For the past year, I’ve been struggling with my writing life. I finished and submitted a manuscript to 28 agents. I received responses with varying degrees of interest, but no offers of representation.
I’m in this weird funk. I want to start something fresh and new. But whenever I go to work on a new project, I can get excited about the concept–but the characters don’t feel real to me.
With my previous book, the characters still feel like real, living, breathing people. They are as real to me as Hermione Granger or Ender Wiggin or Daenerys Targaryen.
In my efforts to begin a new manuscript, I’ve spent a lot of time reading books on character development. I’ve done extensive character planning sheets. My new characters have goals and dreams. I know where they have tattoos and who their secret crushes are. I know what haunts them in their backstory.
But they aren’t real people to me. I don’t catch myself thinking about them as I drive to work. I even get them confused by interchanging their names by mistake. I tried drawing pictures of them so that I would have some clear visuals to keep them all straight.
I’m hesitant to start writing any piece of the actual narrative because I’m worried it will be a total mess. If I don’t know my characters, how can I write anything? It will be inconsistent and confusing.
I wonder though, if I’m not allowing myself to let these characters in. I still yearn to work on my other project. To spend time with the characters I love and know. To finish their story.
But I also recognize that it’s likely time for me to move on to something new in order to grow as a writer. I hope that someday, when a new project lands me an agent and I have a debut novel, I’ll get asked, “What else have you got?” And that will be my opportunity to share this project that I love so much.
But until then I need to find a way to open my heart to something new.
What advice do you have to writers who are struggling to start a new project?
Should I dabble in fanfiction to find my groove again? Should I put my new characters in an empty room and write how they interact?
Any advice is much appreciated!