It’s an occupational hazard for many writers that when they write a book, and they finally are done with it–the first draft, second, third…the edits, the proofreads, the book is released–they find trouble moving onto something else. If they were writing a light-hearted rom-com and then want to write a dark twisted horror tale, they might have difficulty. How do you switch from something light and fun with sunny, personable characters to writing possibly twisted and unlikable characters, without it being a real shock to the system? For writers who often stay within one genre and have one specific type of book they write, maybe not so much of a problem there. However, for a writer like myself (and many, many others), who like to genre hop, it can be debilitating.
Normally, I am not the type of writer who has trouble finishing a project, getting it published, and then immediately jumping into another project with my foot to the pedal. Often, I’ll start on a new project while the previous one is still in edits and proofreading. I like to work, what can I say? However, I’d had many writer friends tell me that they had trouble clearing characters and storylines out of their heads before they could move on to something else.
They were exhausted by living with those people and that story in their head for so long. Those things had to be moved out before they could move new things in to work on. I always thought that was sort of odd.
Until recently, that is. Within the last six months, I finished a project and then started working on the final edits of another project. The second project was actually fully written, had gone through numerous drafts–it just needed editing, proofreading, and then final edits. I didn’t even actually have to write much.
And I could not make that work for me no matter what I did.
I felt, quite literally, paralyzed. The characters I thought I was finished with, the stories I had told, would just not get out of my head. And I needed to get into the mindset of the other characters and story quickly. I found it nearly impossible to do. In fact, I was pretty sure that it was impossible. The deadline was coming for both projects, too.
I was horrified.
Genre hopping is something I do. I’m used to moving from one type of story to another. Sometimes I write in a very straight forward manner (JACOB MICHAELS IS… series) and other times I like more lyrical or poetic language (BETWEEN ENZO & THE UNIVERSE). It depends upon the story, really. So, I feel that I can mold my writing to whatever situation is called for in each story.
Not this time.
Paralyzed from having your head (possibly permanently) inhabited by a previous story and cast of characters might be the scariest thing for a writer. For me, it made me wonder if I had written my final story. Had I written something that I felt embodied who I was as a writer so completely that my brain was telling me: “You’re done, Chase.”? It also made me wonder if I had spent so much time with one type of writing and one way of telling a story that I could no longer function in other genres or methods.
So…I did something that I have been notorious for never doing. I read my previous work. For pleasure.
I opened the book and read it like a reader would. I wasn’t proofreading or editing as I went…I just read the story as it was meant to be read. I allowed myself to experience something I had written as it was meant to be experienced. The story unfurled as I read, I was introduced to these characters, they told me their story. Straight through, in one sitting, I read the book. It was like sitting down to watch a movie–done in one go, no stopping or starting.
When I closed the book…well, I don’t have words for how I felt as now the writer and the reader.
Then I went and sat on the couch and reached for my laptop. I didn’t get that far. Instead, I cried. And I allowed myself to cry.
When a writer writes a story, becomes friends with these voices in our heads that we call “characters,” and then spends months (or even years) with them and their incredible stories, it’s like making new friends. Every waking moment of your life as a writer is devoted to them. They feel like family in a way.
And then they’re gone. You may never write about them again. Never spend any time with them and their unique voices and comforting stories.
Like the loss of anyone who meant something to a person, a writer sometimes needs the time to mourn the loss of these people and their stories. So…I grieved.
Maybe things are different for me. Most of my stories are not horror or fantasy or science fiction. They are–with the exception of JACOB MICHAELS IS… series–realistic. I often borrow things from my life or things other people have told me. So, maybe the loss of my “friends” and their stories feels a lot more personal. I put so much emotion and feel so much responsibility to get things right (even if I don’t), that when all is said and done, I feel as though I’ve ridden a rollercoaster up, up, up and then ridden it all the way down. There’s a build and a sudden release. And I feel empty.
New characters and their stories fill that emptiness or void that the loss of the previous ones created.
Sometimes–or, at least, in this one instance–there wasn’t anything to fill that emptiness. That emptiness demanded that I feel and experience it.
So…I sat on the couch and mourned the loss of people who were never there.
When I was done crying, however, I had shaken off those feelings. I felt like I had given those previous friends and their story a proper send off. The next day, when I reached for my laptop, I didn’t feel paralyzed. I felt ready to revisit old friends.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,