When a manuscript that has been dominating my waking life, and sometimes my dreams, for at least six months goes off to a publisher for the first time I do suffer withdrawal symptoms. I miss the characters I have visited every day and have come to know better, in some cases, than they ever knew themselves. I have laughed with them, cried with them and walked around inside their heads. Then the time comes to let them go. I am in a sort of daze for about a week afterwards, mulling over whether I have done justice to their story. Should I have included this, left out that? And crucially, will my audience love them as much as I do?
To distract myself I start cleaning out my office. I tidy up my files, which by then have loose sheets of paper shoved in to them in random fashion and odd things falling out – usually things that should never have been there in the first place. Then, out of the blue, something turns up. It might be something I started and couldn’t get to work at that time. Or something I read in the newspaper, or see on the street. Sometimes a throw-away line that I overhear will be enough to open a window in to the next story. Then I will find myself racing off, helter skelter, to inhabit the world where the next set of characters will introduce themselves and eventually take over my life.
In my office last week I came across a Nullarbor story that I had abandoned years ago. It’s too soon to tell yet, but I’m digging in to the possibilities. Who knows? Maybe the time is right for this one to come out, blinking and squinting, into the light of day now?