- I could take a break and revel in the success of finally writing a book while I enjoy the summertime a little.
- I could jump immediately back into writing, using what I learned while writing my novel to produce some quality stories and ideas.
Both sounded incredibly appealing, but in the end, I went with number 2. Well, not entirely; my jumping back into writing wasn’t immediate. I finished my novel on a Friday and didn’t start back up with a short story until the following Tuesday.
Why did I choose this route? Because no matter how awesome I think my novel is, the odds are against it being the first book I sell. It might happen, and even if it does, I can’t think of a single working novelist who makes his or her living from one book. It’s just not done.
The Golden Rule
Aside from that there is one rule—very nearly a cliché or a platitude—that applies to every writer: writers write.
Stephen King said in On Writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
So since my end game is to make a living as a writer, I took the only road I was told was open to me.
What It Accomplished
I honestly thought I would hit a dry spell in the time after I finished writing 86,000 words. I was wrong. So far, my post-novel fiction productivity has included:
- Two pieces of flash fiction.
- One of which I submitted to Flash Fiction Online, an SFWA-approved market.
- One new short story started.
- Having trouble plotting where I want it to go. I just need to sit on it a bit.
- I love the first line: “When I think about the end of the world, I taste Cheetos.”
- One old short story being revised.
- An 8,000 word monster I wrote in college that needs some trimming down, but has a great concept.
- One new, standalone novel synopsized in OneNote (thanks for the suggestion, Rhii).
- I worked out the beginning, middle, and end already.
- I have a short story already written about how the two main characters meet, and once I finish a round on the other one, I’ll get to fixing this one.
Not a bad haul if I do say so myself.
Here’s the Thing
Writing is addictive. When I’m not writing, much of my time is spent thinking about writing. If that’s sad, I can’t help it. I like to consider it being in-the-zone. I have my game-face on, and I know that I am becoming a better writer with every word I write.
I have a lot more ideas now than I did when I sat down in May and started working on my novel. I think that’s fantastic. If I had stopped writing and considered myself done for the summer, then a lot of creativity would have been lost. I learned a lot of lessons from writing my very first novel, and postponing my writing would have squandered them. I needed to keep in practice so that writing my second, third, fourth, umpteenth novel would be far easier, more fun, and more productive.
So here’s the thing: it’s okay to take a break between projects. But make sure you’re writing something. If what you just finished was a novel, your next one doesn’t have to be. In fact, JA Konrath said that he would never try to write back-to-back novels again because of how hard it was. I understand that, which is why I stuck to my initial plan and started working on short stories to try and sell. And now that I’ve done that for a few weeks, I’m excited about the prospect of the other novel I have stewing around in my head.
What you write doesn’t even necessarily have to be coherent. Just so long as you’re writing. I know that sounds weird, but you’ll get in the habit of self-proofing/editing as you go, which in the end makes your writing that much better.
I don’t care what you write. It can be fiction or nonfiction. A novel or a short story. A diary or a blog. Even a letter to your best friend from fourth grade. It doesn’t matter. If you consider yourself a writer, than you owe it to yourself to write.
Even when you think you’re done. Even when you’re tired of it. Even when you have no idea where you want the characters to go or what you want them to do. Even when you simply don’t have any more ideas, you need to write something.
Because if you slack off, I guarantee that you will lose any forward momentum gained while writing regularly and that getting back into it will be harder than you could ever believe. When I took two months off from blogging at the beginning of the year, I thought coming back to three posts per week was going to kill me.
I don’t want that to happen to my fiction. I never want fiction to be that hard again—because it was when I started in May. It was hard, and I doubted that I could reach the goals I set myself. And now, it’s coming far more easily. I’ve settled in and found a routine that works for me. And I want to keep it. I want to stay in the groove.
Too much of my life has gone by with me thinking I’ll write when I have time and then never having time. I have a folder of novels on my computer that I started and never even got 10k words into before I gave up because of how much time and effort it would take to finish.
It doesn’t matter how much you write, just as long as you do it regularly. I know once the fall semester starts, I won’t be able to churn out fiction at the rate I currently am (though I do hope to get a NaNoWriMo draft of a sequel to my first one banged out). I just won’t have the time. But I guarantee that I will have at least one night a week (hopefully more!) where I can sit down with a novel or short story or just an inkling of an idea and write my heart out. That’s all it takes.
Because I’m a writer. It’s what I do.