After Writing that Novel: What Now?

Once again I find myself in that twilight world between books or as someone who occasionally mixes his metaphors just to annoy: in that no-man’s land. It is an odd place, a place you have looked forward to arriving at for several months if not years; a place where you thought you would feel the shackles of the project you have been encased in quickly fall away. And yet, in that lightness of spirit as your final draft is batted back and forward between you and your editor, something else arrives. Instead of the nagging guilt you get when you stop working deep in the process of either creating – sometimes before you have even delivered your last book – an odd malaise begins to descend. This uneasiness comes quietly. At first, whispering in your ear like a lover waking you from slumber but soon it begins to hector you, politely at first, until before you know it, it is screaming across a room full of people at you: What Now!? You need to write, get writing, if you don’t start writing soon then you are no longer a writer, you are in danger of becoming that midwife of a million good intentions and still born books: a Procrastinator.

Don’t I deserve a break? Now I have stopped teasing and tweaking my last story like a plate-spinner, who has kept a few dozen plates spinning precariously aloft for years – am I not entitled to a rest? Am I not entitled to that final thrill of stopping and letting the crockery smash all around me? A reasonable answer, when the sun is streaming through my window and the last of my pomegranates are waiting in the garden to be picked is: yes of course you are. But at 4am, that annoying time that drags me from sleep far too often nowadays, the answer is less forgiving, less accommodating, less reasonable. You could stop but: You may forget that other story – you know the one you promised to consider; or, you could stop but, you might lose that drive and never write again; or, you could stop but… Welcome to the duel world of the fiction writer.

In the end it’s about trust of course, trusting yourself. Although the infuriating voice, that subconscious noise that declares it knows you better than you know yourself may be entitled to worry – it is after all the voice of the epic struggle that got you off your ass and into writing in the first place – it is not always right. In its over compensation of not allowing you a moments peace to slip out of the hard built habit of telling a story, it can also become a hindrance or even a danger. For where do the new ideas come from if you are always immersed in a story? Yes ideas do come but they have little chance to take root, as more often than not they are jotted down and put in your own little slush-pile to sift through at a later date, a later date that all too often never comes if you immediately flick from one project to the next.

Reality and the now is something that needs a little time, a little respect if we are once again to become the truly blank canvas we need to become in order to start building our new story, our tale from nothing upon. A Blood Red Moon has taken me almost 4 years to write and in that time many things have happened: friends have come and gone or more sadly died, wars have started and ended but all too often everything was subservient to the story that filled my head every morning. Although I love the story I’ve created (and hope you will to!) the fact it was set a century ago, meant my own reality has been skewed beyond what writing something more contemporary may have done. I took breakfast and walked every morning then spent the next 4 or 5 hours in an unfolding drama from a hundred years ago. Then I would have lunch and try and switch back to the present although not always successfully. Sometimes, perhaps in company or at the pub, the talk may be of politics or football or the tittle-tattle of a small village but my thoughts far too often drifted back to half forgotten wars and the family drama’s of my long dead characters, who were just as alive for me as if they were sitting beside me. Such is the schizophrenic lot of a writer.

Maya Angelou quote

The answer, my answer perhaps not yours, is to ignore that guilt inducing voice and to just get right away from myself and any familiar surroundings. Then, and only then can something new be conceived, something new and exciting can be born. I say exciting because whatever you decide upon must not only sustain you in those first exciting weeks of creativity, when the story rushes onto the page but it must also be still worth persevering with many months or even years later, when you’re quite sick of hearing the story and the voices of even your most interesting characters. My last story was born during a grand tour of South America. I am hopeful my next one can be born in the sunshine of my approaching winter trip to south east Asia. If not then perhaps my hectoring conscience will have be proven right all along. Perhaps my writing days are at an end. Then what? Back to sculpting or painting… possibly. Maybe living in one reality, instead of two would be nice for a change. But do writers ever really retire? Yes we can stop writing but what happens when your nagging voice turns up one day with another fresh and exciting idea? As the late Maya Angelou once said:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Happy Holidays and good luck to you all in 2016. I hope those of you who are still looking finally do find your muse.

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6 thoughts on “After Writing that Novel: What Now?

  1. Lyon is freezing one day almost too warm the next is that global warming?

    This was a nice blog today. Writers always seem reluctant to give away their personal thinkings as if that will somehow kill the mystery of who they are. Lets hope for our sake you do not give up writing or I may have to come and track you down in south-east Asia? Where will that be?

    I am wishing you a very happy noel Anthony

    Marie {:)B< xx

  2. Nice. Wise words and so pleasant to see you have not been swept along with all this seasonal crap. Yes go and find your muse in SEAsia. I spent some time in Laos years ago no deep thinking but at least I had worked up the balls to ditch a very caustic GF when I got home.

  3. You were hidden in that civil rights dude’s listings – he doesn’t look like an Anthony Bradley. Although he seems to write some borderline racist stuff against whites. What I’m saying is I like the blog thing but my attempts to go on your subscription list come back as a 0?

    • Hi Graham – thanks for your reply. Yes I think the other guy is an evangelist of some sort… that is certainly NOT me. I will look into the email thing for you but in the meantime maybe you should email me with your address so I can put it on the subscription lists myself.

  4. As another who suffers the madness of writing I wholeheartedly agree with you. Why do we put ourselves through it? Life flipping burgers is just so attractive to me at times but somehow we keep going. Thanks for being that other person who knows.

    Sarah

  5. I disagree with Guy I think a seasonal post would be just the thing!
    Of course I kid you.

    Counting the hours down to Wednesday when I have a day off before Christmas comes and sweeps me to my family in Iowa. I wish I could say Florida instead but what can I say. I love sun but Mom loves icy winds and dark grey skies.

    Merry Christmas Anthony

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