There are two times in my career as a writer that I feel completely at loose ends. One is when I've delivered the last book under contract, and the world becomes this wide open place of job uncertainty. I ask myself questions like: will my editor want another book by me? What if she doesn't? Will I ever write professionally again??? Luckily, there's a solution to this problem and that is to write another proposal or two and send them off to my agent.
The other time that I feel at loose ends in my career is where I am right now. I've turned in DEAD IF I DO and am patiently awaiting the editorial revision letter that my editor sends after she's had a chance to read and think about the book. More often than not, her letter will change the book fairly significantly. In the past, I've re-written huge chunks of the book and even significantly changed endings...
...which is why I find myself at loose ends. I *COULD* start the next book under contract (HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD), but I'm not entirely sure how this last book officially ends, you know? What if the editorial letter completely changes something and I start the next book under a false assumption? That would completely throw me. Plus, I have this nagging feeling in the back of my mind of not being QUITE finished with the last book, so I'm loath to start anything too big.
Normally, I wander around the house talking to myself during this time. Okay, I talk to myself a lot regardless, but I get especially weird during this time. I'm one of those writers who's always having conversations with characters in my head, and, as my friend and fellow author Kelly McCullough says about himself, I tend to "leak weirdness" if I don't get my fingers to keyboard enough.
So during this time, I start short stories I never finish or start reading books that might end up as research for the next novel. But, for the first time, I'm actually starting another big project. My alternate personality is contracted with a small press for a science fiction novel and I've actually started writing that. I'm also doing research -- "her" book set in Cairo, so I've been reading travel books and learning all sorts of cool things I never knew.
I've never tried writing two books at once, so this might be a challenge. Luckily, as I said, I'm in that weird waiting period where I'm usually spinning my wheels so this has been filling the gap nicely. Of course, everything could derail when the editorial letter arrives and I have to leave one universe behind for another....
Wish me luck.