What Do You Do When A Book Won’t Leave You Alone?

ian dooley


Ever written a book that just fell out of you?  I’m not talking about pedal-down, deliberately sprinting through a book to hit a deadline.  When you’re at full sprint, you’re going for speed.  You’re not writing the story because it won’t let you not write it.

I mean, have you ever written a book that consumed you while you were writing it? You got up each day, dying to get back to those characters, to reach the multiple scenes lying ahead that you were just twitching to write.  You didn’t want to stop for pedestrian affairs like eating and sleeping.  You wanted to visit with the characters a bit longer–or a lot longer.  There was little or no doubt in your mind about how the story would unfold.  The structure was crystal clear.   The emotions provoked by the characters and situations were intense and addictive.

If you’re shaking your head, thinking, “Damn, that’s a horrible problem to have!”, then it’s possible you’ve never been there.

Write enough books, and it will happen to you.  Especially if you write in series, and write in genres that you like…or learn to like.

It just happened to me this past week.  I wrote a book in seven days.  Final length was just over 69,000 words, so I was spewing out 10K a day, more or less.

And it felt like an amble through the park.

The book was book 8 of a very popular series, which I am returning to after a hiatus of nearly a year.  It also happens to be one of my personal favourites.  Plotting it was like sliding on a comfortable pair of jeans.  There was no re-entry problems, no dusting off.  The writing started hot and got hotter, instead of starting cold and chugging for a chapter or two before gearing up.

loved writing this story.  I couldn’t leave it alone.

Therein lies the problem.

Yes, just as writers’ block, too little time, and procrastination can sink holes in your business, so can books that grab you and don’t let go.

I’ve seen the advisc that says if you’re gripped by a book, just go with it–dump everything and enjoy the ride.

It’s fun advice, but it’s not necessarily good advice.  If I had followed this suggestion, I would have had the book written in four or five days, not seven.  That’s how hard it was grabbing me by the throat.

I would have dumped blog posts, all my production work, and possibly caused the delay of a release, because I was too busy writing.  I was tempted to.  I kept telling myself I could catch up when the book was done.

Only, to write all the hours I could, and blow off everything else, would have sent me into a production spike.  Later I would be scrambling, catching up, papering over missed items.

Lurching from crisis to crisis does not enhance creativity.  Creativity flourishes best when everything else is boring.  When everything is being taken care of at the right time and no other crises steal your attention, you can think better.

Blowing out your writing schedule, even for good reasons, doesn’t help you maintain that steady routine.

So I made myself stop writing the book when noon rolled around and got on with the long, long list of production and admin tasks that usually fill my afternoons.

And I discovered something interesting.

When you make yourself stop writing to take care of business, you look forward to the next writing session with the appetite of a shipwrecked sailor.  There’s no nagging voices whispering about the things going undone.  You can wallow in your story for all your scheduled hours.  Plus, there’s no hesitation in settling into writing at the beginning of the next session.  You can’t get into the story quick enough.

Plus, you’re still getting sleep, eating properly, and keeping all the support systems at optimal levels, which lets you write your fingers off.

Even though it took seven days and not four or five, it was a fantastic week.  I’m looking forward to it happening again and I will do exactly the same thing then, too–I’ll write as usual.


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