Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.

SIGN UP FOR SNEAK PEEKS OF MY NEXT BOOK + NEWSLETTER-ONLY UPDATES.

IWSG: The Dan Brown Project

Anyone else a fan of Masterclass?

I came across something in Dan Brown’s that inspired me and that I think may help some of you, but it’s kind of extreme. It’s all about the process.

Brown says he writes from 4 am to 11 am, every day. This got my wheels turning. I’m a night owl, and 4 am tends to be when I’m most awake. It would be a challenge to go to bed early enough that I could wake up at 4 am instead of trying to go to sleep, but I think it’s doable. At least, it’s worth a try.

What really appealed to me was the idea of having a full day’s work done by 11 am. BOOM. Seven hours of writing, and the day has barely begun. Brown talked about the lack of distractions at that time of day, and I could see that too. He has an app on his computer called “Time Out” that goes off once an hour for one minute, during which he does push-ups, stretches, etc. I liked that idea as well, but I’ve set mine for two minutes. Writing is so sedentary, and I’ve been sitting at the computer too much.

I’m way behind on my writing and marketing (as clearly evidenced by this blog, which I’ve barely managed to update this year), and I have a full month off teaching now (except for online courses), so I’m going to give it a try. Since I write fairly fast once I get into a groove, my plan is to write from 4 am to 9 am, and then do some marketing for the last two hours. I’ll also finally be catching up with comments and your blogs!

Today is Canada Day (the Canadian version of Independence Day), so I took it off, but I’m starting tomorrow. Wish me luck! I may blog about my progress, or just post updates on my Facebook author page.

What do you think? Have you ever tried anything like this? Too radical? Or just radical enough? I’m actually really excited about this, though it wouldn’t work when I’m teaching. July is the time to test it.

The purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThose who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.

43 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hope the process works for you. I’m not sure I could form decent thoughts at 4am LOL. I have been doing “write-ins” via Zoom and that has helped my process. Short sprints to keep me focused and have immediate accountability. Happy writing.

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s sounds interesting, Meka. With other writers, I guess? Do people have their sound on?

      I think I’d find that distracting, but who knows? It would definitely help one feel less isolated.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    I’ve never had such a set plan, but I have gotten up early to write. I like it. Unfortunately I’m terrible at going to be early, so I tend to burn out really fast.

    Reply
    • JH

      Me too, CD. My first attempt was rough. I did go to bed at ten, but then lay awake for over an hour, so I finally went to the living room and used the TV to put me to sleep (works every time). I knew the first few evenings wouldn’t be easy, though. DRASTIC change of schedule.

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    First, I love Master Class. So much information available from true masters in their fields. Second, I have had it up to my eye teeth with this ridiculous notion that just because someone is a flawed human being, I cannot seriously consider taking advantage of the good that person might have contributed to society. Dan Brown was a cheating asshole? Take a number, get in line. If that kind of scrutiny were placed on the rest of us, I think I’m safe in saying we’d be collectively screwed. And finally, I think Dan’s idea is brilliant and good for you to give it a go. I’m inspired to do something similar, perhaps a couple of hours later in the morning. And now, I’m going to watch his class.

    Reply
    • JH

      Let me know what you think, Lee. I’m curious to hear your opinion. So far, his has been the most helpful I’ve watched. (I like Judy Blume, and Margaret Atwood’s was okay, but they both felt fairly beginner. I didn’t really learn anything new.)

      I have to agree with what you said, except for when it comes to JK Rowling. While I won’t suddenly dislike the Harry Potter series, I think it’s a damn shame that a woman with her wealth, fame, and power is using her voice to target an already-marginalized group. So I can’t support her anymore, but I didn’t have any interest in her books after the last HP, anyway.

      But take historical authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Were her books racist? Sure, but those were the prevailing attitudes of settlers at the time. I think it makes for a good talking point with children, and what a shame if everyone misses out on those stories now. They’re such a riveting look at pioneer life.

