Thursday, October 2, 2008

Asleep and Inspired

One of the many things a writer doesn't know until she finally makes it into the ranks of published authors is just how much time you have to spend promoting your books. People ask: “Don't you have a publicist for that?” And the answer to that is, yes, I do, but mine is not the only book she has to promote. So, in the midst of blogging, answering on-line interview questions, visiting bookstores, endlessly checking my email, (I'm a bit obsessive about that, actually) and posting comments on the blogs, (I'm obsessive about that, too!) the time to ponder the next project sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.

About a week ago, I was in the middle of promoting Warrior(Book 2), doing final edits on Rogue(3), and trying to write Fugitive(5) while my editor is reading Lover(4)—which I will then have to work on some more before the manuscript is accepted. Sound confusing? It gets worse.

On Saturday, I got an email from my editor—right before heading off to work that night—telling me that she is liking Lover, but wants a synopsis for Fugitive and my ideas for book six, which I'm calling Hero. That night, while my patient was asleep and dreaming, I wrote a bare-bones description of Hero and sent it to her telling her that I'd update the original synopsis for Fugitive(the first one I had ever written before writing the book!) and get it to her in a few days. On Sunday, she emailed me back saying she wants the Fugitive synopsis now, and I was like, “No, not yet! I'm not done with it!” For me, a synopsis is the LAST thing I usually write—when the book is finished and I know I've made all the changes I intend to make to it—until I get a load of the editorial changes that I have to work on; then the synopsis changes again.

So, there I was, 30,000 words into a 90,000 word book, and I have to send in a synopsis. “But it will change,” I lament. I don't like sending in things that aren't complete—it offends the perfectionist in me—but I updated it anyway and sent it in. I was surprised to discover just how much the story had changed as it was written—the heroine's name was even different in the original version!

Monday, I spent mostly with my husband, who was having a colonoscopy, poor guy! He came through it quite well, and then we went to lunch and ran a few errands which took most of the afternoon. When I got home, I had another email asking for a synopsis for Hero—asap. I didn't write anything—didn't know what to write—but worked on Rogue (which was due on Thursday) until until I couldn't keep my eyes open and then went to bed, but, needless to say, I didn't sleep much.

On Tuesday, I had a riding lesson in the morning and a meeting with the Medicaid caseworkers regarding my son's autism waiver that afternoon—which took two hours, but at least they come to your house! In my spare moments—on the road, etc.—I tried to think about that friggin' synopsis, but I couldn't keep my mind on it long enough to get anywhere. That evening, I worked on some blogs and tried to track down when the various sites I'm guest blogging on wanted my stuff, finished Rogue and sent it in, wrote a little more on Fugitive until I couldn't see straight, then took a shower and went to bed. I was exhausted, but read a little Harry Potter before turning off the lights. I don't even remember my husband coming to bed.

Then a very strange thing happened. Somewhere around 2 AM, I woke up with the story for Hero playing out in my mind like a three-part episode of Deep Space Nine. I didn't even have to think about the action; I could see it. It wasn't a dream, either. I was fully awake and the ol' brain was clicking along like it usually does when I leave it alone long enough to figure out things on its own. Then I decided that this was something I could blog about, and I ran through what I was going to write here. Somewhere around 4 AM, with my mission accomplished, I went back to sleep.

My brain is a very strange little beast. I can torment the hell out of it and get nothing, but leave it alone for a while, and it solves my problems all by itself—most of the time.

So, what do you do to kick your brain into gear? Do you starve it? Feed it candy? Ignore it? Take it for a drive in the country? Pickle it with alcohol, or drive it into a frenzy with caffeine? What works for you?—and, just as importantly, what doesn't work? Inquiring brains want to know!


  1. I'm trying to figure that out myself, Cheryl. I'm feeding it now. I write romantic comedies so I started reading one up hoping it will get my brain going down that road.

    If you find the answer, be sure to let me know.

    Robin :)

  2. Whew! I am exhausted just reading your life! Oh wait, that is my life too! Well, nearly....I am not as far into it as you yet since I am still waiting on book one getting out there. But I am also a nurse working 12-hour night shifts, so I can fully comprehend how that screws with your mind! Sometimes I feel like I am never getting any sleep as my dreams are frequently invaded with novel ideas. It is good, I suppose, but then I wish they would go away just long enough for me to get a sold 7 hours of sleep! LOL!

    Thanks, Cheryl, for the interesting if a bit scary post.

