Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The In-Between Doldrums

It's a sad day when you finish a manuscript and have to say good-bye to the characters. You've created them but they take on a life of their own as you spin them into a yarn. Then you write "The End" and it's over. Off they must go to Dust Bunny Land, under the bed or in the deep recesses of some desk drawer.

Figuratively speaking, of course. Your manuscript is most likely stored on your computer hard drive, and a thumb drive if you're being cautious. And it's to be found in one of your e-mail folders as well, stored on the provider's server as an added precaution.

But at any rate, the manuscript is tucked away to rest so that when you go back to start the edits, you have fresh eyes.

You've edited the previous manuscript, which didn't need much work because you've been at it for the past five years with that one. You can't think of anything else to be done to make it better, so you start thinking about query letters to try the literary agents again. Of course the query letter needs to sit a bit, to rest before it, too, gets an edit.

You are in between manuscripts. It is time to start another one, to keep you busy while you query the oldest work, but there's research to be done. Reading up on the subject that inspired you when you first read about Historical Incident C does not have the appeal of writing prose, and so you put it off a bit.

The urge to write, however, is prodding you. The issue? You don't actually have anything to write at the moment.

So there you sit, all glum and morose, a bit edgy if approached by those who think you're not doing anything when in fact your head is very busy. There are voices there, quite soft but insistent. It's the people who piqued your interest, the ones who appear in the source books you picked up last year. They want their story written, and you intend to write it, but it's not all that much fun to study a topic or a time period.

It's work, which is not to say that writing isn't work, but when the words are flowing it doesn't feel like a slog through tar. Making time lines, uncovering small details about life in the era of your upcoming Work In Progress, that takes effort.

How can you make the effort when you're missing your characters that you've spent the past year with?

About all you can do is make yourself sit down in the chair with a notepad and a pencil, and get to it.

What is the alternative, after all, but to polish a query letter? Can you think of anything more nerve-wracking and soul-killing than that?

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