Post Novel Depression
by Salvatore Pane
A few days ago, I finished the (187th?) draft of my novel. It’s been read by lots of folks (if you’re reading this (doubtful), thanks!). And I’ve spent so much time on it that I can recite many scenes and snippets of dialogue from memory. It’s too early to talk about what happens to it next, but please send your positive energy my way.
What I really want to talk about is starting my next project. I’ve spent so much time in the world of the novel using that voice, and it’s a lot harder to come out of it than I anticipated. While writing the novel, I took a few breaks to write some short stories and a couple pieces of flash fictions, but those were trysts, brief interludes that kept me away from what I considered to be my truest work.
Now what the hell am I supposed to do? Since starting the novel, I’ve been keeping a notebook full of short story ideas and a very loosely plotted novella amputated from a too-ambitious short story. I started the novella three days ago and it’s been really rough going. I’ve written about 4,000 words but there’s only one scene I actually thinks is any good, and even that’s filled with instructions to myself in big red letters about how to flesh things out more.
One of the problems I have is I keep slipping into the novel voice and trying to bring the novella back to themes directly connected with the novel. I’m not sure how to deal with this. Usually, I’m a very intuition based writer. I don’t have elaborate plans and only know what’s going to happen a few scenes in advance (with the exception of maybe a handful of images I know might work towards the end). A lot of the time, I don’t even write in order and piece the scenes together once I have a first draft. Normally, I would follow my intuition and keep writing in the novel voice, but I’m worried about being derivative. I don’t want to be one of those writers who does the same thing 85 times, but on the other hand, maybe the novel’s themes are my true subjects, and it’s up to me to continue pursuing them? Another problem is that both the novel and novella use twenty-something male first person protagonists. They’re extremely different characters, but the voices are more similar than I’d like and this worries me. Maybe I need to put this novella away (again) and work on something more closely connected to a female character or write something in third person.
I know a lot of this is rambling and probably of little interest to non-writers. But I am curious for responses from people who read this who do write. What’s your process like? Do you have difficulty transitioning from one project to another? Do you work on multiple projects at the same time? Do you find that your voice bleeds from one work to the next, that you have an authorial style that’s impossible to hide once you really discover your voice? Any and all opinions welcome.