You’re Between Novels. Now What?

Written by Ryan R. Campbell

Ryan R. Campbell is an International Book Awards finalist, the founder of the Writescast Network, and the co-founder of Kill Your Darlings Candle Company.

Posted on April 30, 2017

Filed under Uncategorized

This post is part of the Write With Me series. For more like this, check out the writing your novel page.

So you’ve finished writing a(nother) novel. Congratulations! If you’re anything like me, you were able to ride that high until about twenty-four hours later, when in crept the existential dread of uncertainty, of not knowing what comes next.

“Back to it,” some might say. “The time to edit is now.”

But is it?

I’m a strong advocate for the “Stop, Collaborate, and Listen” approach for editing, which means giving me and my manuscript some time apart so I can come back to it later with fresher eyes. For my most recent project, I’m forcing myself to take at least two weeks before I’m allowed to even look in its direction again.

Though I’m positive this break is the best thing possible for our relationship the manuscript, I’m now left feeling like the person who’s returned home for the holidays after recently being laid off, only to face this deluge of questions from extended family members:

  • “So what are you doing for work these days?”
  • “Are you still working at the glue factory? You’re not? What now, then?”
  • “How many pancakes does it take to shingle a doghouse?”
  • “Stop living off my tax dollars and get yourself a job, you lazy bum!”

Yes, I know the last one isn’t a question, and the second-to-last one means someone needs to make sure Uncle Lenny’s oxygen is working properly, but the point remains: I’m now that person who’s “between jobs.”

Even worse: I’ve become the writer that’s between novels.

So how to cope?

Thankfully, some friends from the Twitterverse were willing to share their strategies for surviving the time between novels. Let’s explore five different ways below.

Onto the Next One

If you’ve got another novel in the pipeline, why not get to developing it right away? There’s never a time like the present to start researching, outlining, and developing new characters, after all.

Not sure how to get started with an outline for your new work? Check out the Outline With Me series to see if that’s of help. Or, if your well of ideas has run dry, go on and peruse my writing prompt generator.

But maybe—just maybe—you’re not ready to hop into a new novel. Maybe you’re looking for a shorter term project to take on. That’s where our next suggestion comes in.

Write Short Stories or Poetry

“Now hold up,” you might say. “I’m no poet, and short stories are another beast entirely.

To which I’d reply, “You’re right. But why aren’t you a poet, and what makes short stories seem so beastly?”

Is it perhaps because they haven’t been the focus point of your craft? That would be my first guess, at least.

It’s kind of like you’ve been training to slay dragons (and finally slew one!), but now the world needs you to put those skills to work in the slaying of a kraken.

Different beast? Absolutely. But will some skills carry over? I’d believe so.

If you think either of these routes might be effective in helping you navigate your time between novels, check out this podcast with short-story author Dylan Davis, who’s full of tips for writers trying to break into the world of the kraken the short story.

But do you need a break from fiction, like, for real for real? This next coping strategy might be more your thing.

Write Non-Fiction

Like Jackie suggests above, transitioning into non-fiction can help keep your skills sharp. Maybe write for your blog more often, or put together some articles based on the research you did for your previous manuscript. With enough diligence, I’m sure you can find a home for those articles to help get your name out there.

Even if the non-fiction pieces don’t find a home, you’re still helping yourself better frame your understanding of whatever the topic may be. Who knows? Maybe tinkering with non-fiction will help let you see your fiction in a new light, making it all the easier to edit when the time comes.

If you’re feeling too exhausted to write at all, though, there are still plenty of ways to keep the creative juices flowing during your self-imposed sabbatical.

Get Creative

Yes, I’ve totally quoted myself here, but let’s push past the self-indulgence for now.

For my current novel-writing hiatus, I plan on branching out a bit: perhaps getting back into music, or finally trying out painting like I’ve always wanted to do.

If you’ve already gotten in the good habit of writing every day*, don’t let that you-time slip through your fingers. Transition it into some other hobby for a bit, be it creative or otherwise. Now’s the time to explore!

Or, if you’re totally burnt out, maybe it’s best to just do you.

Treat Yourself

There’s nothing wrong with stepping away if you think that’s what will help you most. Like Hannah says, take a vacation if you have to—even if it’s only a mental one.

We’ve already put in the hard work of getting the words down, of completing a(nother) draft. It’ll be there waiting for us whenever we’re ready to get back together.


So what are you planning on doing the next time you find yourself between novels? Have a suggestion not shown on the list? Let me know in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter.

This time around, I’m thinking I’ll try for an all-of-the-above to see what works. I’ll be sure to report back once I’m ready to start editing!

Thanks as always for reading. If you’ve already done the above and are ready to start editing, feel free to enlist me as your editor. I’d love to be of help!


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