So, you’ve finished writing a book –
Really? Me too! What a coincidence!
…sorry. Couldn’t resist.
In my right mind I’d lead things off more strongly, but I’ve spent the last week staring blankly at things and walking into doors while trying to remember how to brain. In the post-Raven’s-Blood-world – a world that’s taken far too long to reach – my head is grey and muzzy, as if I’d dropped all the pills at once and was now trying to climb back out of a serotonin-hole long enough to remember how to write even something as simple as an email or a text message.
But yeah, let’s back it up. I finished my book! And maybe you too have finished writing a book, or a story, or a really satisfying bit of toilet wall graffiti. What to do next?
For me, there are three things on the agenda.
Get someone else to read it
I’ve sent the Raven’s Blood MS to about half-a-dozen alpha readers – and can we just talk about how great a phrase ‘Alpha Reader’ is? That’s a superhero or space adventurer name, that is: Blam! And in a hail of laser fire, Alpha Reader smashed through the enemy barricades, intent on rescuing his beloved editor Lance Commacutter! Much beta than ‘beta reader’, which sounds either like a defunct style of videotape player or some kind of Men’s Rights Activist/Pick-up Artist kind of insult.
But yes, I’ve sent the book to a few people, including established authors and emerging ones, and asked them to beat the living shit out of it. Lovingly, perhaps, but I need to see bloodstains when I get their notes back, because being nice about it isn’t going to help me fix it. There are definite issues with voice, character, dialogue and consistency in the book – and I know about these problems, and I have some ideas on how to fix them, but having someone else back me up on that, or better yet point out failings I don’t realise, will be vital.
If you’ve finished writing a book, ask someone else to read it before you do anything else. Even if you’ve got a contract. Even if you don’t know any other writers. Even if – especially if – you think it’s already perfect. And ask them to be as friendship-shatteringly honest as possible in their notes. Because tough love is the best love.
Write something else
In On Writing, Stephen King advised putting a finished manuscript into a desk drawer and ignoring it for at least six weeks, and in that time starting work on something else. In this, as in so many things that weren’t writing The Tommyknockers, SK is hitting all the correct buttons. The worst possible time to start rewriting a book is the moment you’ve finished it, or anytime while it’s still super-fresh in your mind – because all you’re going to have in your mind is the stuff at the end that you know wasn’t quite right, and you’ll get stuck in a Groundhog Day loop on that while the earlier problems pass by unseen. Shelving it for a while gives you distance; writing something else keeps your word-brain engaged so it can come back to the problems while you sleep or shower or drink all the coffee in the world.
In my case, I’m writing a new short story that was commissioned for an upcoming anthology – yes, that’s right, someone contacted me and asked me to contribute a piece to this project. That’s a nice feeling that never gets old. I need to get that done in the next couple of weeks, after which it’s time to start work on The Obituarist II: The Quickening – because yes, the second half of that story sorted itself out in my brain while I was still wrapping up Raven’s Blood. With any luck I can get the core draft finished by the end of June, which is when I’m hoping to get my RB notes back. Oh, and I’m going to ramp my blogging efforts back up to a regular two posts per week, which I’m sure will make all y’all very happy.
Chain that shit, homes, like you’re summoning Pokemons or sumthin’.
After a burst of frenzied word-humping, you need to take some time off to recharge your grammar-glands, and I’m going to stop this metaphor now before we all regret it.
But yes – downtime. Non-writing time. Coming home and not smacking mtself in the face with a manuscript every night. Doesn’t that sound like fun? My plans include reading some books – because jesus shit, I haven’t read an actual book so far this year – and graphic novels, playing a variety of games – including Lego Marvel Heroes, Netrunner, Dishonored and Sentinels of the Multiverse – and even watching television, a pastime which has mostly eluded me for several years, but I hear True Detective is just too good to miss.
And of course, all this downtime is time when my subconscious can grapple with Raven’s Blood and worry about whether the romance plotline is engaging enough or whether it has enough parkour. That’s what writing brains do when you don’t write – they begin stockpiling their moist and musky word-oozes, and sorry I know I said I’d stop that metaphor I’m sorry I’m sorry.
But yes – one of the best things to do after writing something is to not write something. At least for a while.
And in that spirit, WE BE DONE HERE.