On Writing: Post-Project Flop

Here’s a warning and encouragement to writers: Getting a book all the way to finished – from rough to drafts to cover art applied and published – is like running a mental marathon. A long, long marathon.

Tell No Tales is one of the fastest books I’ve put together so far. Started the rough in November 2018, finished it in December, spent one month away from the draft (working on Pearl of Fire in the meantime) so I could edit it properly, then editing from February up through the first week or so of June, and then formatting, cover art, dealing with the Library of Congress, etc. The fastest I’ve ever put one specific book together, and still the overall project took 8 months.

That’s a long time to have something occupying a corner of your brain.

So when a long-term project is over, I always find there is a mental crash. Lasts at least a few days, and it’s better to count on at least a week, when there simply Are No Words. I can have all my notes for other projects laid out, I can have outlines and sketched dialogue sitting and waiting, and – there’s just nothing.

(FYI, this is one reason I try to write fic at least a chapter or so in advance before posting stuff, so I don’t hit a blank spot and have nothing left to give people.)

I’ve had this post-project plotbunny-flop happen every time I finish a major project, and it’s just as aggravating every time. Intellectually I know that with a little rest and liberal application of fiction (anime, books, etc.) I’ll get over it in  week or so. Emotionally, it is frustrating as hell.

But, also based on past experience, pushing the plotbunnies before they’re rested just doesn’t help. A brain that can crank out 50K in 30 days in November for NaNoWriMo still needs a break at the end of a project. Only time, rest, and a little relaxation will bring the creative flow back into working order.

The plotbunnies will come back. Likely with a new and wild idea you didn’t consider before. Patience is the name of the game.

…Patience is considered a virtue because it’s really, really hard.

Anyway. Just thought I’d post this for anyone else suffering a temporary mind-blank. Don’t panic. This is normal. As normal as writers get, anyway. Just give it a few days, and breathe.

18 thoughts on “On Writing: Post-Project Flop

  1. Maybe it is a good time to take a mini-trip? The restful kind. The cheap kind.

    When we were kids and my parents were cash-poor, we took a lot of weekend drives to visit small free historical sites, often stopping at roadside historical markers along the way.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. That’s understable. Too much of same thing turns the brain off for a while.
    Take you time and chill. 😀

    I don’t know if it would interest you, but KhamanV has a thing going on Archiveofourown. Great stories. Maybe you know about it already. But I’d figure mentioning it can’t hurt. Good consumer material.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Considering I have been writing for quite a while and never actually finished a major project, (aside from NANO a couple of times) I honestly dread this. Normal writer’s block is frustrating enough, this sounds so much worse. Especially now, when I am having a hard time finding time to write as it is. I used to write every day, every second I had. I still miss it. So being in this state just sounds awful. Thank you for the reminder that it does end, and that it is part of being a writer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Why dread it? Be like Trollope, and just turn the page and start a new novel.

      (Trollope was one of those methodical Victorians who would write exactly X many hours and then stop. But it worked for him. And his books are funny, as well as having a huge amount of worldbuilding. Other famous writers wrote Barsetshire fanfic.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am such a prodigy at writing, I hit the post-writing flop before I even start!

    *Sit down at computer*
    *Open word processor*
    *Stare at blank page*

    —20 minutes later—
    “Okay, I think I’ve decided what the first word will be!”

    Liked by 5 people

      1. “It was a dark and stormy night,
        Or so the Heralds say
        The lightening striking constantly turned the night to day
        The thunder roared the castle ’round or thusly runs the tale
        And, rising from the northeast tower there came a fearful wail.

        It was no beast nor banshee, that, the castle folk knew well,
        No prisoner in agony, nor demon trapped by spell,
        No ghost that moaned in penance, nor a soul in mortal fright,
        ‘Twas just the Countess “singing” for she practiced every night

        The Countess was convinced that she should have been born a Bard,
        And thus she made the lives of those within her power hard.
        For they must listen to her sing, and smile at what they heard,
        And swear she had a golden voice that rivaled any bird.

        The Countess was convinced that she had wedded ‘neath her state,
        And so the worst lot fell upon her meek and mild mate.
        Not only must the Count each night endure her every song,
        But suffer silent her abuse, be blamed for every wrong.

        It was a dark and stormy night
        or so the Bards aver
        And so perhaps that was the reason why there was no stir,
        When suddenly the “music” ceased; so when dawn raised his head,
        Within the tower the servants found the Countess stiff and dead.

        The Heralds came at once to judge if there had been foul play,
        And questioned all most carefully to hear what they would say.
        And one fact most astounding to them quickly came to light
        That every movement of the Count was vouched for on that night.

        The castle folk by ones and twos came forward on their own,
        To swear the Count had never once that night been all alone.
        So though the tower had been locked tight, with two keys to the door,
        One his, one hers, the Count was plain absolved of guilt for sure.

        At length the Heralds then pronounced her death as suicide.
        And all within the district voiced themselves quite satisfied.
        It was a verdict, after all, that none wished to refute
        Though no one could imagine why she tried to eat her lute.”

        Dark and Stormy Night, Mercedes Lackey

        Liked by 4 people

    1. I found copious amounts of sarcasm to be helpful, myself. Perhaps you can start with the most sarcastic sentence possible?

      Someone had the brilliant idea of ____. It was a thing of beauty, a masterwork of time and intelligence.

      From there you just have to decide whether or not to play it straight.

      Shame the idiot failed to survive, and I was the one that got smacked with the results

      Yeah… my characters tend to run either sarcastic or varying levels of insane. I don’t think there’s any in between.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. I’ve… pretty much lost ability to write for the joy of it. Maybe one day I’ll be able to find where I buried it.

    I can’t even bring myself to pick up a book, as most of what I find is… eh. I got spoiled by fanfiction, where the writers will toss some base rule on it’s ear for no other reason than “I thought it looked cool”. And then pulled it off. Either a lot of the established authors take things too seriously, or the publishers refuse to pick up those who don’t, I’m not sure which. The world could use more like Pratchett.

    As a side note, ever hear the song ‘The Flying Dutchman’, from The Jolly Rogers? It’s very… dramatic. I now have the image of someone who makes a living outrunning Davy Jones… who is both more than a little ticked, and taking it as a challenge.

    And no, I don’t mean Jack Sparrow.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Parasol Protectorate is a good series, sort of an urban fantasy set in I think Victorian time? Interesting take on the supernatural, it does have a romantic side plot, but there’s also a mystery. I don’t think the world is ever in danger, individual people’s worlds yes, the world in general no.

        Also, the heroine is hysterically funny, because she is well aware she lacks a conscience and so substitutes an impeccable sense of manners instead.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel you… Finding a good book became impossible. Where are all interesting authors?! The worst is when I find a book which looks good, for about half the story. And the thing is, the ones that are good? You most likely won’t find them in “bestseller” section (I have no idea who decides which book is bestseller, but sometimes, they should get fired).

      There’s interesthing reading in Spatterjay series, but I can’t vouch for it. Read it translated into my mother language. If it’s any good in English is the question…

      Liked by 1 person

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