Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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June 29, 2016

Dealing with Empty Story Nest Syndrome

writing lifeRevisions are done (for now) on my debut, scheduled for release summer 2017. I’m in a holding pattern until my editor sends me the next round to review.

Proposals for next projects are with my agent. I’m in a holding pattern until I hear back.

For the first time in six years, I’m not actively working on a book and I’m suffering from a crazy-making case of empty story nest syndrome, or ESNS if you want to get cute. I feel lost, empty. I want to have a latte with Becca from proposal #1 or check in with Nettie and old lady Delacort from proposal #2. I’m dying to know what Emma from my debut, The Memory of Hoofbeats, is doing right now. But they’re off doing their own thing. And I’m here … waiting, alone.

I have an 11-year old at home. Empty Nest Syndrome is far away for me (although the speed with which this past year went, he’ll be in college by the time I finish writing this blog post). Interestingly enough, my character Nettie (from proposal #2) is dealing with empty nest issues. But me, I know nothing about that. My real nest is happily stuffed.

But my made up nest, my brain nest … it’s echoing.

What’s a writer to do?


You’ve heard the stories (or maybe you’ve done this yourself) of parents who turn a kid’s room into an office/sewing room/cat hotel when their child leaves for college? Similar, sort of, idea.

On my second day of ESNS craziness (day one was spent staring at the laptop, refreshing emails and scanning social media for a hint of what my future held), I dumped everything out of my office drawers and closet. I’m a paper-reviser which means I have binders and binders and binders of old manuscripts. Then there are the journals with story notes and research for each book.

I moved the dust-bunny manuscripts deeper into the closet. Notebooks and binders for the newer projects are within easy reach in the top drawer.

Then there’s the electronic rearranging. I moved files around on my computer, saving files to the server, making sure there were duplicates on different drives, and moving emails to the appropriate folders for safe keeping.

This is the perfect time to look at your website and give it a facelift or overhaul if needed. Mine needed — badly. I updated pages, moved a few things around, tweaked photos, and updated my about page.


I have a tendency to accumulate “things” — shiny, pretty notebooks; office supplies; random notes jotted down on scrap paper; print-outs of articles I will read but haven’t yet. I also save emails that I plan to read when I have time. Okay, you can stop laughing now.

Part of my office rearranging was a lot of organizing and sorting of papers and notebooks. I discovered interesting notes I’d put down but forgot about. Among them were a few that baffled me, you know those “where the heck was my brain” moments, and others were little lightbulbs of happiness. I consolidated notes about specific projects into the appropriate notebooks, checked off books I’d jotted down as “must buys” that I’d already purchased and bought a few more (shhhh, don’t tell my husband).

And, of course, the electronic organizing. So. Many. Saved. Emails. Oy! Lots of e-newsletters that I haven’t read in months and months. I unsubscribed from some, scanned through and deleted ones that weren’t relevant, and read others.

Catch up

My TBR pile is looking an awful lot like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It doesn’t matter how many times I remind myself that reading is part of my writing life, my corporate-brainwashed mind can’t get the hang of sitting and reading during the day, and at night, I’m lucky to get through 2 pages before I fall asleep. So I’ve been reading.

The thank you notes that have been waiting to be written – written.
The blog posts I’ve been wanting to write – drafted.
The social media plan I’ve been meaning to finish – finished.


If you’re a member of a writer’s association, this is a great opportunity to get involved.

I’m using my ESNS crazies to get ahead with two writer’s events I’m organizing. I’ve been knocking through the “busy-work” list – deciding on menus, fine-tuning the schedule, preparing name badges, creating welcome folders, etc. I’m also a judge for a writer’s contest so using this time to get the entries judged.

Pay it forward

I’ve been going through my “read” list on Goodreads and writing reviews. I know, I know … I should be doing those immediately as I finish the books and sometimes I do. Other times though, I update my status from my phone thinking I’ll remember to post when I get back to my computer. And then time blows past me. Writing down time is the perfect time to catch up.

Post those reviews on Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble as well. Support your fellow writers!


Do non-writing related things that you’ve been wanting to do but didn’t have the time for. I’ve been crocheting. I’m almost done with a throw-blanket. While my fingers move, my brain noodles. I’ve worked out a plot issue with one of the proposals, and came up with two new story ideas. Oh, and figured out how to re-organize the living and dining rooms so I can turn one into a library (gotta find room for those additional books I bought).

I’ve been filling my time and feeling productive. But I still miss my characters.

