To get all #BONES-y geeky on y’all, I’m going to quote from one of last season’s episodes:
“It takes three days for a brain to adapt…. Three days for the universe to turn right side up again.”
This idea is taken from an experiment by psychologist George Stratton, who determined that when providing the brain with a consistently altered view of the world (ie: wearing glasses that made everything appear upside down), after several days, the brain adapts and perceives the new view as normal.
All that is simply to describe how my world in relation to my (finished!) novel has turned right side up again. I went through that mourning period, I put a self-imposed restriction on opening up the manuscript, and then after only a week went through the minor panic that I was distancing myself too much and that I would lose touch with my story once it was time to return to it for editing.
Felt like a whole lot longer than a week before I started writing again, but have indeed started again… more on that later. Before I started writing, I tried searching for blog posts about how to start writing the next thing after finishing a major work. Here are some lovely quotes I found:
Stephanie Kallos (author of Sing Them Home and Broken for You – neither of which I have read, but thought I should be thorough, here – haha!) wrote this in her “How To Write Your Second Novel Or If You Want To Make God Laugh, Show Him Your Outline”:
Write a loving farewell letter to the characters of The First Novel. Wish them well. Send them out into the world with the hope that they’ll represent you in a positive way, meet nice people, make good choices.
Isn’t that a nice way to look at it? I mean, not that I did this, but in a way I feel like I have set my characters up and left them to fend for themselves quite well. And then she said this about starting writing the second novel:
Here then is the lesson learned from writing The Second Novel: the best writing comes not from the part of you that writes an outline. The best writing comes from the part of you that feels, grieves, fails, flails, yearns, despairs, flounders, and prays. The best writing comes from the place where you dream.
So, tonight before you go to sleep, put your journal next to the table by your bed. Maybe you’ll have visitors. There are no guarantees.
So very true. Especially the idea of “maybe” you’ll have visitors. For me, it cannot be forced. If “First Novel” is anything to go by, the next story will come and fill itself in when it is ready.
Then I found this, by Ann Landsman (author of The Devil’s Chimney and The Rowing Lesson – also neither of which I have read… perhaps I should read these now that I have professed great love for their bloggity-type words?):
For me, fictional characters — either in my own work or in the work of others — are as real and lasting as the people they’re fashioned from, and I say my goodbyes to them at the end of reading or writing a novel with a tremendous sense of loss.
More painful, however, than separating from one of your characters, is the prospect of creating a new one from scratch. There’s a clear recipe for making a real live human being, but there’s no such blueprint for a person who lives and breathes solely on the page.
For many of us, the process starts with hearing the voice of the character, as he or she sails toward us out of the fog of our unconscious.
For me, I believe this last line is true. I need a character.
There’s no forcing it. Did I say this already? Yes – but I’m saying it again for myself to remember that there are no hardfast rules to creating a story. I don’t have to have another novel in my head right now. I don’t have to start writing for writing’s sake right now. However, I will say that I find it highly satisfying when I DO have something to write. Picking up on a little fanfiction again. And then the other day, I wrote the opening lines of a novel that may never actually be a novel, but the idea is still kind of stuck in my brain and I’m going to let it simmer on its own to see if it goes anywhere.
Which it may very well not. Because, have you ever seen the opening credits to the Sylvester Stallone movie, Cliffhanger? It says it is “Based on a Premise”. Andy and I laughed out loud at that because not only is it a far cry from being, say, “based on a true story”, but aren’t ALL stories based upon a premise? At any rate, these so-called opening lines I wrote are based on a premise and if anything comes out of it, it will be a great story to tell. If not, it will be a great story to tell to make fun of myself.
My point being (I’m scanning through this post right now, thinking to myself, “Was there a point to begin with?”), my world is right-side up again, I’m still doing some writing, and it’s all good.
It all works out.
So here is my question for my writerly and readerly friends: How do you recover from a novel or series that has filled your consciousness (Harry Potter, anyone)? Do you need to let it sit? Start a new book right away? Process it in some other way?
UPDATE: I wrote most of this before my friend and critique reader, Jen, finished reading my novel (now with it’s official title, THROWAWAY LINES — I’ve learned in the social media/literary agent world, you are supposed to capitalize the title). She has now finished it and I am so excited and encouraged by her feedback that now y’all are going to have to suffer through future blog posts where I drone on and on about the editing process. Maybe. I’m really not very good at predicting what my blog posts will be about, actually. It could be an outline issue.
How about a little Diana Ross?