A happy side effect of my un- and under-employed summer is that I had plenty of time to finally wrap up the 0th draft of my novel. I’ve been steadily working on it since last October (longer, if you count a different version of the book I began in 2010), and as much as I love that story, it’s a big relief to set it down for a little while.
Of course, I’m not really done done, but I need a break. I’ve spent the last week catching up on things and trying to decide what to do now that the novel’s reached this stage.
Here’s what I’ve decided.
1) Let the Novel Rest
This is advice I’ve heard from more than one author, and it seems sound reasoning to me. For the better part of a year, my head’s been buried in the world of the novel. I’m still way too close to it to have good perspectives on how to fix the problems that I know it has: Overlong first act. Characters who don’t know who they are. Needlessly purple prose that captures the author’s mood and/or state of mind while he struggled through a scene. Superhero-style fights with exploding scenery where quiet dialog scenes were called for.
Well, these are the problems as I imagine them now, though I’m sure with some distance I’ll realize some things are actually working very well — and other things I thought were cool will be utterly terrible.
In about a month’s time, I’m going to print the manuscript, grab some friendly markers and post-its, and dive back in. In the meantime, I’m trying very hard not to think about the book at all. Fortunately I have things to distract me….
2) Work on Other Projects
Even when I was in the thick of writing the initial draft, I’d take short breaks to bust out a short story here and there. Even with the threat of divided focus, I figured I needed these breaks to keep my brain fresh and keep my authorial name out there.
Because I’d done a lot of world building in the novel, most of my “breaks” consisted of stories set in other parts of that same world. I already knew the setting, so it saved time when I needed to write a story quickly. Now that I’m getting started on some completely unrelated projects…….. The book is fantasy, so fresh from my Launch Pad experience, I’m leaping into a couple of science fiction projects.
3) Read a Lot
I’ve found that it’s hard for me to read novels while I’m working on a story. This is different for everyone, I know, but the voice of a really good (and even really bad) book starts to leak into my writing process. I can see it subtly nudging my words, filling me with ideas that don’t belong. I know this is partly because I’m new at this and haven’t yet learned all the ways to sharpen my focus — but the unfortunate side effect of this is I end up not reading much while I’m writing. And since I’m always writing….
Well, you see where this is going. I’m redoubling my efforts to read more fiction (in and out of genre) over the next few weeks. I’m hoping to read as far away from the subject matter of my book as possible, just to keep me from thinking too much about it!
4) Do Other Things
I won’t stop writing entirely — I have too many projects I’d like to work on — but I’m going to spend a little bit of what was my novel writing time pursuing other things: drawing, comics, movies, games, even a little TV. I want to re-create myself a little before the novel calls again.
5) Plan the Next Book
Hah! Remember what I said about “too many projects?”
Well, I’ll dream about the next book just a little….
So there’s my game plan. What’s yours?