Do you get ESNS? How do you handle writing down time?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Orly

Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world, where she spent roughly sixteen (cough) years working in the space industry. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is a co-founder and past president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.

Orly’s debut, The Memory of Hoofbeats, will be released by Forge in 2017.

You can find her on Twitter at @OrlyKonig, on Facebook at OrlyKonigAuthor, or on her website, www.orlykonig.com.


Photo Credits:
Orly: by Lauren Ackil of Lauren Ackil Photography.
Top: by Sam - Flickr - CC License 2.0

23 comments on “Dealing with Empty Story Nest Syndrome”

  1. I feel your pain Orly! My debut is on submission. My WIP is only four cm dilated so I have lots of time in between contractions. I am transforming a guest room turned storage unit into a writing room, cleaning out every drawer and closest in the house, letting my daughter drag me to spin class and weeding the heck out of my backyard...

  2. This title called me right in, Orly! Just because we're grieving doesn't mean we can't be productive in other ways. This post is proof! Thanks!

    1. Because we're grieving, we HAVE to be productive in other ways. Plus that's what shakes other ideas loose. 🙂

  3. Good timing. This is exactly where I am, and after the craziness of writing 3 books in a year, I'm not sure whether I should feel guilty for staring into space. I know I *should* be doing some of the things you mention, but even those seem to get pushed aside. I've caught up on Blue Bloods, continued working on my own blog, but I stare at my cluttered shelves and stacks of paper and say ... another time.

    1. Oh, Terry!!!! Don't let those ideas above fool you. I spent a few weeks binge watching Downton Abbey, I've crocheted a throw blanket, I've made friends with a particularly friendly (and large) dust bunny. I think that's phase one of ESNS. 🙂

  4. If it's any consolation, you're not alone.
    It was waiting for the final draft from the proofreader that left me rudderless.
    I tidied all the kitchen cupboards (hadn't done it years), mooned around the house for a week, then made it the subject of my blog this month (see June 1st http://www.judithcranswick.co.uk). At least you managed to be a bit more productive.
    Seven published novels, but this time was definitely the worst. I reached the it's-all-a-load-rubbish stage, but, for better or worse, today is launch day! My 4th Fiona Mason Mystery is now out on Amazon Kindle.
    I've even been able to start thinking about the next.
    Life goes on!

    1. YAY for launch day. Congratulations!!
      Everyone has different ways of clearing the path for new projects. Sometimes it's binge watching TV programs and sometimes it's cleaning out cupboards. I do both depending on where my head and energy are at.

      And cheers to moving on to the next project. 🙂

  5. I loved this! After three books in a year and my fourth now on submission, I'm facing my first truly "new" plot and manuscript. And nature really does abhor a vacuum - my brain is hatching new stories like mad. But I'm taking your advice and clearing the accumulated clutter before I start again.

    1. My brain is always hatching new story ideas. Tune in next week for more on that. 🙂

      Clearing clutter and busy work are great for coming up with new ideas. And it's so much fun to sit to write on a new story when the debris of the previous one isn't there to haunt you.

  6. These are good ideas for writers who aren't nesting! But I hear you, time spent with characters feels less like busy work. Ultimately more satisfying. Why is that? Most of their scenes are changed or cut - but that thank you note is never unwritten.

    1. Characters are always with us in one form or another though, aren't they? I may not be actively "hanging" with any right now, but there are new ones getting cozy in my brain, waiting for their turn.

  7. Orly, you and I, as usual, are on the same schedule. After turning in, and having two proposals rejected (sniff), even a stubborn mule like me had to see that 8 books released in three years meant I was worse than crispy - I was D.O.N.E.

    I haven't written in a MONTH (I hear those gasps, people) which is the longest break I've taken in 17 years of writing. I didn't even know I was capable of it.

    I'm on my way home from a 10 day fly fishing/motorcycle trip. I have bruises everywhere, sore muscles, mosquito bites, and a possible case of poison ivy.

    Oh yes, and a HUGE SMILE!!!

    I can't wait to start on the proposal that came to me on the road, somewhere between home and Colorado.


    1. You needed that down time, Laura!!! Why is it that we don't think twice about taking a vacation from corporate jobs but when it comes to stepping away from our writing job, we feel like it's a major no-no? Now get home and get writing. 🙂

  8. I laughed at this. "After writing a book, you do things undone..." I wrote in a blog post. For me it meant cleaning out the basement. And shredding five years of old past the keeping stage taxes and recites. So, yeah. I get it. This too will pass....or so they say.

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