mean about the guilt! I feel like other writers start up a new book the next day, maybe even the same day, that they finish a novel. I know this probably isn’t true, but doesn’t it seem like it? I know I can’t do that, that the whole thing has to come full circle with me taking a break, losing momentum, and then building it back up again with a new book. I have done it enough times to know that it *will* happen, but even so it’s hard to let go and rest. And writing full time, I feel like if I’m not writing madly every day, then I don’t deserve this and should be out finding a real job.

        I have some new ideas, maybe, that could be really awesome, but I need to let them sit for a bit. I need to take a break and read and play games and let the ideas form in the background.

        • Chelsea, I completely relate with what you said about the guilt of writing “full-time” and needing to write every day… otherwise what am I doing? Maybe you’ve just inspired my next blog post!

          We both finished our novels around the same time—within a day or so of each other, right? So I wonder when we’re both going to find our way back in…

  2. I felt like that when I graduated – I’d been in school since I was 5. 22 years! ..What now? What was I but a student?

    It’s only been a few days.🙂 You’re still a writer!

    I’d take a break like Lisa said. Especially since you were under deadline and wrote and wrote and wrote.

    • Thanks, Bri! It really does feel a lot like graduating, actually… I remember when I finished my MFA program and I was all flummoxed… even time seemed to move differently because I was living under an academic calendar and was suddenly in a normal calendar where I worked every day and there were no such thing as “semesters.” Very disconcerting.

  3. Always do what Lisa says.

    And if a story is building up inside your head, make it wait.

    Write inside your head until you can’t stand it anymore, and then the story will burst out.


    • Always do what Lisa says? Hmmm, you seem to know from experience, huh? Maybe the break is more important than I’m willing to face.

      I do love the idea of letting the story build and build until it can’t help but burst out. How much better would it be then, instead of forcing it!

  4. I’m here, too, Nova (well, mine’s with my agent and not an editor, but still…). We can be novel-less together. I could use a non-writing writing buddy right now, because I am so feeling like I’m lost in the middle of the lake without a paddle. It’s nice to hear I’m not the only one dealing with this…blahness.

    I’ve been doing other computer-related projects to trick myself into thinking I’m writing when I’m really not. And it seems to work for the most part. Though I can’t believe how much I’m itching to start the next book. Even though I have no idea what the next book will be.

    Hang in there, and maybe we’ll meet up again in the ‘Starting A New Book’ Club. Until then, pull up a chair and join in my Lost Without a Manuscript Club. The food’s over there.

    • Elissa, Haha, blahness, that’s exactly it.

      I’m trying to get my ideas down for my next book… whatever it will be, once I choose it… but there’s something that’s holding me back. I keep thinking of the ms I just finished, and I keep wanting that same deep connection with the one I’m about to start. But what I’m forgetting, I guess, is that took TIME. It didn’t happen right away. I had to dig into it.

      For now, if there’s a “Lost without a Manuscript Club” over on the BBs, I’m joining it with you!

  5. Hi🙂
    Congratulations on the manuscript done & submitted!
    I read books in the genre I write in that I don’t read whilst writing.
    All the best,

    • Thank you so much! I like this idea of reading in the genre I can’t read while I’m writing… there were so many YA novels I didn’t allow myself to read while I was finishing IMAGINARY GIRLS. Now I have no excuse to stay away from them!

      Great idea.🙂

  6. I’m with Lisa on the break. And I’m pretty much in the same place as you right now. I just finished revisions (although I’ll do a polish before my March 1st to the editor deadline) and the first day is always a high, followed by a low, but a break really is the answer. Especially if you really do work as hard as you seem to (I rarely work as hard as you!!!).

    I take as much as a month off after finishing a project. Once I took two or three. I use the time to catch up on blogs, read lots of books, cook, see my husband, read more books, and knit.

    If you can’t stand not being involved in your career, maybe do a little promo/marketing for Dani Noir. I actually thought of some cool things for you (my marketing brain never stops) last night…I’ll email them to you.

    • Joëlle, Ooh, thank you for reading! (And a separate thank-you for that awesome promo idea, will email you back, but wow.)

      I honestly don’t think I work hard enough. I see other writers working far harder than I do. (Um, hi! You’re amazing!) And I need to step it up. That’s why the guilt of taking a break and _not_ writing is so hard for me to face. Then again, so many wise, successful writers are saying I should…

  7. I am trying really hard to take a break, but like a FB relationship status, it’s complicated!

    I worked really hard to cut out time to make the writing happen, I got into habits (good habits, for once!) and now? I have nothing grabbing me to write, but I am still in that habit.

    So…I am still showing up to write, but that writing is usually typing that gets put into my growing WTF folder of no return. I don’t want to get out of the practice of getting up and going out, so I am cutting myself major slack.

    In the meantime, I am reading, watching movies, etc. Often intentionally ones that I know will be bad. I figure that enough of those, and one of these days I am going to throw the book across the room and swear to myself that I can do it better.

    That’s the day I will, whether or not I am aware of it, start my new novel.

    • I really connect to this. I’ve worked hard to get myself into the routine of writing every single day… I had to train myself to do it, and now that I have, what happens if I stop and can’t get it back? The idea of that is horrifying. So I really, really understand this.

      Also, maybe it’s only the _process_ of writing—and it doesn’t matter what it is. Maybe it’s the action of typing, the bubbling up of ideas, the words coming out… Maybe having a “WTF folder of no return” is the best thing to allow myself right now.

      I can’t wait till you start your new novel. It will be soon. Have you seen our horoscope, fellow Pisces???😉

      • awww, thanks. I should add, even though you already know this:

        None of what I am doing makes it easier to deal with.

        Yeah. Sorry.

        I am totally checking out the horoscope as soon as I can!

        (PS- I love you and stuff)

  8. I know exactly how you feel. After Violet Raines was published, I felt unmoored. I missed my characters, the woods–everything. My schedule . . . what schedule? Structure was lost. I felt, as you described, purposeless.

    That’s why I do advise only a short break and get back into the swing again, and you can do that as others said with short stories and things like that, but my own experience has taught not to keep the cap on my pen too long.

    • Danette, Thank you for sharing your experience! I wonder… how long did you end up keeping that cap on your pen? How do we know how long is too long, you know? Personally, I’ve been busy lately, but I don’t think I can wait much longer. At least I hope not. Being without an official book to write is not a good feeling for me.

  9. Don’t rush it. Journal. Blog. READ. The next one will come. It’s gestation. I know you haven’t had a baby yet, but oh, wow, it’s the same process. Just let it happen.

  10. Pingback: Not-Writing Till I Burst « distraction no. 99

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