Writing Mode Means Sleepless Nights

I’m not sleeping well these days.

It’s not stress, although there’s plenty of that what with trying to move and all. It’s not really pain, although packing, cleaning, and toting heavy stuff from here to there does tend to make my sciatica flare.

No, the real issue is I’m writing a book.

I know. I’m a writer. That’s what I always do, right?

Well, not exactly. I spend a ton of time rewriting. My novels go through five drafts minimum before they are published, so at least 80% of the project is editing, making notes, rewriting, proofing, etc.

And since I’m an indie author, I also have to do all my own marketing. Of course, if I were trad-published I’d pretty much have to do that anyway, since only bestselling authors — the ones who don’t need it — get any real marketing support.

No, the actual writing part of the book takes a surprisingly small percentage of time in the writing life.

But I’m writing one right now. I’m 32 chapters into the first draft of Ghost of a Chance, the next Wolf Dasher novel. I’ve answered all the questions I left hanging at the end of Roses Are White. (You have read, Roses Are White, right? If not, what are you waiting for? It’s only $2.99. Get it here!) I’ve raised a whole bunch of new questions in this plot, and I am starting to answer those. I’ve nearly finished the second act and am rounding into the third. (Somewhat unintentionally, I write in a three-act structure.) I am having a ball!

And that’s why I’m not sleeping very well. When I hit this stage in the first draft, the plot of the novel and the writing of the words consumes me. I think about it all the time. When I’m doing laundry, I’m considering the next plot twist. When I’m mowing the lawn, I’m pre-writing clever phrases in my head. When I’m fixing dinner, I’m considering solutions to the current problem the protagonist is facing.

And when I lie down at night, my brain starts thinking about what I’m going to write tomorrow. That makes restful sleep hard to come by.

I have trouble starting a book. Getting into those first few chapters is hard. I think it’s because my writing muscle is out of shape. It hasn’t been exercising consistently, so the hard work of making the words come out of my head is tougher. It’s like going back to the gym after you’ve been away for awhile. Those lifts feel a lot heavier.

But somewhere along the way, I hit a groove. The fat burns away and the solid muscle can do more work.

Then I can’t wait to write. I make sure I’ve got my time marked out, and I’ll sacrifice other chores to make sure I get down the words I want each day. Sometimes, I’ll even write two chapters a day instead of one.

That’s when I stop sleeping well. That’s when I have to find some way to empty my brain before bedtime, so I have a chance to make it through the night without tossing and turning. (Case in point, I’m writing this blog late at night before bed.)

There’s a lot of hazards they don’t tell you about when you embark on the writing life. Fortunately, some of them — like this one — are fun.


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