Thursday, February 28, 2013

Post Writing Malaise – Or What Happens When You Finish a Book

As a full time writer, I write every day. I treat this like the job it is and only take off on the weekends and sometimes, not even then. When I had a day job I only asked myself to write 1,000 words each day, but now I expect 3,000+ each day. So when I finish a book I’m always at a loss.

I had a moment of pure, crystalline clear joy that it is finally done. Yesterday, when I finished the first draft of the Dystopian book I’ve been writing, I jumped up, ran out into the front of the house and just screamed. This book has been especially difficult for me since none of the characters could perform magic. And there were days that I never thought I would finish. There were days where I questioned why I ever wanted to write a book outside of my wheelhouse – after all I write Paranormal fiction, why would I risk hurting my brand by straying from it? There were days where I told myself, just put in zombies, or make someone a firestarter, or something, just add some magic and it’ll be easier. But I managed to keep with the plan and left out the magic and supernatural creatures. And, in doing so, I had a brilliant idea that will lead into the second book.

And yesterday I wrote for five straight hours, hearing the last words of the main character echo in my head, waiting for me to catch up in the story to type them, and I finished the damn thing.

Then I ran out and screamed. I jumped up and down and screamed some more.

Then I ran back to my office and quickly backed up the document in three different locations. Remember to back up your work people!

Then I went in search for food because the whole day all I had consumed was coffee and protein shakes, not wanting to waste time preparing food or eating it. But after I ate I sat down and just stared. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Wasn’t I supposed to be doing something?

Right, I’m supposed to be writing. But I finished.

So what do I do now?



Watch some TV.

But I’m supposed to be writing.

But you finished the manuscript. Now you need to take a breath and regroup.

Regroup for what?

For the next project.

The next project! Yes! I’ll start that!

No, the next project is editing and you’re too tired to do that right now. You’ll take a long weekend, decompress, get the end-of-the-world story out of your head and print off the Paranormal book on Monday.


Yes, Monday – that is when you’ll start editing.


Yes, that’s the next project!
That’s not writing! I’m supposed to be writing! See! Even Neil Gaiman says I should!

Editing is writing, it’s re-writing, much more important in the process.

So what do I do now?

Sit. Relax.


That is the inner monologue that goes through my mind when I finish a book. I used to try to plan little trips when I finished a book, giving myself a deadline to meet so that when I finished that last sentence I knew the next day I would be out of the office and didn’t have to think about “what now?” But I didn’t do that for the last book or even this one. I finished a the first book in a new series in January and then the next week I started writing the Dystopian book, again the first in a new series. And again I have nothing planned to get me away from the computer. 

One of the things I always tell my writer friends is to make sure you do something nice for yourself to celebrate the victories, big and little. Even if the celebrations is as small as treating yourself to your favorite cup of coffee, an hour on the couch and your favorite show. I did this after the first week I managed to write 20,000 words in five days. 
Maybe buy yourself a small present. I bought myself some sparkly pink slippers after I finished writing that Paranormal book in January.

Now I’ve added up the numbers and I’ve found that I have written over 155,000 words in two months. So I have to do SOMETHING for myself. I think my husband and I will pile into the car this weekend and we’ll take a drive down the coast, get some seafood, watch the waves and the sunset over the ocean. I’m going to buy some lilies and plant them in the front yard. And I’m going to read for pleasure. It’s not much but it is more than I’ve been able to do for myself in the last two months.

When you are your own boss you have to remember to treat your employees well or they’ll quit on you. So I’m giving myself a few, hard earned days off.

Do something nice for yourself, I’m sure you deserve it.


David Jón Fuller said...

You hit the nail on the head. It can be so hard to shut off the "create" mode of the writing brain and shift to "reflect" or "cool down" or "edit" mode. I like your idea of going away after finishing the draft -- preferably somewhere with no Internet access or where you are forced to pay attention to something else for a time. Like going out to see a movie, or running a marathon :)

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