Once upon a time, I wrote novels. Truly, I did. Like many novelists out there, I started out young and produced my first big work – a colossal epic fantasy of about 700 hand-written pages – at around age 12. Mark that I wrote it in Greek, my mother tongue. I still have it (the book, but also the tongue :p). Bad or not (bad, very bad…), it was my first foray into this hereto uncharted for me territory, and it taught me this: I could do it.
This lesson has stayed with me and gave me self confidence. If I did it once, I could do it again. And I did.
Fast-forward a few years (or more than a few), and here I am, writing novels again (I had stopped for a few years, my mind too caught up in my studies). I learned many essential things in this period, not least that I could write in a foreign language (English) and that the story and characters trumped the style used in writing any day (but not overly much – after all, style and voice ARE important).
And I learned one more important thing: leaving a novel to rest for a month or two isn’t a bad thing – it is in fact recommended.
Leaving a novel to rest a year or two is a bad, bad thing.
Not only does the story fossilize somehow (it is there, set on paper on screen for so long that it turns from story into history, deceptively “true” and unable to change) – but also as the author evolves, it becomes harder and harder to go back and a) revise, b) recapture the spirit and voice of the story as it had been conceived originally.
Cue dramatic and angsty music. The novel is dead, long live the novel! I did manage to resuscitate stories and novels, but it was rarely a revision and rather a complete rewrite of the book. Which defeats the purpose somehow. Write the novel. Let it rest just a little, let the yeast work. Then attack it with vigor and shape it while it’s still warm and pliable.
Unless you’re satisfied with it (as much as you can, perfectionist author that you are), don’t set it completely aside.
Because then you will find that the spaces between novels contain much more dark matter than the spaces between the planets.