Don’t Read This Book: an Insomniac’s Hallucinatory First Draft

Yesterday, the digital version of Don’t Read This Book was released into the wilds of the internet.

If you’re one of my regular readers, you know I consider myself to be a method writer. Well, for this world? For a story based on insomniacs? Yep, I totally dove right into that! The first version I wrote while I was in New York City in October of last year after a long day of extended travel and a lack of caffeine. Instead of typing out the draft, I hand wrote it, and made large scribbling motions. (I normally write in all caps.)

I remember feeling like I had no control over the thoughts that were tumbling out of my head. The language was repetitive and coarse. There was lots of swearing and tangents thrown — like an imagined conversation with a set of decorative piggy banks perched on a cubicle wall as well as a Bleached Man who was trying to save himself from chemical disintegration. There were many moments where my eyes were closed and my pen drifted over the page as the story poured from my fingertips.

The story that resulted from the experience wasn’t strong enough to stand on its own because, as my editor Chuck Wendig aptly point out, it wasn’t grounded in reality. I feel there’s two parts to Don’t Rest Your Head: the world you know and the Lands between. I wound up revising the tale to go almost full on into reality. Instead of stumbling along in the surreal Slumbering Lands, the majority of “Don’t Ignore Your Dead” is an examination of one character’s grief. The game itself is very tangible in that there has to be a cost or an issue the character is trying to resolve; the finished version absolutely fits that requirement. While the final version is a lot tighter and less bizarre, there are elements that remain. To find out what did, you’ll have to read the story.

Regardless of whether or not my tale touches you, I’m sure one of the other mighty, mighty authors in this anthology will. And, if an anthology about struggling insomniacs doesn’t interest you, I hope you’ll find another one that will!

Here’s what the draft looks like. You can click on it for a larger preview.

Here’s a couple of paragraphs about the pigs and Other Me from the very first draft. This is *as it appears* in my journal, so the words may not be entirely work-safe. Apparently, in my stupor I was fixated on the idea that some people collect pigs for no reason other than to terrify us. The whole draft runs around in circles and it’s lack of cohesiveness was interesting to explore. I’ve had bouts of insomnia, but never really applied that creatively before.

Excerpt from “Don’t Ignore Your Dead” First Draft

The office is empty, but I’m not alone. I can feel someone watching me. I’m not going to take this shit sitting down. All I have to do is make it across the room to the hallway. That weird light is gone, but I can still feel (or rather) smell it. It reeks like a swimming pool. Bleach or cleaning supplies or something. I creep past a set of cubicles and snort. Someone’s idea of a joke. Pigs. I’m not shitting you. It’s a collection of pigs. Pink, pot-bellied, googily-eyed, sunglass-wearing, motorcycle-riding hogs.

Those fucking things better not be chasing me, too. Shit. I glare at a piggy bank as I stomp past them.

“I’m warning you. You’ll be bacon. Deep-fried, crispy bacon.”

They didn’t follow me; though one of them twitched. I wasn’t in the mood to let that go.

“See this?” I said, pointing to the curst blood on my hands. “Not taking your shit tonight. Okay?”

A smaller pig — a white-and-green bank with shamrocks all over it — whimpered.

“Well, now you know who’s boss.” I said.


The emo bank spits out a coin. I take it. Maybe it pays to be nice after all. It’s a silver dollar; only not one I’ve seen before.

On the back it reads: IN SELF WE TRUST.

I’ll buy that. I guess.

“You see?” I shout. “You know who’s in charge?”



Laughter. Hard, grating. It’s my voice. Only hollow. A sad replica.

Other Me.

“Oh, hell…”

I book it. (Book ’em, Dan-o.) Down, down, down the endless rows of cubicles. Grey walls. So dirty. Black lines melting into one another. Faster I run — worse it gets. Hallway’s just a spot, a glimmer in my red eyes. Can I get there? I need to wash this shit off. Copier’s tagged me. I’m sure of it. That’s why It keeps. Coming. Why the Other me is hunting me down like a jilted lover. I have its guts all over me. I’m painted like a big ole target with special copier scent and it’s killing me. It’s killing me because I’m dirty. I’m not clean or pure. I’ve done things. Stupid things.

Not my fault. Can’t be. Just won’t sleep. Can’t sleep. Nothing in the world will let me rest or dream or snort. Nothing. So I tried the opposite once. Tried biting, carving, sliding… just to stay alive. But it is healthy? Was it safe?

Why do you think I have all these tattoos swirling and spiraling up and down my arms? There isn’t an inch of bare flesh where I cut. But only I can see the scars.

And Other Me. Can’t forget about Her. She can see them, too.

I’ve been running for a while. Run, run, run up and down, sideways. All the cubes look the same. I keep running but I’m not getting any closer. It’s such crap. Well, not crap. A carrot. It’s like someone’s dangling a carrot on the end of a stick or I’m the white rabbit. Only I’m not going down, down, down the rabbit hole. I went up and out. This isn’t Slumberland. This is where I finally get what’s coming to me. Judgement. WHere someone else makes up the rules. Right?

Darkness all around me. Copier behind me. Blood dried up all over my clothes. Even the stuff running through my veins — the thick blood — feels sluggish, like slow-moving, pieces of ash. Dammit. The copier’s watching me. It’s just been sitting there, waiting for me to open myself up or maybe it’ll attack me when I get to the light.

On maybe it is the light. I don’t know. I can’t think. I can’t reason. I can’t…

I recite my lessons. Hope something simple keeps my mind active.

Two plus two is four
Go through the door, Lenore.
Quote the Raven

That’s it! I yell at Other Me. I howl at the cubes. “Never More. Never fucking more. Nevermore!”

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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