On Being Between Projects

So, I finished and submitted my tenth novel. Now, what do I do?

Finishing the last book in a trilogy or series always provokes a bittersweet reaction. You’ve spent months, perhaps even years, working in that world with those characters, and now it’s all over. You’ve been aiming at the ending for so long, you don’t know what to do with yourself now it’s here.

There’s a definite Sisyphean element to being a writer. You give everything you’ve got in order to scale the peak of each book, only to find yourself right back down at the bottom of the hill again as soon as you’ve finished, with the next peak looming before you.

Sometimes, it can be hard to shake off your last book. You find the ideas you’re getting for the new one are suspiciously familiar, and the characters have the same sorts of attitudes and backstories as the ones to whom you’ve just bid adieu.

As seven of my novels have been space operas, I sometimes worry about becoming repetitive. But those books have been well-received and have attracted an enthusiastic audience. How do I produce something new and startling while also giving that established readership what they want, which is more of the same?

I remember seeing Iain Banks talking at a convention some years back. He described his process as six months of very hard thinking followed by six months of frantic writing. But those months of hard thinking were every bit as much a part of writing a book as the actual composition. He had to find and refine his ideas until he had something worth writing.

And that’s what I’m going to do now. I’m going to think very hard. I’m going to read a lot, take long walks, browse science and tech newsfeeds, and ask What if? questions until inspiration strikes.

It won’t look like writing, but it will be.

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Author: Gareth L Powell


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