Your Book is Finished. What Next? -- Misha Herwin
What do you do when you finish a book? When the final edit has gone to the publisher, or you’ve pressed the publish button and it’s live on Kindle do you take a break, or immediately start to write the next one?
Some writers take time off to recuperate, or to plan, or research their next novel. Lee Childs famously starts to write each Jack Reacher book on September 1st, the anniversary of being made redundant, and aims to finish in six months, leaving the rest of the year free.
For Susanna Clarke there were sixteen years between her debut, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Piranisi which was published in 2020. Years she spent planning and writing. Lee Childs never plans. He simply sits down and starts writing. Other writers, especially those writing historical fiction, use the time to research the background for their next novel.
As for me, much as I like the idea of taking time off, I find that it never works out that way. It is as if the stories are lining up waiting to be told. As soon as one is finished, the next has elbowed its way to the top of the queue.
I never intended that The Adventures of Letty Parker series would be more than three books, but by the time I had finished Island of Fear, The Hanging Tree had already made its presence felt. Then a chance remark about gargoyles, by Peter Coleborn, led to A Gathering of Gargoyles, the first draft of which I finished last year. Once that was done, I put the book away to concentrate on a final edit of The Hanging Tree.
The final book in the series is already in rough draft but I find myself reluctant to leave the alternative Victorian world of Letty Parker and there are other ideas nudging my imagination.
Those stories will have to wait, however, now that I have turned my attention back to women’s fiction. Deep in a re-write of Freecycling for Beginners, I’m resisting temptation to consider what I’ll be doing next.
This all may sound like really hard work, but planning, editing and getting in the flow of writing is something that has kept me sane during this long period of tiers and lockdown. It’s removed me from the pain of missing family and friends and the worrying about what is going to happen next.
The pandemic, however, is not why I always have to have a writing project on the go. I’ve always worked like this. Even with a full time job I would squeeze in time for writing and in these very different circumstances I’m working in the same way. Although I’d love to be able to sit down for hours and simply write, I seem to work better and more productively in short bursts.
So now I’m going to empty the washing machine, go for a walk while the sun is still shining and then I’ll be back at my desk.