Thursday, May 11, 2017

Inside a Writer's Brain

Should I subtitle this post  - A Scary Place to Live? Or, would you go with A Wonderful Place to Reside?

Let's chat about it.

I think for a writer, the scariest place to be is one bereft of ideas. I experienced that horror as I planned this blog. I'd been batting around ideas for my post, but nothing felt quite right.

I don't have a new book out right now, so I don't have that to write about. I've read some really wonderful books lately, but I didn't want it to seem like I was playing favorites. This is a really busy time at school, meaning there's not as much writing time, so nothing there.


Lots of things were circling in my brain, but nothing felt "big" enough for a blog.

Please bear with me, I'm going to piece some of those thoughts together.

I was never one of those people who knew she was going to be a writer.

As I've mentioned before, I was too in awe of the people who wrote my beloved books to think I could ever be one of them.

Honestly, I thought I was too boring, 

But I always entertained myself with my stories. For as long as I can remember, I "read" myself to sleep by making up stories. There were two problems with this. First, I was kind of confirming the boring part in my mind because I made myself fall asleep each night. Maybe I should have marketed my fiction as a cure for insomnia.😧

The second problem was that I never finished a story. Each night, I'd start over and then fall asleep. Eventually, I got so tired of not finishing a particular story, that I wrote it down. The happy part of that was that it got me writing without worrying about boring anyone. I was only writing for myself.

Eventually I entered a contest - the Golden Heart. (Nothing like aiming high right out of the gate!)
I still remember my reaction when I got a call that my manuscript was a finalist. I was overjoyed because it meant at least some readers didn't find me boring!!!

I never did sell that original manuscript, but every once in a while I pull it out and toy with updating it. Maybe some day. It was historical and I write suspense now (mostly).

Which brings me to some of those other thoughts.

Honestly, inside a writer's brain is a wonderful place to abide!

On Tuesday, Jo Ann Brown was talking about where people get ideas for their stories. Then yesterday, Valerie Hansen shared some interesting thoughts about exploring history through our writing. Both of those posts tapped into some of the ideas that had been rolling around in my head.

What do people think about if it's not stories?

That probably sounds crazy, but my brain is always playing with ideas. I rarely go anywhere that something doesn't attract my interest and have me wandering down the "What If" trail.

For example, one day I was walking to work and saw a girl's First Communion veil in the gutter, all muddied and torn. You can bet my suspense writer brain went to work on that one!

I took my class on a trip - and started wondering, what if a family member used a class trip as a cover to kidnap a child?

For my current book, I was reading about the Amish who traveled to Texas to help out after Hurricane Ike, and I started wondering, what if they liked it and stayed - but ran afoul of the drug cartels?

Amish and drug cartels and muddied Communion veils are a far cry from the colonial girl rescuing a privateer that I first dreamed about. And I think that's what I love best about writing. There are endless possibilities to explore.

One of my favorite poems is by Emily Dickinson. It begins

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away 

These days, I find that line applies as much to writing those books as reading them. What an adventure this writing gig is!

And hopefully I'm not boring anyone. 😏

I'd love to hear from other writers. Does any of this resonate with you?
And readers, do you ever consider what goes on in the mind of the author whose book you are reading? Wonder what generated those stories?

And I promise I'm not playing favorites when I give a Thursday Shout Out to the wonderful writers I am privileged to work with at Love Inspired Suspense. These are the current May titles.


  1. Oh my. I really needed to see all those covers. The covers alone make me think of story ideas. Loved hearing about yours. And, hmmm, a Colonial girl and a privateer. I'm waiting.

  2. Cate, love your story because I can so relate. I never finish my stories at night either. Wish I could stay up longer. And you definitely aren't boring. I thoroughly enjoyed the post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi Cate, I do the same thing! I drift to sleep thinking about the next scene. The bad part about that is I tend to forget any good bits the following day!
    I think the "scary" part of the writers brain is this--our job is to think up potential problems for our characters and that carries over into my real life. I can't ever enter a public park bathroom without wondering if there's someone evil lurking. And I write historical, not suspense. lol

  4. Love the post, Cate! I've had lulls when the ideas don't flow, and I agree. It's scary! Of course, like Karen said, turning everything into a suspenseful plot can have its downside. I've spent more than one night wide awake listening to every sound when alone in an unfamiliar place. Time to spin that suspense into a happily-ever-after!

  5. My husband isn't a writer, but since we met, we've always speculated on the "stories" of the people around us at restaurants, waiting for a plane, any public place. I was well into my 20s when I realized not everyone does this. Some of these speculations have been the beginning of a story idea for me.

  6. "What do people think about if it's not stories?" Love this Cate! And I really relate. Sometimes I think boredom is my best friend as a writer, because my brain will be frustrated and squirrelly until it finds something new to write about. I was so bored at a child's arcade birthday party recently, that I stared at the the huge stuffed animal claw machine until I could figure out how to write it into a book! Wishing you many good ideas soon.

  7. Cate, this was a timely post.Thank you!! I used to tell myself stories as a kid too! I was teased on the bus because I sat by the window and would stare out letting my mind wander and my lips move as I told myself stories. Even now my husband laughs when he catches me 'talking' to myself.
    And I totally relate to the bereft of ideas mode. I've been struggling with that recently. But thanks to the help of some of my fellow Love Inspired authors my creative brain is kicking in again.
    Maggie, I love that you're putting the claw machine into a story!

