Monday, May 9, 2011

Post-book depression



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?

16 comments:

Terry Odell said...

It seems to be getting a little better, but if you don't have a contract for the manuscript, then it's "Done" but what next? The selling part is so much harder.

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Hallie Ephron said...

Congratulations, Jan and Hank! Though I'm so jealous when I hear someone has finished a manuscript.

I'm wallowing in the middle right now and boy would I love to be depressed about coming to THE END. For me, the aftermath is more sheer terror that I won't have another idea to sustain a novel.

I just came back from the wonderful Literary Guild of Orange County Festival of Women Authors where I got to hang out with the lovely and talented Carolyn Hart (her new book: Dead by Midnight)... who says she finishes a manuscript in about 5 months.

Maybe I need to move to Oklahoma?

Hallie Ephron said...

Oh, Terry - I so agree. We're all wishing you good luck!

Congratulations (celebrate!) on finishing! It's amazing that any of us can do it without a contract and deadline.

Deb said...

Congrats, Jan and Hank!!!! If I was near enough I'd buy you champagne. Great cure for post-book blues.

Jungle Red Writers said...

WIshing you the best of luck, Terry!

Hallie, no matter which part of the book process you are in, it seems, you want to be in another part.

Except for the waiting to hear part, no one wants to be there.

Thanks for the virtual champagne Deb. The perfect cure. That and a decision on what to write NEXT.

Roberta Isleib said...

Terry, you are so right, it is getting harder. or at least it looks that way right now...maybe we'll see a turnaround soon. People still love to read--it's the matter of how to read that needs to be sorted out.

And Hallie, I do not like the middle either. Not one bit...

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Well, and you know what, though...what does "done" even mean?

My agent has to read it again, now, and then I'm sure she'll have more thoughts--although I already incorporated her FIRST thoughts.

But then say--crossing fingers--it sells. Then there'll be more to do, so it's not DONE.

If it doesn't sell--oh, gosh, making my own stomach hurt--then there'll be more to do. So it's not DONE.

So I guess-even though I hit "send" this morning..I don't feel done.

I feel--terrified. Excited? Yes. But terrified.

And YAY, Jan! When do we get to hear about it?

Jungle Red Writers said...

Well, I decided that I wanted to write what I wanted to write, so I took a LOT of risk with this book.

It's a dark, satirical, comic crime novel that will be really, really hard to sell. But I LOVED writing it, and that was the point.

Jersey Jack said...

It's hard to tell if the "post-book" will be worse than the "pre-book" or the current "intra-book." But at least I am over the editor's "What book?" depression. It's always something.

Add my congrats, Jan and Hank.

Jan Brogan said...

Yes, Jersey Jack, it is ALWAYS something.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Jack, hilarious! But that's what we signed up for, right?

Jersey Jack said...

Hey, Hank. Did you know you just got another nomination? The Anthony?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Jack, thank you! Yes--I JUST found out!! Whoo hoo..and thank you so much!

Rebecca said...

Wow, so many congratulations to give to you guys! Jan and Hank (and Rhys, almost) congrats on being done with your latest books! Hank, double congratulations on the Anthony nomination, how exciting! When do you get to pick out another fancy evening dress for that award ceremony?

Concerning post-book depression, I admit I haven't felt it yet. It's my dirty little secret... I've been writing novels since I was thirteen, but never had the focus or discipline to finish any of them. I came close once, but ultimately lost interest and moved on to the next thing.

Hallie, you and I seem to have opposite problems--I have so many ideas floating around (plus they hit me suddenly, too, like in the middle of watching a PBS program) that it's hard to stay focused on one project from beginning to completion. My current WIP hasn't yet hit the decade mark, but it's coming close... I started it as a short story for a writing workshop class in early 2002. It's changed dramatically over the years, including when I took a 2.5 year hiatus from fiction to focus on history instead. But I'm terrified of the post-book depression I'll face when I actually finish it. It's lived in my head for so long, I wonder what my writing voice will sound like in another character's head. I can't really fathom it yet.

Even so, I wish I knew how it felt! Funny how we can want something so badly, but feel utterly terrified about it all at once? Motherhood is like that, too, in some ways. :p

Jungle Red Writers said...

Hey Rebecca,
Don't worry about the post-book depression -- its very short lived. Just keep plugging on your books! And let us know so we can congratulate YOU!!!!

~jan

Victoria said...

Just finished, really finished, a book I’ve finished about fifty times before. DIVINE DARKNESS, a contemporary Orpheus story, has been with an editor for the last two weeks. I'm bereft, already mourning the loss of my "darlings." I've lived in isolation, surrounded by fictional characters, for the last three years when I pushed to write it. Now I’m faced with a bleak reality. I was abandoned by real and fictional friends and I feel lost. I'm glad I'm not alone in this. Good luck to all you wonderful writers.
Victoria Avilan