Ok guys, so full disclosure here, I totally borrowed the term “palate cleanser” from a very gifted writer friend of mine.
She’d just finished the final round of edits on her epic Sci-Fi love story, (though she’ll seriously kill me for calling it that). Her female protagonist is a kick-butt, yet deeply complex character, who can stand on her own two feet, thank you very much. Anyway, said writer friend found herself mentally spent afterwards – done, fried, fritzed & fileted. Completely empty.
And after a couple of weeks in a darkened room, where do you go from there? What do you do with yourself when you mentally can’t find the focus to start the next book just yet? What do you do while you wait, either for agents, publishers, or the good old public to get back to you on your blood, sweat & tears opus?
You write a palate cleanser, that’s what, and I’ll tell you why…
You need to keep your hand in the game
I think we can all agree that finishing a book earns us a well-deserved rest, maybe a bottle of the fizzy stuff and a night out on the town. But, and I pause here for your hangover to dissipate, we don’t want to leave it too long to get back in the game; we don’t want to risk losing that precious writing habit (which took so much effort to perfect); or to lose that “je ne sais quoi”, which happens when we’re in the flow.
A palate cleanser is the perfect antidote to that hangover, metaphorical or physical! It’s the ideal project when you haven’t quite got your focus laser locked onto your next book yet.
Palate cleanser flavors
As you approached the finish line of your book, you would have prioritized your writing, above many other things in your busy life, in order to write those immortal words, “The End” after somewhere between seventy thousand to one hundred and seventy thousand words, (that’s my friend I’m talking about again!). That’s a big commitment, and most of us are spent. A palate cleanser gives you the option to take the pressure off.
Try out some different writing styles or forms and have some fun with your writing whilst you re-enter the earth’s atmosphere.
For example, if you’re a Sci-Fi writer, try diving into a Fantasy world of frosty fae. A Thriller writer, try twisting the perverse plot of a Police Procedural, or are you a Literary artist, whose talents could cause palpitations with some powerful poetry. Whatever you think will help you flex your fatigued writing muscles, blow off the cobwebs, and most of all make it fun to write again–Then, Go For It.
Write it quick and dirty
Get in, get out. Don’t worry too much about the how, what, why, where, and when.
Pull an idea from the ether, play with it a while, and get it written without thinking about it too much.
The key here is to keep it short and sweet. If the words flow, follow them, but if you find your plot tied up in a very short, short story, then be satisfied with that.
Maybe enter it into a competition or send it off to a magazine–you never know where the universe might take that oddball little gem of yours.
Doors can open that you didn’t even think to knock on
And that takes us neatly back to my friend again.
Her palate cleanser was a funny, fantasy take on My Fair Lady, with such a fresh, edgy feel to it, I couldn’t put it down. And you know what, she knocked that out of the park in weeks, not months (or years).
Before she knew it, she was publishing it online in installments, growing her subscribers thick and fast, and having a lot of fun in the process.
Books two and three in her epic Sci-Fi trilogy suddenly appeared in her focus again, and she lasered in on them with a fresh perspective and enthusiasm.
Take heart, my friends. Take my advice and take the plunge into a palate cleanser. Jump into any crazy, zany, wacky, way-out-there idea that comes to mind. Have some fun and let the cards fall where they may.
If it’s a soggy heap on the floor, so be it, get back to the main event. But I’m betting you will learn something, a door may open, and above all you will get your mojo back. You will be ready to take on the world again. Whatever that world might be for you.
Put this blog post in a draw or folder
Because even if you’re not in the market for a palate cleanser right now, I guarantee the time will come and you might just thank me for it.
JD is a British YA and short story writer. When she’s not sat at her desk, you’ll find her tramping the English countryside with her four loyal companions.