This post is my author’s notes to When Nightmares Wake where I describe my thought processes, decisions and mistakes in writing the story. Think of it like the Director’s commentary on a DVD; only better because it won’t be in monotone (unless you read it so).
I’ll save my thoughts and analysis for a follow-up post, but here is my promised writing exercise When Nightmares Wake, a full-strength Fantasy piece.
After you have read the story, you might like to read the related author notes.
When Nightmares Wake
Great Lord Tarius’ eyelids flickered as awareness trickled back into his mind. Dulled by the stupor of sleep an awareness of danger seeped in, as though it was of no consequence.
When Nightmares Wake is a short story I’ve been working on inspired by a bout of poor
sleeping. It was supposed to be a quick little project, a little oil for the editing-weary pistons of productivity…
Well it hasn’t been a nightmare, but neither has it been a beautiful dream. It’s taken longer to write than anticipated and the draft is (so far) not as great as I expected. My quick little side-adventure is now impeding work on my main project, Vengeance Will Come.
I have considered abandoning it as a troublesome off-shoot of creativity… However having already invested time, and promising it to you, dear reader, I feel somewhat obliged to deliver; even if it isn’t a polished gem.
So can I learn anything from this experience? Why has the project gone awry?
Firstly, I over-predicted my productivity. I have been less productive than hoped- partly due to a lack of self-discipline (distractions) and partly due to forces beyond my control. Discipline, as a writer, again proves to be of inestimable importance.
Mainly I blame my lack of preparatory plotting.I started with a great ending, but nothing else. I didn’t know where the story began or what events happened in the middle or the sequence of them. I also vacillated over points of the story, changing things back and forth with as much conviction as a swinging pendulum. Does my main character arrive before or after the big battle? Is it the dark of night or the light of day? Small changes like this meant I kept having to rehash the earlier parts of the story.
Larger questions like how the magic system functioned also dammed my creativity. Whether it was internal angst at the delay the story was costing me or something else, the words just didn’t flow. I was hoping for an experience like when I wrote Escape From Hell which almost wrote itself. (The one challenge was balancing important but unpleasant scenes without putting the reader off).
Another contributing factor may be the genre was outside of my wheelhouse. When Nightmares Wake is very much strong fantasy with full-blown magic; not something I have written before.
Two more lessons that I’ve learned are:
- I don’t need a good solid block of quality time sitting at the computer. I can successfully contribute to a story, even if it’s a paragraph at a time written on a mobile on the bus.
- I didn’t write it chronologically, I jumped around like corn on hot oil. If that’s what it takes to get it done…
When Nightmares Wake is about 75% complete; hopefully coming soon…
My dad likes to tell people how he once fell asleep three times in a single TV ad break. He says that he can do it because he has “a clear conscience and a pure heart.” It’s funny how every attribute he has is always linked to a positive aspect… I would suspect him of lying, except that he can’t – because having ones eyes close together is “a sign of honesty”, apparently.
I’ve never been a fantastic sleeper. Some people, like my beautiful wife, wake up feeling completely refreshed on a regular basis. If I’m lucky I have that feeling maybe twice a year. Lately, however, I’ve been going through a season of appalling sleep – or rather lack thereof – with about 2-3 hours of good sleep a night. After a few nights of that, you start to get desperate and don’t care if a little extra nap means a ridiculously early rise.
That, and then getting sick, and being busy at work means my writing has been almost non-existent. However the realization of how much we take for granted the restorative nature of sleep has given me an idea for a short story (fantasy) I’m calling ‘When Nightmares Wake’.