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    If I could write instead of going to work, I might try it. But I’ve been busy working this whole time.
    Try it for you – sounds productive!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Alex. Me too–but I just finished up my classes last week, so I’m (almost) free. Figured it was a good time to try something new.

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    I hope the new schedule works for you. I could not function at 4 am. Can I function at 4 pm? Hm. I think the best writing time for me would be 11 am to 3 pm which worked pretty great when my kids were in elementary school. Their high school starts at 7:20 a.m. and getting up in time for that exhausted me for the rest of the day. Thank you, Covid, for allowing all of us to catch up on our sleep. But I’m still mad about cancelling all our vacations.

    Reply
    • JH

      Ugh, me too. I had so many incredible trips planned this year, after a year of not going anywhere. It figures. I just applied to cancel my Thailand trip yesterday. Hopefully next year is better. (I’d say it would be hard for it to be worse, but who knows, at this point.)

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    I tend to get up fairly early and write before I do anything else. Not 4 am though, and not usually for 7 hours straight!

    Reply
    • JH

      It’s a pretty crazy schedule, but that’s why it appealed to me. I’ve always had a thing for crazy challenges, like NaNoWriMo or fighting in the ring. The more extreme they sound, the more they appeal. Except for marathons. I’ve never been tempted by those.

      Even though I’m not a morning person, I do think mornings lend themselves better to productivity than evenings.

      Reply
  7. Avatar

    I don’t apply it to writing, but what I do through DLP. It works better if I can get it all done before lunch.

    Reply
    • JH

      Awesome, Diane. How early do you start?

      Reply
  8. Avatar

    Excellent. It will work for you. I’m not disciplined enough. I need to set a schedule, too. It doesn’t have to be 8 hours. Maybe 2 hour increments? I’ll work on it. Looking forward to your next release!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Mary. I really appreciate the vote of confidence from you, especially on the first day. I think two hours is fine. Seven hours is a lot of writing for me too, which is why I’m marketing (including answering comments) for the last two.

      Good luck with whichever schedule you choose!

      Reply
  9. Avatar

    I happily retired this year. When I was working, I would rise at 4 am to write a couple of hours before going in to my office job. Not having to report to work outside of home anymore, I’ve been all over the place. This seems like an easy enough schedule for me to maintain. Thank you! Stay safe!!

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Minnie. It’s nice to hear from someone who doesn’t think I’m totally insane. 😀 You stay safe too–it’s a little easier here in Canada, as (especially in my province) our Covid case numbers are quite low.

      Reply
  10. Avatar

    Please do update us. I am very interested in how this works for you. Good luck! Happy Canada Day!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, JD! So far, so good (as in, I managed to wake up and stay awake–groan).

      Reply
  11. Avatar

    That is actually a fantastic idea. Not so much the early start, but the scheduling it and planning to do it every day! Plus the little breaks every hour (although, when in the middle of a thought or being in the groove, this interruption might be annoying).

    To me, that’s the key to being productive: the repetitiveness and commitment to write every day, which is something I have rarely been able to do. I agree that, with this early of a start, your days will be much longer and more rewarding. Looking forward to your updates! Enjoy July and its challenges. 🙂

    Reply
    • Avatar

      How is the new schedule going, JH?

      Reply
      • JH

        Great! I post updates every day on my author Facebook page and Twitter, if you’re interested in following along.

        Reply
  12. Avatar

    I often write early in the morning, but I only do that when I’m in the “zone” with a book idea that I’m excited about. As to getting up frequently and doing some kind of exercise, I think that’s a great thing to do.

    Reply
    • JH

      So far, so good, Lee. It’s almost 11 am here, which means I have almost survived my first day!

      Reply
  13. Avatar

    You will not see me awake at 4:00 am. LOL

    Happy (belated) Canada Day!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Chrys. I really appreciate your support. x

      Reply
  14. Avatar

    My sleep rhythm is not set to wake up that early. It’s barely set to wake up at 10am. I know this because I worked a job where I had to be in at 5am so I had to get up early. I’d get home exhausted (even though it wasn’t a hard job) and be a zombie the rest of the day. Then as soon as I tried to go to bed, I couldn’t fall asleep.

