JAN: There are many different times you say you've finished writing your book. When you complete the first draft. After you've revised and are truly happy with your second or third draft. After you've sent it out for comments and have incorporated the reader comments you think were helpful. But when you finish the last little bit of copyediting and send it to your agent, then you are really done. Right? That's when you can celebrate and do all the things you've been storing up and promising to do when you've finished your book. When you have the luxury of time combined with the satisfaction of having completed a major project.
Only it doesn't work that way. At least for me. The strangest thing about finishing a book is the incredible sense of loss -- and yes, a bit of depression - when it's over. I've done what I've promised myself, I've attacked my task list -- I've called contractors to get house repairs, gone over my expenses and switched cable carriers, cleaned out my sock drawer, and even went to the library to research my next book -- but it's been like moving through jello. My brain hasn't been there. I've been distracted and malfunctioning all week. When I missed a turn yesterday for a routine trip to take the dog to the park, I thought: Geez, I'm just not "present," and then I realized, I WAS PRESENT. Only the problem was I was still PRESENT in the mythical town of Waverley I wrote about. I don't want to leave. I don't want to come back to earth. I remember this feeling from previous books, but I never remember it being THIS BAD.
How about you all. Do you suffer from this malady when it seems like you should be jubilant. Is it the same with every book?
ROBERTA: I've heard folks talk about that post-book depression Jan, but it's not my experience. I enjoy finishing something because it allows me to organize and straighten up and do little jobs I haven't let myself do for months. I was just noticing this today--and recalling that it happens EVERY TIME I'm writing: I can't seem to keep things neat. You could absolutely tell the stage I'm in by looking at my desk...
RHYS: I don't think I experience depression, but certainly a sense or emptiness. It's like the day after my kids went off to college and the house was clean and quiet. And the big question: what do I do with my time when I'm not writing? I think writing a series gives me a comforting sense of knowing I'll be back soon to visit old friends. I'm working crazily to send my next Molly book off before I go on vacation in ten days, so my desk at this moment is not a pretty sight.
DEB: Oh, I'm glad to know that other people experience the same thing, Jan. I usually have a huge surge of elation when I type The End and send that finished draft off to my editor--followed by a crash. And yes, I always have a huge to-do list, and of course I've been looking forward for months to fun things like lunch with friends, but still . . . Even though I write a series and I know I'll be spending more time with the continuing characters soon enough, there are always characters in each book that I hate to let go. Nor can you ever go back and really LIVE in that particular story again.
I'm sure the best way to deal with this is to dive right into the next book, but then there are revisions, and copy edits, and page proofs . . . this is probably nature's way of helping the writer let go, because by the time I've finished two versions (US and UK) of all the above, it's finally easier to move on to the next book.
JAN: Exactly! Finally, I pulled out of it by Saturday. But for three whole days, my brain couldn't concentrate on anything, no matter how hard I tried to focus on my research for the next book. But I'm sort of like that even when I'm reading a book. I hate to end a good novel and find myself very resistant about starting a new one.
HANK: When I finished PRIME TIME, I called my husband into the room, and said "Sweetheart, watch this." I typed "The End" and then I burst into tears. The other books--gosh, I think I was thrilled.
Funny you should bring this up today, Jan. Because at the end of today, I'll be able to gauge exactly how I'll feel. I'm gonna be done. And I think I'll be--ecstatic. But we shall see.
JAN: Well, I hope you fare better than I did. I was ecstatic for one day, and then.... aimless, I guess is the best description. But I'm over it now - THANK GOODNESS. How about the rest of you out there?