Thursday, April 05, 2007

Post Novel and Internovel, a Survey

A couple of folks have been talking about what happens to them between or after books. Bear. Monette. Lake. Smith. Ennui has been mentioned. Boredom. Scatter. Anxiousness. Since the vast majority of the folks who are reading this blog are writers, I wanted to ask you about this.

First, my own response: I find the topic fascinating in part because it's so alien to the way my process works. Generally when I finish writing a book the thing I want most in the world is to start the next book. That's because somewhere around three quarters of the way through the last book the next big idea has occurred and it's all pretty and shiny and stuff. By the time I'm done with the current book, the line edits, and the beta draft I've had this really cool idea waiting for weeks at the very least and I want to play with the new toy. I want it a lot.

In fact, if I don't get to play with it I start to get a little strange, or as my wife puts it I leak weirdness. The longer I go without touching the new idea, the more I leak.

This is not to say that I don't have novel ennui or scatter or anxiousness. I just have them at a different place—typically a third of the way through the new book.

So, what I'm wondering is: What happens to you when you finish the book? And if you don't get inter-or-post novel effects, where do you get them? This is of course an essay question.


lydamorehouse said...

The problem with you, Kelly, is that you're never REALLY between projects.

Some of us actually don't HAVE ideas for the next thing right away. (I know, hard for you to imagine, but true.) When I don't have an idea for the next book/project I get "scatter." I feel myself wanting to do a bunch of different things, but not knowing quite what.

Kelly McCullough said...

Well, yeah, I'm a very strange monkey. That's why I asked.

OTOH, two of the people who were talking about this are Elizabeth Bear and Jay Lake, both of whom are significantly more proliffic than I am.

lydamorehouse said...

Just to argue semantics, being prolific and always having an idea for the next thing aren't the same. You _can_ write a lot without knowing what's coming next.

Kelly McCullough said...

Sure, but Jay and Elizabeth both have further book length stuff laid out to some significant degree, and (I believe) under contract.

Douglas Hulick said...

I would also point out that many people don't have the kind of time to devote to writing that you do, Kelly. Finishing one project does not autmoatically mean the next will follow right away, no matter what we may want. Having a chunk of down-time may not be optional. For example, I have pretty much realized that, at least for now, summers are predominantly dead time for me writing-wise since I have both kids out of school. I get windows here and there, but most of my energy is spent dealing with them in one way or another.

All that said, I tend to get itchy for the next project about mid-way through whatever I am working on, too. I think by then, the shine has worn off the initial idea, and the lure of a new project is naturally going to be attractive. Hmm: keep working on what I have, with its warts and all, or go for the spiffy, untarnished new thing? That new thing is awful tempting at times....

Anonymous said...

Wow. I apparently missed this one. So, jumping right in then... I'm going to counterpoint Lyda.

Obviously, Lyda, you're right--some writers don't have ideas for the next thing right away, and that is it's own struggle. But some do--many, I would argue. (Not necessarily most--I don't know of any statistical survey that's been conducted of writers on the topic), but certainly a fair number. I know that I always have another idea cooking. It usually hits right about two-thirds of the way through the project I'm working on, and I usually want to put down what I'm doing and work on that instead.

And Kelly, the only post-novel ennui I've encountered was that I felt very empty after I finished my first two novels, and for about a month I couldn't really focus. Much the same as the week or two aftter a theater show, when you feel like "Wait, what do I do with my time now?"

Kelly Swails said...

Ideas are usually always percolating with me, whether I'm working on them or not. While I don't have an outline or anything of the nature for my next project, I do have a few glimmers. We'll see what I feel like when I get there. That's the luxury, I suppose, of being a newbie author without a contract. I can write what my muse says must be written ... not what my publisher says must be written. Ah, carefree youth.

Erik Buchanan said...

I will echo both Kelly and Sean on this, because I get a wierd combination of he two.

I usually have the idea for the next project raring to go, but I still end up bumming around for a week or so. Partly "Where did it go?" partly "Now what do I do" and partly "God, my ass is numb I need to do some moving." Then after about a week, it's back to the keyboard.

Of course, the free time issue rises up, too, since once I finish a project I usually have a million other things to do before I can retreat back into my writing.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Oh, you know, pay attention to the 1,001 other demands on my time. Spend some time on the house, with friends, with my husband. Listen to music and snuggle with the cat. Stop driving myself nearly another workday each week. Focus a little more on the work I'm getting paid for.

Try to step away from my characters long enough that I can revise based on what's actually on the page. Read, now that I'm no longer concerned about warping the voice of the book. Sort out which of the story ideas I haven't written yet I've now learned enough to handle. Start laying down the layers for the next book.

Really just reclaim my own head and my own life.

Anonymous said...

I have so many novel concepts right now that I simply have to write them to exorcise them from my brain. Two written, one writing and four or five more to write.

Doesn't seem to help! It just gives me more. ;)

For me, the Big Swampy Middle shows me the tangential concepts to distract me rather than the finish of one.

I'm ... kind of new to actual novel /writing/, but hey, at least it's getting written. :D

Kelly McCullough said...

Hey all, thanks for the thoughtful responses. Sorry not to respond sooner, I've been out of town with limited web access.