If you follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter you’ll know that I finished the first draft of the sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian, my dark fantasy novel currently being edited by a professional, last week. Finishing a book is one of the most amazing feelings in the entire world but it’s also kind of daunting. After all, you’ve been carving out an hour(or three in my case) of every day to work on this thing for months. What the hell do you do with that time now?
Personally my brain was immediately flooded with about a million things I could do with those hours, but here are 7 things you absolutely must do after finishing a novel:
This one is obvious, but it bears repeating. Most writers(realistically most of the people I know) have a terrible habit of downplaying their achievements. They fall into the trap of comparing themselves to writers who have already finished dozens of books or who finished their books before their 20th birthday. This is the absolute worst thing you can do to yourself, especially if you already have depression or other mental health issues. So stop and remember that finishing a book deserves a celebration, whether it’s your first book or your fiftieth.
How should you celebrate? That’s up to you but I have one suggestion: go big, especially if this is your first or second book. Don’t have a single drink by yourself to celebrate. Take yourself out for a nice meal and invite some friends out for drinks afterwards. You deserve it.
2. Take a week off
When you’re working on a book it tends to take over your mind at all times of day. No matter what you’re actively doing some part of you is always focused on the book, examining the problems and delivering solutions. As much as you might want to jump straight into a new project most of us have to put some distance between ourselves and the last book we worked on before we can really devote our attention to the next project.
During your week off you should do everything in your power to get the last project out of your head. Read a different book(or three). Watch movies that are as different from your last book as you can possibly imagine. Your goal is to put as much distance between yourself and your last novel as you can before starting the next project. Some writers even take longer periods of time off in between books to do this.
3. Thoroughly clean your house
The closer I am to finishing a book, the less I clean, and I know I’m not alone in this. In the last couple weeks of a project almost all the cleaning falls to my fiance, so when I finish a book I do a thorough clean of my house(although my desk always stays a mess).
Which reminds me, I really need to clean the bedroom when I finish this blog post…
4. Narrow down your options for the next project
Another common problem us writerly folk have is a plethora of ideas and a limited time frame in which to complete our projects. I’ve got entire binders full of partial outlines and notes for worlds I’ve never actually written a book in.
So how do you narrow them down? You have to pick your own criteria. For me I’ve narrowed it down based on which projects are closest to publication because I’ve decided to self publish my work. You might want to narrow it down based on which projects have the most complete outlines or based on something like project length. You might even narrow down your ideas to the most challenging ones because you want to break out of your comfort zone and learn new techniques.
Whatever your criteria is, I want you to narrow your entire list of possible projects down to three.
5. List all the pros and cons for potential projects
Once you’ve picked your three projects, make a list of pros and cons for each one. As an example I’ll share some of the pros and cons for one of the projects I’m considering, the third book in the Moonshadow’s Guardian trilogy(which will eventually have a better name):
Moonshadow’s Guardian Book 3
- I’m extremely comfortable with the voice of the main character right now
- Since I’ve worked on both the other books this year my brain is still kind of immersed in the world
- I’m excited to further explore the mythology of the world in the third book
- This book actually has the loosest outline of the three projects I’m working on: I know what I want the main character’s story arc to look like, but not much else
- There will be complicated repercussions from events in the second book that I haven’t decided how to approach
- If I write this book it will have a new POV character who is extremely mentally disturbed, and I’m not sure I’m stable enough mentally to sit in her head for very long at the moment
Your pros and cons can be anything that influences how well you’ll be able to work on the project. The important thing is to be completely honest with yourself.
6. Read a book about writing
The writer’s journey is an endless path of learning. And there are thousands of books to help you along the way. Some of my favourite books about writing are DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build your Community, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
You can get your books about the craft from the library or buy them so you always have a copy to refer to but the important thing is that you actually take the time to read them. Keep a notebook beside you while you’re reading them and write down anything particularly useful or interesting. You’ll always learn more from actually writing and receiving feedback on your work but if you want to learn quickly you need to get information from every possible source.
7. Start working on the next book
Every single blog and book I’ve ever read about writing sooner or later says the same thing: the best thing you can do for your career is write the next book. It doesn’t matter whether you’re giving the first draft of your first book some time to settle before you dive into edits or you’re waiting to hear back from an agent/publisher. Taking a week or two off to reset your brain and catch up with all the friends you’ve been ignoring is great but if you’re serious about building a career in writing you can’t wait long to start your next book.
Of course, working on the next book doesn’t necessarily mean jumping head long into a first draft. In fact, I have a whole list of things I like to do before I start a novel. Outlining is obviously one of them but I also often have extensive worldbuilding to do and I always do a series of character exercises. The character exercises are particularly important for me because I write in first person and they allow me to get used to a new character’s voice before I jump into a project.
What are you planning to do when you finish your current project? Let me know in the comments section below!