    Reply
    • JH

      I totally get that. I don’t think this suits my natural clock either, but my natural clock is ridiculous (going to bed at 7 am and waking up at 11 am doesn’t seem overly healthy). So I hope I can stick with this, at least for July. It wouldn’t be practical or possible on days when I’m teaching.

      Reply
  15. Avatar

    How daring! If my life were less tied to the 9-5 life of my husband I might consider something similar. It can be easier to get a solid chunk of working time when you work at odd hours–the world is less likely to get in the way. I hope it works for you!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Samantha. I hope so too. So far, the hardest part has been getting up. I’m able to do it (it’s only been two days), but going to bed early enough to not feel zombie-like has been a challenge.

      I live alone now, so this is the perfect time to try something like this.

      Reply
  16. Avatar

    4 a.m. would be much too extreme for me, and I wonder–if you are a total night owl, maybe you need to try a different weird schedule 😀 But having a chunk of time that is your “going to work” time seems like a key to getting a lot done. Just like at the office, social media and stuff go off… yeah, I doubt I’m that disciplined.

    The timer to tell you to get up is a good idea, though at the moment I don’t need it. I can’t sit still for more than a few minutes at a time anyway.

    Reply
    • JH

      You would think the late night hours would be the best time for me to get work done, since I’m a night owl, but I haven’t found that to be the case. I’m too tired to write at night, or I feel like having fun, not working.

      Reply
  17. Avatar

    I’ve always believed that a writer should find what works best for her/him. A set time to write is important–probably why I’m not as productive as I should be. I hope this works for you. Happy Canada Day!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Diane. I’ve never been much for sticking to a schedule either, but I figured it was worth a try, at least for July. So far, so good.

      Reply
  18. Avatar

    There’s something to be said for setting aside a time when disturbances are unlikely to happen. Early mornings are good and late nights too. When there’s school I have to start my day at 5:30 am so couldn’t really write before that. I hope it works for you. I’d read about Dan Brown’s schedule before and had admired him for it.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, I couldn’t do this when there’s school, either. This break from teaching is giving me the opportunity to try something different. When it’s late at night, I still have people contacting me via text and social media, but not at 4 am. So in that respect, it’s been perfect.

      Reply
  19. Avatar

    I’m up at 4.45 am, to get ready for school.
    But I think that’s a great idea for stay-at-home writers.
    It could work if you’re an early bird. But everybody is different. Some writers are productive at night.
    If you’re awake at 4 am, then you must give it a try.
    Stay safe, J.H.

    Reply
    • JH

      I’m not an early bird, but I haven’t been productive at night. Night is a time to relax and have fun for me, so it’s hard for me to buckle down and be creative. I didn’t see the harm in trying this for the month I have off from teaching. When teaching starts up again, I’ll have to do something different.

      As you know, teaching takes up all available time and space!

      Reply
  20. Avatar

    I like this idea in theory, but I know what would happen – it would get to 11am and I would keep writing. At least starting at a reasonable time means I get a bit of down time. I think it would be great though for someone with the self discipline to actually stop on time
    Debbie

    Reply
    • JH

      The trick is to stop at 11 am, while you’re still “in the zone,” so that it’s easier to get started the next day. If you keep writing until you’re “done,” there’s a risk that it will be difficult to pick it up again the morning after. Brown also cautions writers against writing too much at a time and burning out (as if seven hours isn’t enough!).

      Reply
  21. Avatar

    Most nights I sleep like a baby, but sometimes I wake and that’s it, I’m up. I usually read or catch up on work, if I’m behind. I could see this being a productive time to write, but I couldn’t do it with my day job. I look forward to seeing how it goes for you.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, day jobs interfere with pretty much everything. Once my classes start up again, I’ll have to abandon it too, unless I write for a shorter period of time.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.