Writing Update: Downtime Edition

While it hasn’t been much more than a week since I’ve looked at Book Two in the Library Series, it feels like it’s been a month. Today’s post is an examination of downtime, the period of time when a writer isn’t writing.

There was a large period of downtime between the completion of The Library Complex and its release. When I finally returned to the book, I had a great amount of fun reading it and improving it. I was inspired and knew that releasing the book for sale was the right thing to do because it was a product that I took pride in. Now, naturally, I want the same thing for Book Two. I want to be confident in the story that I am releasing to the world.

So this begs the question, how much downtime does an author need? I won’t claim to have the answer but I would like to explore several options. The first option is that an author doesn’t need any downtime at all. You can certainly write a story and edit it and release it without taking any breaks. I think there are some situations where this is appropriate, but it is very difficult to write a series without any breaks because you aren’t taking the time to examine what direction the series is headed in. You can edit and add hints for future plots, but you haven’t taken the time to step back and read your work as any other person would.

This is what happened after I finished The Library Complex in December 2011. I was happy with the story and the editing that I had done, but there was a chance to greatly improve it. I didn’t change any story content, but I edited the story so that it made sense to as many people as possible. It was already a complete story, but now it is a better story because of the cleaned up presentation. I think that for very talented writers, it is possible to do this type of work during the actual process. I know that I definitely kept that in mind while finishing the story, but without those long months I wouldn’t have seen where I could improve.

If I had a writing staff then they could point out areas to improve, but then I worry about changing my work in a way that isn’t authentic. If I don’t see the errors on my own, then how can I fix them? Or worse, what if I fix something that doesn’t need to be fixed? By waiting to read the story again later I am able to approach my story from my own honest perspective which allows me to change anything that I want to change, rather than changing things that other people want to to change.

Now, the second and third option are very similar. Respectively, they are scheduling your downtime and having downtime whenever it feels natural. The former is the one that I prefer while the latter is the one that I am more familiar with. In the past I would write stories when I felt like it and they would never get done because I didn’t have any goals. (Please note that I do not agree that writers must write a set amount of words each day. There’s no point in writing for the sake of writing. If you cannot access the proper emotions then you risk taking your story in a strange direction, not that that can’t be fixed.)

Right now the second book in the Library Series is in the QA phase. So during this time I am not working on it and others are reading it. I am using this time to work on other things, some of them related to writing and others not related at all. It’s a phase where I can recharge myself or switch focuses so that I can accomplish more. The current plan for now is to receive the feedback, not look at the feedback, do another editing pass, then look at the feedback and see if there is anything I truly want to change. This should take me right up to the release of the book (a date that will be announced on the final day of August).

So, to conclude this post, I would love to be able to write n0n-stop. However, at this moment in time I am happy with scheduling time where I don’t write in order to better my projects.