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When the Book Is Finished…Tips for Surviving the Post-Novel Mourning Period

Cheryl's Musings: When the Book Is Finished…Tips for Surviving the Post-Novel Mourning Period

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


When the Book Is Finished…Tips for Surviving the Post-Novel Mourning Period

After months of living, breathing, and dreaming about my YA paranormal, VOICE, I'm finally finished with the rewrite. I’m sending  it off to my agent, and if he doesn't have any suggestions, it will soon be on its way to editors again. I feel...odd. At loose ends.

iStock_000011856107LargeI think I go into a period of mourning after completion of a novel. It's strange, because I'm happy—ecstatic—to be finished; but after spending so much time with a book, it can be difficult to move on. Anyone else experience this? It reminds me of how I felt as an actor, the day after a play closed. I was apt to wander back to the theater, expecting another hectic afternoon and evening of rehearsal, only to discover an empty stage where there used to be sets, costumes, and a frenzy of activity.

Luckily, I’ve been through this a few times. I know it’s normal to feel a little down; I know it will pass. Meanwhile, here are some strategies that help:


  1. Read fiction: When I’m deep in writing a book, I spend less time reading, sometimes it’s because I’m too busy writing and sometimes because I don’t want to dilute my voice by unconsciously imitating someone else’s. This is a perfect time to immerse myself in books. Luckily, I have a lineup of recommendations from my teenage sons, starting with Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher and The Ranger’s Apprentice, by John Flanagan.
  2. Read nonfiction: Okay, this is mighty to similar to point #1, but writers need to read the way fish need to swim. And we need to read everything—books in our genre, books outside our genre (for instance, check out Jennifer Crusie’s Faking It and Carl Hiassen’s Skinny Dip for some amazing characters), books on craft (recent faves: The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas and Ready, Aim, Specialize! by Kelly James-Enger), books on creativity (I’m currently reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp—fantastic book on creativity by a choreographer), books on…well, everything.

    Yes, I’m passionate on this subject.
  3. Get out: Maybe I’m the only writer who gets a little obsessive as she nears the end of her work-in-progress…but I doubt it. Now that the book is finished, take time to breathe. Go on field trips to the zoo or art museum. Take that long-postponed Artist’s Date (and if you don’t know what an Artist’s Date is, see #2 and go read Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way.)
  4. Collect: Between projects—it’s a perfect time to refill your arsenal of inspiration. Spend the morning observing nuances of setting and mood—you might be surprised at what you can see in a familiar location. Take a trip. Spend an afternoon riding the bus or sitting in the mall food court with your pen and notebook, collecting character details and snippets of conversation. Yes, I’m telling you to eavesdrop. It’s fun. Just fly casual.
  5. Practice your scales: I’ve written before about the value of practicing specific writing skills such as description. Musicians religiously practice their scales so the notes will emerge fluidly when they play a difficult piece of music; in writing, you can accomplish the same thing by choosing a skill you want to develop and devoting time to it.

What do you do between projects? Besides sleep and catching up on housework, that is :-).


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At February 2, 2011 at 10:32 AM , Blogger Andie Pandie said...

Paint. Garden. Clean house. Declutter.

At February 4, 2011 at 8:39 AM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Good choices :). My poor garden gets seriously neglected when I'm on a writing roll. I need to install sprinklers, because even drought-resistant plants aren't happy with NO water....


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