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. 


Umberto Tosi said…
Interesting how many of us AE scribes are posting about completing a work and transitioning to another. It probably has to do with the solstice. I count myself in this bunch and relate to what you write here. Maybe I'm being phobic, but I fear "taking time off," even though I understand the concept of refreshing the creative unconscious. I worry that if I stop writing I'll not be able to begin again. Like the shark, dear, Mac the Knife must keep swimming.Good luck with your new opus and the launch of your current offering.
Reb MacRath said…
I've got to say I envy the Lee Childs approach. It would be sweet to take even three months off each after working my tail off for the previous nine. But I've come to settle for the next best thing: taking three months off between books to research and set up the next. I've got the process down to 15-18 months in total per book. Faster than that, I won't go for fear of careless spoilage.

Thanks for sharing, Misha.
After my first book, I just sat down, stunned, haha. Now, I have hardly got time to finish one, before the next one forces itself to be written!
Love this post, thanks, that was very interesting!
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Misha, good to learn about your process. You sound like a very disciplined plotter, and it's obviously working for you!

I think I must be addicted to writing - I posted here quite recently about ending two projects at about the same time, and already I've written a very silly short story (someone on Twitter suggested I do that as a way of re-starting) and dug out an old novel I gave up on at least 10 years ago, to try and re-work it.
I think as with Umberto's comment above I am afraid of never getting going again if I stop for a break.

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