Oh summer, we barely knew ya. Just as we were getting used to staying up late on a school night and have figured out the perfect antidote to beating snow-cone induced brain freeze, we start hearing that dreaded phrase … Back to School.
Authors go back to school in a sense. Each time we start a new story with new characters we feel a bit of that first-day-of-school apprehension.
For me, it’s a bittersweet feeling. I get excited with the promise of making new friends and learning something new while writing, but I also feel a bit nostalgic about saying good-bye to the last book and the characters that I held dear.
But, much like moving up to the next grade level, we can’t stay back and repeat the same old book – no matter how much we’re going to miss nap time. So, suck it up buttercup and sharpen those No. 2 pencils and pull out that Big Chief tablet. Here’s five ways I found to battle the back-to-school/new-book-blues.
Refill your Trapper Keeper. Ahhh, that new school supplies smell. There’s something special about starting with a fresh set of supplies. Writing a new book is a lot like that. I’ll pick up a new journal just for that story, or a fresh set of pens and a new plot board. Sometimes playing with that new pencil bag is just what you need to get you excited about the new school year book.
Get to know your new friends. Just like making new school friends, authors need to take the time to get to know their new characters. I like to “interview” my characters on paper. I pretend to be Oprah and sit them down on the couch in my head and really get to know what makes them tick. This exercise will make your characters jump off the page for a reader.
Know where your classes are. Ever walked into English class only to be surrounded by Bunsen burners and molecule mobiles hanging from the ceiling? Yeah, pretty embarrassing. It’s even more embarrassing when you keep getting lost in that new world you’re building. Spend some time mapping out this new story world – literally – so that when the words are flowing, you don’t have to stop and wonder if your characters needs to turn left or right.
Make nice with the teacher. There’s a reason we give an apple to the teacher. It’s to nourish our relationship for the remainder of the school year. The same is true for an author’s muse. Make nice early in the writing process and the muse will look away when you feel the urge to shoot spitballs at the ceiling.
Don’t forget recess! That feeling of running free in the school yard after a long stint of sitting behind a desk is refreshing. Authors need it, too. Whether it’s walking the dog, going for a run, curling up with a book or getting together with other writer friends, recess replenishes and renews the soul.
With each book we write, that back-to-school feeling will become less scary and more thrilling. And, like real life, some school years – and books – will be tougher than others (looking at you Junior High) and some will coast by in a blink of an eye (hello Senior Year), but what you’ll find is that each story teaches us something, and makes us better pupils for the next one.