You spend months, even years, planning the perfect wedding, and it’s all over in 20 minutes, a half-hour tops.
You spend weeks, months, organizing the dream vacation, and in a matter of days, you’re on a crowded flight back home.
Releasing a book is somewhat the same. For months you’re dropping hints, advertising the preorder, teasing the cover, revealing the cover, counting down to launch day, and poof! One day and you’re done. Book’s out into the world, and then comes the feeling that’s rather like watching your youngest leave for college.
What do you do now?
Some writers have every book they’re going to write planned out way ahead of time. A writer of a series, like J. D. Robb, for example, have several years worth of books planned. Pretty easy to do when you have the same characters, same setting (usually), and same premise. That’s not dissing J. D. Robb, by the way. I love her “In Death” series. In some ways I envy her, knowing the story structure for books years into the future, when all I have after releasing a book is a vague idea of what comes next.
Because it’s hard work keeping those characters fresh, finding some new and unusual problem for them to address, making sure their backstories and “personal” lives don’t become stale. That’s why you see some writers abandon series after a few books. One writer friend said to me after concluding her cozy mystery series after five books, “I mean, how many people can you kill off in a small town before there’s nobody left?”
I released a new book on June 25, but it’s book one of a series. I’m already finalizing book two and thinking over the next book in the series. I write series around a specific event and keep the same characters. My first series, A Perfect Hatred, was a fictional account of the Oklahoma City Bombing; the second series, Self-Inflicted Wounds, was about an election year in the former Yugoslavia; and the current one, the third, Meeting the Enemy, is about 9/11 and its aftermath.
As long as governments, their citizens, and politicians do stupid things, I’ll have plenty to write about.
After weeks or months of focusing on one new book, there is a definite letdown. If I didn’t have a bunch of rough drafts from NaNoWriMo over the years, I’d probably be twiddling my thumbs a lot and binge-watching British cop shows even more. After a book release, you’re going from the exciting to the mundane, from the familiar to the strange, from having something to do every day to wondering what to do now.
In some ways, it’s a good problem to have. Why? Because it’s fertile ground for stories. Wondering “what’s next” easily becomes “what if,” which is the best writer fuel, right after coffee. Embracing the letdown can be motivational.
Sometimes, though, you have to kick yourself out of the letdown, tell yourself you have more stories to tell. Indeed, I can’t envision a time when I won’t be writing. I worked 30 years for Uncle Sam and retired to write all the stories that had been bouncing around in my head. If I work for 30 years as my own writer, that’ll put me at 87 years old. John le Carre was 89 when he died and had his final novel published posthumously. When you have a goal to reach, much can be overcome.
So, yes, I’m let down that all the hoopla over the new book is over, I’m already thinking about books two and three (maybe four) in the new series, but the “what ifs” continue to push me toward what’s next–a writing life full of ups and letdowns.
How fun is that?
You can find my books HERE.