Thursday, March 17, 2011

Life After the Novel is Finished

Uncharacteristic Behavior is finished. I've been over it for the thousandth time, pruned, tidied and dusted, and have now relegated it to the back of my mind for most of the time. It won't be completely cloistered off until I start a new book, of course. But it has stopped talking to me as I do other things, and the dropping-off-to-sleep whispers (I always need a pen and notebook beside the bed) have gone.

This is a no-man's land for the writer, this time immediately after completing a book. There is the sadness at saying goodbye to characters you've come to love or hate, and a sense of relief that you managed to make sense of it all. I wander rather aimlessly around the house, try to catch up on my reading (which slowed considerably during the writing), spend more time in the garden. I clean things thoroughly that have only seen a duster lately. I sew, which is pleasurable to me. I do useless but interesting research on the computer. (The little lizards in the garden, called Skinks, love to eat strawberries. Who would have thought? The Northern Territory in Australia was once considered as a Jewish Homeland site, before Israel. It's a dreadfully harsh state, and was nick-named the 'Unpromised Land'. And so on...)

I'm back to everyday life. Ho Hum, and what's for dinner?

When I'm not actively writing -- in my head, or at the computer -- I'm terribly listless.  No one expects a writer to finish one book and immediately jump into the next. But I want to. It hits me the minute I step out of bed.. What are you going to write this time? And if you finish it, do you realize you'll have five manuscripts waiting for publication?

But I have a loose plot, and I'll undoubtedly go with it. Right now it's a nub of an idea, captured on a 3x3 Post-It.  I have done one bit of a research. Did you know that you can buy a derelict stone cottage in the U.K. for under Fifty Thousand Pounds...around $75,000? This will often include acreage. And Ireland is the cheapest?  (Not that I'm thinking of buying one, although the fantasy has presented itself to me several times over the years.)

Anyway, I suspect I'll have started on this new one by the time I post my blog again. The irritable, Domestic Goddess me will leave again. I'm no good as housekeeper. My time is way too valuable for that. Clean and tidy is all I aspire too, and I'll never invite you to eat off my floors, okay? Oh, and if you are peeved by that, do you use housework as an excuse not to write? Shame on you! Enjoy the dust bunnies and finish your book!

One last word on your writing. If you haven't completed your first book yet, get it done as soon as possible. No more excuses: no cleaning the bathroom right now; declare a moratorium on emails and frivolous Googling; no catching that movie on TV that you've been dying to see. (Are there any like that these days? My TV is as barren as a desert.) Finish the book! A magical thing will then happen: you'll be itching to start the next. You've done it once, you've opened the flood gates. You are no longer a would-be writer -- you are a real writer, dues paid in the form of the emotions and time you've spent with it. The anxiety you felt -- Is it any good? Am I any good? Am I wasting my time? -- all these will fall away with the next manuscript.

Forget your need to publish. You have all the time in the world. Those painters of old, who died before their work was recognized -- were they not great artists? Does not being published make your work any less valid? In fact, I'd suggest not submitting to an agent until your second book is underway, and you can mention that in your query. You'll have so much more confidence and will be almost blase with the rejections you'll get (yes, you're bound to get them. Agents are the most confounding bunch). "What do they know?" you'll say, flippantly shrugging them off. "I'm already on my second book..."

I know about your doubts and anxieties, but with each new manuscript, the technical worries will go. The creative ones should never leave. That's what makes your work unique.

I don't curse on my blog (what I do in the privacy of my own home is a different matter!), but if I could I would right here:

Finish your ***** book!


Melissa Marsh said...

My dear Fran, I always love reading your updates. I am in the midst of moving to a house (from an apartment) right now and I will have the entire upstairs of my Cape Cod-style house as my office. I am SO EXCITED to decorate it and make it my own space.

I haven't looked at my novel for weeks now and it's starting to get to me, but I have no more room in my brain besides painting and carpet cleaning and curtains and all the rest.

Just the little tidbit of the novel idea you posted is intriguing. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Fran said...

Well, it stands to reason you have NO time for the novel. If I had the opportunity, I'd pick a new place to decorate too! The nest always comes first.