Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How Long to Wait

I've asked this question of my writing group.

I've asked this question of the vast world of Twitter.

And now I'm turning to you.

How long do you wait between finishing one writing project and starting a new one?

I ask because I am not doing what I normally do. See, I have to focus on only one project at a time. HAVE TO. If I start thinking about another project, I will drop the first, never finish it, and always sort of regret that little story that might have been. So when I write--in all stages of writing, from planning to editing--I am entirely, 100% focused on that one project.

But I always know that I'm done with that one project when I start thinking of another one. I knew I was done with my MG WIP because when I sat down to work, I couldn't think of anything else to add, change, or edit on that WIP...I was thinking of a new story by that point. Coming up with a new idea, new plot, new story is my personal signal to move on--because otherwise, I'd worry a story like a dog worries a bone.

But when I look at my current WIP, the YA SF...I think it's done. I look at it and am satisfied that this is the best I can do. I read through it without thinking of what to change. I have a sense of closure with it--to me, now, it's done.

(That said, there's every chance that if it wracks up a ton of rejections or something I may re-evaluate and go back to it. I'm not so stubborn that I don't think it needs work--I just don't see how I can do anything to it now.)

This should be about the time that I come up with a new idea. A new story to write.

But I'm not.

I think perhaps this problem is because my YA was so emotionally draining to write. I made a real effort to write with my finger on my characters' emotional pulse, to draw out the pain. I made an effort to make things worse for my characters--worse and worse, and not just physically. Even the ending, which is not entirely happy, is one that was draining to write in such a way that after writing it, I felt, literally, exhausted.

It was tiring to write it, too, in that I tried to make the language beautiful. With this work, I didn't focus just on story (as I am apt to do), but also on the actual written language, trying to make the turns of phrases beautiful, struggling to find the right words in each situation.

But either way I look at it, for whatever reason, when I try to tap that creative well now and move on...I'm coming up dry.

It's a very very strange reality for me. I am usually a fast writer, and I usually have between 2 to 3 good book ideas in me per year. But here it is September, and I'm still not untangled from the work I started in January.

Has this ever happened to you? Do you have to take a break from writing when you finish a project? What do you do when the ideas run dry?
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