I finish up a novel in the same way that someone else might fling herself off a cliff. (Like in BASE jumping, not like suicide. Not being morbid here.) I make a mad dash for it, and suddenly find myself in midair, no friction, no traction, no story, no nothing.
And apparently we're done.
I finished this wonderful sequel project last Tuesday at 2:00 a.m. I wrote 53 pages by hand, and then just kind of fell over.
(Okay, first I did an ecstatic little happy dance. The last paragraphs felt perfect; there was a breath-stealing twist at the ending; and hopefully it catapults the reader right into the next book. So dance I did. But then I fell over.)
For the next two days, I went back and forth, from feeling brilliant to feeling like a vegetable. Moments of bright conversation where I felt all verbal and warm and quippy, and then the next moment, I couldn't really remember my name or why I had walked into the room.
I never handle the end of a draft with any real grace. I have lovely intentions: I wanted to declutter my office area, clearing psychological (as well as actual) space for the next book project. I wanted to catch up on all the correspondence and errands and undone things... everything I'd just forgotten about in the last two weeks of racing toward the end.
And I wanted to do a lot of confetti-tossing, a lot of balloon-gazing, a lot of party-party-party.
Instead I sort of floated around, jellyfish style. I stared at things, and not in a meaningful way but in an I-hope-I'm-not-actually-drooling way.
Maybe I'd burned myself out a bit? Who am I kidding. Of course I was burnt out.
But the thing is, I've trained this funny brain of mine to invent fictions. And it's going to keep doing that, whether I'm writing a novel at the moment or not.
Frankly? My real life is fraught with enough at the moment that I don't need to be asking what if through each day. I'm full up on real conflict, real stakes, real characters, real risk. But still my brain spins.
So it's time to get back to work. Honestly, that wasn't much of a break: I had dreamed of a lot more Champagne and a lot less catching up the laundry. But I can't let myself invent any more scenarios for what could go wrong. If I'm going to be inventing, I need to put all that craziness into the next project.
Besides, I've already made an exciting little multi-colored chart. (And I cannot say no to the exciting little multi-colored chart.) If I'm very, very good, and eat all of my vegetables, and stretch well before each session, I just might finish book three in time for Christmas.
OH, THE HOPE.
I might be escaping reality a tiny bit, by jumping back into my story world again. Or maybe I'm just that fish on the dock, leaping back into water so she can breathe again. Either way, the beginning of book three is in my fingertips, or at the very least, it's right around my knuckles.
So this week I'll be catching story ideas, feeding the bears, freewriting, daydreaming. And drafting starts again next Monday.
I think it all comes down to this: You survive the end of a novel by starting the next one.