Post-Novel Blues

Billy Crystal typing in Throw Mamma from the Train

Orion Pictures

I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years about what to do when a novel is finished. A couple writers have related to me how they actually got sick once a book was finished. Not having that obligation to work on it everyday upsets their equilibrium, and that manifests as a cold or stomach ailment. Or it could just be timing if they work on a schedule. The point is the end of a project makes them feel blah.

More common are the psychological effects. Usually, a new writer who has never done a novel is just relieved and walks around with the manuscript saying over and over, “My baby! My baby!” Cute. Guess what. Your audience wants an encore, and that audience may be tiny. So you’ll have to grow it with more books. But for those of us who have written for years, it usually means a feeling of being lost. You’ve just spent months with these characters in this setting, and now they’re all gone, not to be revisited until the next project. Most writers don’t even know what that is. In trad circles, it may even be dependent on their publishers. “Lucy kicked some real ass in this one. Now give her a Christian Grey-type boyfriend.”

I personally need to keep original words flowing. There’s a new novella (Compact Universe #0) called No Marigolds in the Promised Land that I’m arranging right now. I say arranging because it’s going to appear in the newsletter (You know. That spam email I haven’t sent out in weeks), then either here or on this site’s replacement. It’s getting posted as it’s being written, which means it will need to be beta’d on the fly. I’m setting up a group of volunteers to help with that. (Email me if you wanna get you some o’ dat.) But I can’t start it until all the pieces are in place.

So what does the idle novelist/novellan (Is that what you call a writer of novellas?) do in the meantime? Previously, I wrote a “autobiography” of a fictional rock star Jennette Marie Powell and I jokingly called “Himself.” However, his adventures, which started as an infant at the end of WWII, caught up with the present day, at which point I stopped. That monster, written in snatches over about five years or so, checked in at almost 350,000 words. Himself is a wordy SOB. And he still whispers in my ear. I wish he’d stop. Anyway, I started another one, based on a character from Himself’s book. This one is a female bass player who started out as a punk rocker during CBGB’s heyday. I should probably title it “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” because it really sucks. But it keeps me writing original words until I can come up with something that might pay. I also work on a space opera series you will never read. It’s for me and me alone, not publishable, but keeps me in an SF frame of mind. At some point, probably next week, I’ll have to get started on Marigolds.

But I never stop writing. My goal is to be too busy to stop. Until then, consider the fake bios and the rip-off of Star Trek the equivalent of practicing when the band’s not playing.

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