writing thrillers

My WIP Is Giving Me Nightmares

Dear Editor…

I’m having seconds thoughts about continuing the psychological thriller I’m writing. Maybe it isn’t the right time for it, I’m not sure. But I feel it is affecting me. By this I mean that the story itself is giving me anxiety and causing unsettling dreams. I don’t want to spend the next several months having nightmares. I feel frustrated, I’m not sure what to do, after all this time brainstorming. It isn’t the writing, I’m quite happy with the first 2K words. I don’t want to stop for the wrong reasons, or because I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone. But somehow I feel this is different from other thrillers I’ve written. Maybe I need to work on something lighter at the moment? How do I find out? How do I know for sure? Your thoughts and advice?


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