Writing Life After Novels: What do you do next?

I’ve recently finished (for now anyway!) my novel about an usual exhibit in a 1980s town The Exhibit of Held Breaths and while I’ve got an extremely rough draft of another novel waiting not-so-patiently in the wings and a flash fiction novella that thinks I’m never coming back, I’m unsure what to get cracking on next. The sensible option after the all encompassing nature of the novel would be possibly to finish some short fiction (abandoned inchoate orphans) but the larger works seem shinier. We’ve used the marathon analogy before for novel writing but some people train and train and then do one marathon after another. Others never go back.

What I want to know, for regular and more established writers, what do you do? Does it depend? Do you usually have a week or two off altogether, do you write short pieces, move to non-fic or do you get up the next morning and dive right in to the next novel? What writing comes straight after you’ve finished your novel?

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6 comments

  1. It varies. It varied massively.
    I know I feel a void after one is completed but after a raging writing spree where I wrote more or less constantly, one book after another, I have had longer periods between books. It’s over 3 years since I last completed one, in fact. I suspect my illness may well be responsible for the prolonged hiatus.
    I think I’ve also been catching up on living, on experiencing other things, to fill up that fermenting vat of ideas. At some point, new plots pop up in the bubbling cauldron. Sometimes it’s just okra.

    1. Thanks Viv for your thoughtful comment. During full on life, sickness and so on we certainly must just live and after draining the vat, surely it has to refill. I worry that rushing headlong from one book to another will result in a more superficial work. I suppose it depends what sort of book you’re writing too. If they are multilayered you do need more time to ‘dwell’ even just purely subconsciously.

  2. Congrats on finishing your novel! I’m not in a position to answer your question, although I have a similar decision to make as I emerge from maternity leave. Just grab one and go with it? (I don’t know either!)

    1. Hi T, in this blog I’ve often advocated just jumping right in and producing material especially when pondering is not possible if lives are very full on. I know sometime you have can only write the book you are able to at that time, under those circumstances and we have to accept that but are we sometimes pushing ourselves to production when the material will not match up to our hopes. On the other hand, the creative act itself and holding onto the confidence of that is important. Follow our instincts? Push ourselves on against our misgivings? Hard to know. I know this is deviating a bit from purely short fiction vs long etc. What I’m getting at is that it does depend on our available energy and resilience.

      1. Yeah, I hear you. I understand all the questions but am still hopeless at providing answers. I’ve been thinking about it a lot as I return to work and writing. For me, Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing highlighted that you can only produce something remarkable if you’re prepared to be different (and have sustained faith in the production). My tactic is probably going to be to go with the one I have a gut feel about, and just blow it on out there. What’s the worst that could happen? (OK, I could forget to feed my kids, my work could be crap, and my family and friends could disown me…) But really?

  3. I tend to reward myself with a week off in between writing projects (sometimes even a month or more), but it all depends on the state of my domestic life and what is running through my head at any given time. For example, shortly after the birth of my first child I went on a crazed writing spree that resulted in 3 novels and several short stories. After the birth of my second child it all dried up, and now I am plodding along, picking up speed as my Muse returns and I try to push on with old manuscripts. I suppose you just have to follow your instinct and do what feels natural…

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