Insomniac Writings

Last night, I found myself doing something that I haven’t done in years…

I was lying in bed watching the highlights of the German Formula One Grand Prix when I started to drift off to sleep. On any normal night, I would remain in an uneasy sleep until the sudden absence of sound – caused by the programme finishing – would wake me up just long enough to allow me to turn the iPad or television off. Then I would instantly fall back asleep and not wake up again until the following morning…

On a normal night…

But last night was different.

Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I was woken by a large crash coming from the street outside my open bedroom window. I’m not sure what it was: a cat jumping into some bins, some drunken party-goer stumbling against someone’s front door – I’m not really sure. What I am sure of was this sudden, sharp sound snapped me straight out of my slumber and left me very much wide awake.

I remained in this state of complete alertness and attentiveness long after the Grand Prix programme had finished and I had switched off the iPad. In fact, I was so wakeful that, when I attempted to fall asleep again, it just wouldn’t happen.

I was in a state that I hadn’t experienced in years…

My mind was in overdrive. My imagination was running wild. And out of the gloom and frustration of still being awake at gone one in the morning, an idea slowly began to develop – a solution to a problem that I had been grappling with for nearly a year…

Brimmed full of excitement, I rushed through to my study, grabbed my notebook and returned to bed where I spent the next hour or so jotting down ideas for a story. Whenever I reached a problem, I picked up my phone and researched my way through it and – by two o’clock this morning – I had finally built the nucleus of a story.

And that story is The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow.

Some of you may recall me mentioning The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow in the past, but probably not very often. It was never intended to be one of my main stories – maybe that is why I struggled so much to piece it together – but it was something that I was very excited about.

As with most of my stories, The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow started out as a concept of character and setting rather than with an actual crime. As I said in a previous post, I consider the characterisation to be one of the most important aspects of a successful crime story and The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow certainly has an engaging, if not a little unorthodox, lead character.

I had even written what I thought was a killer first chapter – something that really sold the concept from the off and got you into the mindset of my main character, Patrick Conroy. I couldn’t have been happier with it…

But then I couldn’t carry on. For the first time in my life, I struggled to come up with a crime that would be suitable for the character and setting I had created. For months I tried different ideas – none of which ever got passed the planning stages – and I was beginning to fear that I might never get the story off the ground.

Until last night.

Last night, something clicked. Whether it was my dozing brain pulling ideas out of my subconscious that had been intended for my dreams or whether my imagination went into overdrive in a frantic attempt to get me to go to sleep, I don’t know. What I do know is that I was repeating a pattern that I used to do when I first started writing and – on this occasion – it worked like a charm.

There is definitely a moral to this story.

Sometimes in life you can try so hard to find an answer to a problem that you always seem to be pushing it away with every step you take towards it. Sometimes, just sometimes mind, you just need that little bit of delirious, unshakeable wakefulness at the completely wrong moment to make everything become that little bit clearer…

So there it is.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a story to write.

Or go to sleep…

Not sure which…


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