As a project comes to a close, it’s time to take stock of what you want to do next. By putting aside all the technical bits of everything between you and the finish line, you can think about something just as important.
Where are you going after this project? What comes after this novel, transmedia project, comic book, radio drama, non-fiction collection?
And where do you want to go next?
Maintaining a healthy booklife takes more than producing quality work and hitting your deadlines. Regularly take stock of your career to this moment. Observing the directions your completed projects can take you. If something brings you a feeling of dissatisfaction, examine that critically. Were you unhappy with the last book because it felt rushed? Did you co-author a project with someone you weren’t well-suited to work for? Dissatisfaction can tell us a lot, not only about what we don’t want to repeat, but what we want to pursue.
If you’re not sure about where you want to go next with your booklife, taking a moment can help you pick a direction. If you just finished a mystery novel but want to experiment with a new genre, maybe it’s time to try that science-fiction story you’ve had in the back of your head for the past few years. Experimenting with genre and form is good for you as a writer, even if those projects are never published. Finishing a project provides that meditative moment to assess your feelings and goals.
If you started a publishing career as a horror writer but want to switch to non-fiction, nothing says you can’t. But it’s helpful to determine why you want to make the switch. Are you dissatisfied with horror? With the type of horror you’ve written? Or did you hit a place where your urge to tell horror stories has been satiated?
Determining the genre and form of our next work is one component of taking stock. But the moment isn’t complete until we assess our goals from here. Every writer has their own unique career path. No one is the next King, Plath, Poe, Gaiman, Spillane. But if your goal is to achieve a widespread audience, your path after you take stock is different from someone who wants to publish only with a small press. If you’re working against what you thought were your goals, step back and look at your actions. If you’re self-sabotaging, you have to find the root and pull it out.
If you’ve changed interests or direction without realizing it, that’ll impact your booklife. It’s better to realize that and account for it, then let that change create unwanted complications. You might be afraid that if you dramatically change direction now, your audience won’t follow you. And that’s perfectly valid, because some are all of your audience may not make that change with you. Write books that make you unhappy for an audience you want to appease, or switch directions and see what happens next?
Taking stock isn’t about self-examination you’re going to ignore. It’s about consistent, regular assessment of you and your goals. Self-knowledge is a key to a healthy booklife. You don’t have to wait till the book is complete to sit down, and figure out where you’re going next.