My WIP Is Giving Me Nightmares

Dear Pandora…

Something about the subject or about your protagonist, whose head and heart you must inhabit, is notably different than anything you’ve handled in your previous stories. Put the WIP away. Maybe just for a while, maybe forever. If it niggles at you, come back to it fresh and perhaps with emotional walls in place. Then you’ll know definitively if this is a story you must write: you’ll either finish it without the extreme response, or the anxiety will flare up, confirming the decision to let it go. You wouldn’t be the first writer to put the kibosh on a project. That’s not a failure, and it’s not starting an unproductive habit. Writers invest themselves emotionally, poking at questions and issues relentlessly so as to explore them and affect change in their characters; we can’t always know what can of worms we’re opening. If you’re finding this investment to be intense in a way that’s unhealthy for you, it’s okay to poke around elsewhere—the human mind has a million enticing recesses to explore in a new thriller.

Happy writing!
The Editor


  1. Wow! What a great question! The reason I wrote a novel of mine was because of that internal emotional turmoil and it was my only release. Never shy away from your emotions. They are a writers engine. Quote by me lol It sounds like an amazing thriller for readers that crave the thrilling. Deborah is right though, you should stop if it is effecting you that much, I’m just saying, if I wrote thrillers, I would be thrilled to do it that well. Sorry if none of this makes any sense whatsoever lol

    • Makes sense, Kurt. Exorcise the demons. I’ve heard from two authors this past week alone who’ve been moved to tears thinking through new angles that cropped up while writing their stories.

  2. Excellent question indeed! I had a similar problem with a WIP that Dear Editor has actually read. However, what I thought was a minor subplot, I realized was actually a big, big deal for the character and for me. And after an untimely death in my family, and almost tragic deal. Try as I might, I couldn’t write it, so I put it away until I had enough emotional distance to deal with it. This wasn’t just a few weeks, but more than 1 year. I started and stopped a few times. Nothing felt right, and yet, I couldn’t let go. Finally, a few months ago, it became a necessity again. A story I had to put down, a story that needed to be written. However, the key was the emotional distance. This doesn’t mean the emotion is less. It’s still very overpowering, but it’s also creatively inspiring. Give it some time, as Dear Editor said. Your answer will come. Best of luck. PS. the fact that this is scaring you….man, I want to read your story.

  3. Dear Readers: I’ve received an email update from Pandora. She’s decided to keep working on this story but will limit it to Fridays only, sending her mind into a different story’s world the rest of the week. She started that routine this week and reports feeling happy with that decision. I’m so glad she’s worked out a system that lets her write what sounds like a powerful story while keeping her psyche safe. Onward, Pandora!

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