  8. I loved this post, Cate. I got an idea for a story when I got lost in a parking garage last week. Nothing is wasted on a writer! If I'm not writing, I love talking about writing and I really love talking to other writers. I should get a t-shirt that says "Don't bother me. I'm writing." Because we do it 24/7!!!

  9. Loved reading your story, Cate. I knew from the age of 9 that I wanted to write and told my dad. Thankfully, he encouraged me. "Why not?" he asked. "As much as you read, you ought to be able to write." I grew up believing that I COULD write for a living, and I was blessed with teachers along the way who also encouraged me. When I found romance, I knew that was what I wanted to write. I'm always fascinated by the writing story of other authors. And my hat is off to any published author who also manages to work a full-time job.

  10. When I was a little girl, I used to daydream while in the car about something I saw. I'd go by a farm house and have a whole story about who lived there in no time. Never thought I would be writer when I was young, but I ended up becoming an author because I love making stories up.

  11. I really relate to that Margaret! I grew up in the backseat of a station wagon, driving around Canada and the US. Now so many of my stories are set on the same kinds of roads. When I get writer's block I'll drive around the country, look at houses, and imagine how I'd set a story in one.

  12. When I was in high school, I used to provide my friends with "dream date" stories about them and their current crushes. I guess that was my first venture into romance writing.

  13. I always thought everyone made up stories to clear their mind of the day's issues ans put themselves to sleep. Was surprised to find this was not true. I still don't understand how a mind can go all day without making up a story. :)

  14. I'm with Jolene. I was surprised when I learned other people didn't constantly think up stories in their minds.

    Great post, Cate! I really related to it. I am constantly thinking "What if?" when I see something. Sometimes, as a suspense writer, my mind goes to places that scare me Really glad to have two big dogs when that happens!


  15. Sorry to be absent. I was stuck in a room scoring state math tests. :( Nary a plot to be discovered unfortunately. Though I bet if I'd had time....

    Pamela, you don't know how tempting it is to go back to my colonial girl/Revolutionary spy and privateer. You know what they say about first loves. :) I guess that goes for first heroes too.

    Mary, I feel a little like Sally Field. She likes me. I'm not boring! Thank you from the bottom of my insecure writer's heart.

    Karen, I don't know which is worse, the forgetting the best parts or always imagining trouble. I hope I'm not scarring my children because I do the same thing!!!

  16. Yes, Christine. I guess that's a blessing of being a writer. We can make it end the way we want!

    Jean, I love that you shared that. What a cool way to develop stories. I imagine it leads to some very unique ideas.

    Boredom? What's that, Maggie? Seriously, isn't it great that we can entertain ourselves so well. The fact that we can turn that into stories is a bonus!

    Terri, I'm, laughing thinking of all the strange looks I've garnered over the years when people see me talking to myself. There is this man I occasionally pass on my way to work. He always smiles and says hello, and I always smile back and think, You have no idea you are the hero in a book I'm developing!

  17. Lenora, I was just thinking of you the other night when I saw your comment about 20 years with Love Inspired. I was wondering how you manage to keep your stories so fresh after all this time. But I guess I answered my own question. Can't wait to read about the parking garage.

    I'm so glad you had your dad to encourage you, Arlene. I had a teacher who encouraged me - not to be a writer, but she kept telling 5th grader me that my papers were college-worthy. I just never believed her.

    Margaret, I still do that. Not in a car if I'm driving, but something will trigger an idea when I'm walking and I'll go blocks without being aware of my surroundings.

  18. That's so cool, Deb. And see, my writer's mind is already playing with how to turn that into a suspense plot.

    Exactly, Jolene. It's my best weapon against insomnia!

    I guess we're starting to see a pattern here, Dana. No wonder writer friends value each other's friendships so much. We get it.

  19. I love the image of the muddied Communion veil----all sorts of possibilities there! I love collecting nuggets of information for my writing. My husband says I interrogate people--but people are so interesting--and you never know what profession or hobby could make a good story starter! I also mull over scenes just before going to sleep, and am I the only person who always gets her best ideas in the shower when it's impossible to write anything down?

  20. Laurel, you are so not alone. Running water of any kind gets the ideas churning. Doing the dishes, taking a shower. I do that when I'm stuck. Not good for the water bill!

    I'm still toying with ideas for the Communion veil.


  21. Great post, Cate. Hmm. Now I really want to know about that first communion veil. Was it a blustery day and it blew away? Or something more sinister? You totally have me wondering.

  22. Cate, I'm getting to the blog late, but love the story ideas you shared. A school field trip as a way for family to kidnap a child. I want to read that story! Please, write it. NOW!

    Also the communion veil. Love the tease. More, please!

    Thanks for including the lineup of May books. I keep checking Walmart, waiting for them to be placed on the shelves. Won't be long.


  23. It's nice to read about how other writers' brains work. I worried for a long time that I was weird. I'm not alone.


  24. I guess I'd better get busy, Debby.

    Belle, the other day, I passed the corner where I'd seen it, and it got me wondering all over again.


  25. Leann, there's nothing quite like the company of other writers to make you comfortable that you're not alone in the weirdness. :) Right? It's a comfort for sure.

  26. I always say, "It's a very particular insanity."

  27. I always say I have suspense-itis. I see potential suspense around every corner. Haha. When I moved to Idaho 7 years ago, I finally found a group of writers I could hang out with regularly. It was shocking and comforting to realize that I'm not so weird after all. ;)


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