  3. Sharon,
    I kinda figured your life was similar! I'm sitting here now with a headache and sticky eyes from trying to sleep today. I've been working night shift for thirty-one years and it does NOT get easier with age! What I really hate is not being able to sleep when you know you have to go back to work again that night!

  4. Cheryl
    I usually pick up a great book to read and loose myself in that then I can think better after I have relaxed you authors know how to make me relax.
    My hubby had a colonoscopy last Friday all is good.

    Have Fun

  5. 31 years! Egad!! I have been on the night shift for close to 20 now and it is definately getting way harder. I used to be able to pop back and forth, sleep anytime or anywhere, etc. But not any more. Yet, the idea of waking up before dawn and dealing with all the c**p of the day shift is soooo unappealing. So, I shall persevere and keep hoping that I win the lotto or sell a trillion books so I can retire! Yeah, right!!

  6. Bribery for mine always works. Do what you're supposed to do and we'll stop at See's.


  7. Interesting post Cheryl!

    Once I am really into my writing groove I often dream scenes from my work-in-progress. I literally dreamed the ending of my first romantic suspense. For me, the optimum time for those "inspirational" type dreams is early in the morning. I usually have to get up and let the dogs out between 6 and 7, but I always lie down and go back to sleep. That extra hour or so is a very creative one for me.


  8. Hi Cheryl,
    Who IS this whip cracking editor of yours? Anyone we know? LOL! Remember when writing was a hobby and publication was a far-off dream? Well, be careful what you wish for, Nurse Cheryl! Congrats on all the interest in your books. You're on a roll, girl! I have learned this month that promotion can be a full-time job on its own, and yes, we are SOOOO lucky to have our lovely Danielle helping us out.

    My moments of inspiration come during mundane tasks--showering, drying the hair, driving, vacuuming (a favorite pastime whenever I'm stuck on something) and cleaning. I once ran dripping wet from the shower (in a towel) to my computer to get something down before I forgot it.

    Moral of the story? We are all more than half crazy!

    Got all the Casa October books today!! Whoo hoo! Can't wait to dive right in.

  9. Great post, Cheryl! I bow to're even busier than I am. I had two things going at once until just recently when I got my edits in for Wild Highland magic, and I thought that my brain would explode and I would just die. I don't think anything exploded...I hope not. LOL on digging around trying to figure out when your posts are due...sounds just like me on a regular basis. I keep promising myself I'll get organized, but, umm...well, it's a work in progress.

    If I get stuck, a good night's sleep after I've worried it over for a while usually does the trick. There isn't always instant clarity, but the answer usually smacks me in the head at some point the following day. And like Marie, I have had to run and write things down at odd times so I don't forget what I thought of:-)

    Yep...completely nuts!

  10. I think that taking a break and either taking a walk, having a snack, and/or taking a nap help :) (Or maybe it's just that I like those things so much ;))

    Glad you're running with the inspiration when it strikes! :)

  11. I can't count how many times I've been woken up with the story. I finally learned to keep a notebook by the bed and one of those reading lights so I don't have to wake up Hubs or get out of bed. But I do love when I get that clarity over a part that's been bugging me.

    Congrats on the interest, Cheryl!

  12. Helen,
    Yeah, all the stuff on my hubby was okay, too. Comforting, isn't it?
    Harry Potter unwinds me better than most books--maybe because I already know how it turns out!

  13. Sharon,
    I am SOOOOOO with you on the day shift crap and trillion books! May we both live long and retire soon!

  14. I bribe my brain with the prospect of sleep--or tequila!

  15. Aunt Cindy,
    *SOB* Don't have a dog to let out anymore! Just cats that walk all over me....
    Yeah, those times lying awake in bed are good...except when all I can think about is what I have to do that day!

  16. Marie,
    You don't know that you?????
    I do a lot of good thinking while I'm driving and listening to the radio. I've gotten some good inspirations from songs.
    Dove into Kendra's book last night! Have fun!
    BTW, the cover for Rogue is up on Amazon. Too much, um, "man-cleavage," I think.
    And yes, we're all just a bit crazy, and likely to become even more so with time...

  17. Kendra,
    I do the scribbling down stuff, too, and it usually hits me right after I've turned off my computer and gone to bed!

  18. flchen1,
    LOL! I should probably do the walking more than the snacking, but, unfortunately for the size of my rear end, it's the other way around!

  19. Thanks, Judi!
    I'm not even organized enough to use a notebook! My desk is right by the bed and it's covered with papers that are being recycled by having the backs of them scribbled on. No wonder I can never find anything when I need it....