My latest Georgia Davis thriller, DoubleBlind, is out. The heavy lifting is over. The story has been told, and my emotional investment in the book has peaked. In fact, I’ve said many times that writing a novel is like a marriage (compared to short stories, which are like an affair). This marriage is on a plateau, and I’m ready to move on.
But not immediately. Whether it’s taken me three years or three months to write a book, I usually take a breather between novels. I realize that in some quarters that’s anathema, and an author jumps right to the next novel, but I can’t.
I used to. When I had a contract with a Big Five publisher, I produced a book a year—no exceptions. Curiously, when I worked in TV news, I lived for deadlines. Didn’t mind them at all. But for writing fiction? Not so much. I think that’s probably because of the emotional investment we writers make in our stories. There wasn’t much in the world of TV news. You got the story. Got it fast. Put it on the air. It was just news. Usually a cerebral event.
Not so with writing fiction. I fall in love (or sometimes hate) with my characters, laugh or cry with them, fight with them, watch them as they grow, seek justice, or sometimes die on me. Not to mention Imposter Syndrome, which plagues me every day. Did I use the most beautiful language I could? Could I set the scene with more accuracy? Is the action compelling? Will anyone care about the characters besides me? So for me, and probably other writers too, writing is an emotional roller-coaster.
What I do between books
Which is why I need a break between books. Not that I’ll fritter my time away, although I’ve been known to do that. I’ll be refueling, restocking my emotional closet. I’ll do research, catch up on my own reading, and watch tons of movies on Netflix and Amazon. I used to write a short story or two, especially to test out a character or scenario I’d been imagining. This time, though, I’ve got too much going on: a trip to Italy and London next month…my first since the pandemic, and a couple of workshops to improve the ads I run for my backlist..
Unfortunately the idyll between books doesn’t last long. After a few weeks, I start to get an itchy feeling, a restlessness, that can only be scratched by—yup—diving back into writing. I’ve been lucky for the past few years in that I’ve known the premise of the next book before I’ve finished the current one. I try to open myself up to possibilities and “what-ifs.” I make notes, think about the plot points, talk to people, and brainstorm. But there are times I don’t know what I’ll be writing next. If that’s the case I’ll try to open myself up to possibilities and “what-ifs.” I make notes, think about the plot points, talk to people and brainstorm. 🙂
So what’s next?
My next book will likely be historical fiction again. Not a mystery but thriller-esque, as I’m returning to World War Two. As soon as I have the first line nailed down, I’ll start.
Bear in mind, though, that the book I’m not working on is always the best thing since sliced bread, while the book I am working on is the blankety-blank manuscript. So there’s that paradox to look forward to.
What about you writers out there? How long a break—if at all—do you take between books?