Empty-nest syndrome for writers: What do you do after you finish a story?

photo by David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos
The baby bird leaves the nest.
photo by David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I reached a milestone this week: I completed a draft of my first major writing project as a full-time writer. As I typed the words “The End” at the end of that manuscript, I knew it wasn’t actually The End. After all, this is only the first draft. Plus, I have more stories bottled up inside of me, characters whispering in my ear, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Such is the writer’s life.

But my daily writing sprints working on that story framed my days. Whether I was ready to pull my hair out or completely caught up in the flow of storytelling, working on that novella filled much of my time over the past few months. I awoke Thursday (the day after I finished the draft) to a sort of confusion. No working on that story today, I realized.

That vague sense of confusion mixed with accomplishment led me to wonder, “What do we do after we’ve completed a major project?” I know I want to let it sit for at least a month before I dive into revisions, so I can see the story with fresh eyes. So, what to do…

Take a vacation to the Bahamas?

Sounds fun, but a bit out of the budget.

Clean my office?

Well, yes, this needs to be done, but I needed a day or two to recharge before I tackled the stacks of papers and magazines in there.

Start another story immediately?

Well, I’m guessing that’s what an extremely prolific writer like Nora Roberts would do. And I did spend a day writing down scene/character/plot ideas for a new story. I haven’t set fingers to keyboard yet, though. This one is still in the brainstorming/planning pre-planning phase.

Other things have filled my days: A workshop on the use of Twitter for writers, presented by Marcy Kennedy over at WANA International. Continuing other ROW80 goals, such as reading to hone my craft. Creating an editing to-do list for the newly complete first draft. Making planning notes for a new story. Editing an article I wrote to submit for publication. Add in a dash of spring cleaning, and that sums up what I’ve been doing.

What do you do after you finish a major writing project? I’d love to know!

Sunday ROW80 check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Finish a draft of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.” Wrote 3,132 words this week. First draft is complete! Yippee! And: Yay!

2.) Read to hone my craft. Read two more chapters in Donald Maass’ “The Fire in Fiction.” Finished reading Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World.”

3.) Blog at least two times a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays. Target met.

4.) Check in on Twitter daily and on WANA Tribe at least once/week. Target met.

5.) Comment on 5-6 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met.

6.) Super-secret project: Write two articles/posts each week for that project. Target not met. Admittedly, I’ve been slacking on this one the past few weeks.

This a blog hop!


What about you? What do you do when you’ve finished a draft? Do you take time to do something else before you start a new story? Do you edit immediately or let the story wait for a while? Do you need a cool-down period between large projects?

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Fantasy & paranormal romance author. Witch. Tarot reader. Possibly a woodland sprite. Debut release TANGLED ROOTS now available. Magic awaits at www.denisedyoungbooks.com.

8 thoughts on “Empty-nest syndrome for writers: What do you do after you finish a story?

  1. What do I do…hmm, it depends on how draining the story was. I’ve been able to jump into a new project the next day but I’ve also had the stories that take at least a week of nothing to recover from before even thinking of starting another project.

    Congrats on finishing that first draft!! Way to go. Good luck with the new project.

    1. Thanks, Raelyn. I never thought of it that way, but you’re right. Some stories are more draining than others. It can be good to give ourselves a recovery period in between.

  2. Great job on finishing the first draft!!

    When I finish a draft, I set it aside for at least a month. And I pick up whatever project’s next on my list. I always seem to have at least one ready to go. I just don’t seem to know what to do with myself if I don’t have something to work on.

    1. I’m doing the same thing with this project. I’ll set it aside for at least a month–maybe six weeks–so I have some distance and can approach the next draft with a fresh perspective. In the meantime, I’ll work on another project. I felt a little lost after I finished this project, so I can relate to your need to have something else in the story queue and ready to be written.

      Thanks, Fallon!

  3. Huzzah to your first draft!

    I have wondered about this. Do writers have story withdrawals? Or are they happy to be done? I wonder what it will be like. I have years before I finish so I wont know for me for a long long time.

    1. It depends on the individual writer, I suppose. I feel excited but also a little lost–thus that whole empty-nest feeling. The transition between projects can be tough, but I’m hoping it will become easier over time.

      Good luck on your writing path, Sarah. What kinds of stories are you currently working on?

  4. Great news about finishing that first draft! What a neat sense of accomplishment — and you really picked a great way to feature that mixed up sense of Gosh, I finished–now what? I finished my first final read through of Book 2 (if that makes sense) just this morning. But Book 3 really is agitating away in the pile of research-to-be-read. Yes, I do let drafts simmer. Before picking up Book 2 for that final read through, I let it sit for 2 months. Maybe that’s why Book 3 is jabbering away, for I drafted scenes for Book 3 in the interim. May Round 2 be especially good to you!

    1. Thanks, Beth. I’ve found that sometimes when I work on a series, I get really excited about writing the next book right as I’m about to finish the current one. I end up with all these ideas in my head, jostling each other for space.

      Happy writing! 🙂

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