“If I didn’t have writing, I’d be running down the street, hurling grenades in people’s faces.” — Paul Fussell
I know what Mr. Fussell means.
Last summer I was faced with a frightening writing dilemma, one which all writers face: that dreaded question, “What’s next?”
For the previous several years I had been researching and writing my Jack Mallory trilogy. Sure, it hadn’t started out as a trilogy, but that’s how it ended up. The first book, The Prodigal, was published, as many of you know, in 2012 by Fireship Press. The future of the second and third book are still up in the air, but if I cannot find a traditional publishing home for them, no doubt I will self-publish them.
But all good things must come to an end, and the trilogy did. After so many years of editing and revising, I wondered if I could still write something new again. Had I creatively stagnated by spending all those years poring over the same narrative? Could I create new characters and new worlds? Fortunately, before true anxiety or writers block could latch onto me, I was inspired by a new story, far, far away from my usual historical fiction genre.
Several months later, I had nearly 150,000 words written in what I hope will eventually be a graphic novel. And, like with The Prodigal, when I reached the end, I found that the characters in the story had much more to do and say, so I’m currently 38,000 words into the sequel.
So while writers fret and sweat about the inevitable, “What’s next?” their subconscious is already way ahead of them, searching for the next plot, scouting for the next characters. That is one part of the process that still leaves me in wonder. It tells me that even if I tried not to create, my mind would never listen and would always churn out more.
A good example was when I woke up this morning. The first image, the first thought in my mind was of a new character for my current work-in-progress. Often when I am struggling with a writing problem, I think of it before I fall asleep, and my subconscious sometimes provides me with a solution come morning. But this time the subconscious completely created a character. I mean, I wasn’t even looking for a new character. I didn’t know I needed one. But there he was, waiting for me come morning, complete with age and backstory and how he would fit into the plot.
So, in the future, if you hear me being anxious over what my next project will be, just remind me to go to bed. Nothing a good night’s sleep can’t fix.