I get this question a lot. From readers. From friends in “real life” who know I’m a writer. From people I meet at cocktail parties. (Ha, now are you imagining me at fancy-schmancy cocktail parties, martini in my hand and Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s dress perfectly hugging my svelte figure? Well, you should totally keep imagining that, because that’s 100% how my actual life is. Yep. Totally.)
And it’s a really good question. Honestly, before I started writing myself, even though I had been wanting to write novels for a long time, I definitely wondered how “real” writers did it. Did they wait for their muse to strike? Were they just way smarter than I am? How the heck did they do that?
Well, here I am, as of this week putting the finishing touches on my twelfth novel, and so, now I can answer this question:
I still don’t know.
Okay, I’m being a little facetious here. But it is true that I still don’t know how and where other authors get their ideas. And as weird as it sounds, I kind of don’t know where I get my own ideas, either. The short answer is, “They just sort of come to me,” but that’s kind of misleading.
The longer answer is, “They sort of just come to me, but sometimes more easily than others.”
I don’t know how it is for other writers, but personally, I try to keep a fairly regular, “day job” schedule for my writing. That is, I work Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 or so, and generally don’t work evenings or weekends. BUT: that doesn’t mean that my brain shuts off the writer part of me when I close my laptop every afternoon. I find that my mind seems to be always turning over ideas of various kinds, even when I’m not consciously thinking about writing. Sometimes, an idea will just pop into my head in the middle of my doing something else. Not-so-cute story: this actually happened to me recently when Mr. Loveling and I were just about to engage in some recreational bed-based activities. Yeah. He wasn’t thrilled about my stopping in mid… activity to grab a notebook and dash down the idea before I forgot it. Luckily, Mr. Loveling is a prince, and a very patient man.
Often, because I’m an insomniac and frequently wake up at 3 am, an idea will come to me when I’m lying awake trying to get my brain to slow down and go back to sleep. This is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it’s super-frustrating to lie in bed for two hours waiting for sleep to find me again. On the other, sometimes my churning brain will end up working out a plot kink that’s been bugging me for a while. That’s happened a fair amount. Which is why I always keep a pen and paper on my nightstand.
The most amazing instance of an idea for a book coming to me is actually the story of how I thought up the plot for CRASH. I literally dreamed it. I remember waking up in the middle of the night (my standard 3 am insomnia bout), and knowing exactly what the first three chapters of this book would be, the names of the main characters, the common past they shared, and even why Levi’s full name is Leviticus. It ended up being one of my favorite books to write.
I’m still amazed that it just came to me in a dream.
(Below: the paperback cover for CRASH. One of my personal favorites of my books.)