Nobody prepares you for life after the novel.
Nobody prepares you for the emptiness.
I have an idea for my next one. That’s all it is for now: a gem of an idea. But that’s all Inevitable was until I sat down with exercises from the Five Minute Writer and my characters leapt to life. I could do it again. I could sit down and flesh them out.
But I’m not ready.
I’m not ready, partly, because I’m scared.
What if the next one isn’t as good?
What if the voice I found for Kate only works for Kate, and I can’t find a different one which is also still me?
What if all my characters are carbon copies of Kate, with her love of books and coffee and grammar and politics?
What if I don’t know enough about the themes I want to explore, and I make a fool of myself, or worse, offend people?
But those aren’t the main reasons. The main reason is that I can’t let go of my first novel.
And that is partly a good thing. Although I have proclaimed it finished, posted it on Authonomy, drank numerous glasses of pinot grigio blush in its honour, I know it is not, actually, finished. There is tweaking to be done. There may be scenes to rewrite, or – oh, the pain – to delete.
And how can I immerse myself in that world again to make those changes if part of me has moved on to another one already?
I may be walking down the street or listening to a political podcast or reading a book, and a new idea may present itself that would work well as a sub-plot or an extra scene. Granted, this hasn’t happened in a while, which was one of the signs to me that it was, in fact, finished. But I don’t know how to have an idea and not make it part of Inevitable.
And I miss it.
I miss looking forward to a Saturday which starts with coffee and a writing prompt and ends in new pages or better sentences.
I miss the process, and I miss the writer’s high.
I miss hanging out with my characters, and I am afraid of being unfaithful to them if – as I must – I fall in love with a new cast.
But how to move on? And how to keep writing? And what to keep writing, when I’m not ready to let go of my first novel?
Nobody prepares you for this. I really wish they would.