When you finish a novel, there is a major rush of exhillartation. You have climbed the mountain and as is your right you are ready to celebrate. Your mind begins to fill with dreams of publishing contracts and interviews, the book tours and the awards. You see the cover of your book quite clearly. You see your name in tall letters, your characters enshrined in the literary canon, your plot praised, your writing revered. You never want this feeling to end (who would), and if you are inexperienced, you may believe that it never will.
The feeling of euphoria fades, sometimes as quickly as it comes.
I am a NaNoWriMo winner, but I still have a lot of work to do. I estimate at least another 100K words before I begin my process of revision. There are many months ahead. But even now, I am beginning to feel the twinge of post-novel depression. I suppose it has something to do with the artificial schedule and deadline of NaNo.
I suspect there are many of your who are done-done with your book and are now grappling with the full effects of post-novel depression, so I thought I’d take a moment to share my experience.
You’ve just spent days, weeks, months (even years) working through the pain and triumph of your story. The characters you created are no longer just ideas or names, they are family, friends, and lovers. They are a part of you, as inseparable from you as your own face.
Yet, the story must end… The characters exit. The audience leaves the house. A single light shines on the empty stage. As silence descends, you are left alone in the theater of your mind.
You may try to work through it by writing more or working on other projects. You may try to exercise your way out of it, or distract yourself with a vacation. I’ve tried all of these avenues and each time I found that I was only delaying the inevitable.
Take heart though, this deep anguish is something that most, if not all, novelists experience. So while you cannot “beat” it, you do not suffer alone, and eventually it will end.
Personally, I have come to recognize post-novel depression as part of the process. Instead of dreading it, I welcome the experience as a natural part of writing. This does little to cushion the darkness but it does fend off the worst of despair.
Just remember that this will pass. The story in your hands is yours alone and you will turn it into a bright and shining miracle once the clouds clear.