Insomnia and The Fine Art of Writing Murder Mysteries.

Insomnia and The Fine Art of Writing Murder Mysteries.

Did you ever wonder what it takes to write a successful murder mystery? Or a series of murder mysteries or suspense thrillers featuring the likes
of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Tess Gerritsen’s Jane Rizzoli or
Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski? One answer is not sleeping. Ms.
Paretsky once noted the secret to her success as a writer (or at least
one secret) was the inability to sleep. And the longer I ply this
particular trade, the more I think she’s right.



Every time I come to a point in one of my books where I can’t figure out what’s going to happen next, I find the best way to come up with an answer is by lying awake in the dark and obsessing about it. I do this
a lot. And it always seems to lead to something that works better than
anything I thought of during my normal waking or working hours. I know
full well that if I just lie there and eventually fall sleep, I’ll
forget what I thought of. So I get out of bed, be it two AM or three
AM or four AM, and trundle into my writing room where I wake up my
sleeping laptop and write out the idea in some detail. I hate it but it
works.


Right now. I’m trying to work out the basics of the plot for my third McCabe thriller (as yet untitled). In this book, McCabe’s daughter, Casey, has grown into a drop-dead gorgeous sixteen-year-old
boasting her mother’s good looks, her father’s stubborness and her own
brand new driver’s license.


In the book, Casey falls for a really hot nineteen-year-old who’s definitely the wrong kind of guy. And it gets her into trouble (No, not that kind of trouble) and, for the past week or so, I’ve been
unable to figure out how to get her out of it.

At three-eighteen in the morning an idea came to me. Thankful for the gift, I got up and went to work, beating most of the local farmers, fishermen and lobstermen to the punch by a good forty minutes or so.

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Comment by Melissa on February 25, 2010 at 3:26pm
Fascinating! Just today I was asking some sister writers on another group if their work in progress kept them awake nights. I usually write late at night, then I go to bed and the gears in my brain kick into overdrive and keep me from falling asleep. Unlike Jon, once I'm out, I'm out for good. But falling asleep has been a big problem since I started writing fiction again.
Comment by Jon Loomis on February 25, 2010 at 10:52am
I had chronic insomnia for fifteen years--I'd do kind of what you do, and wake up after a few hours' sleep (around 2:00 a.m., usually) and not be able to get back to sleep. It was fertile writing time, indeed. Now that I have a ball-busting teaching job and two little kids (and virtually no guilt or anxiety), I sleep like a baby. Do I get as much writing done? Nope.

Re Casey and the 19-year-old: there's only one way out. He has to die. Or kill someone, maybe.

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