A couple of months ago I had a Jane Austen related nightmare. Can you believe it, a nightmare about our dearest Jane? In the dream, she was running through the woods, and someone was chasing her. She threw a pen at the pursuer because it was the only weapon she had. How’s that for symbolism? But what did my dream mean to me? It was scary, that’s for sure. Scary enough to wake me up in the middle of the night. I shared it on Facebook the next day, and got a lot of reactions, but if I had to analyze it myself, and most analysts would say that you are the decider of your own dream’s significance, I would say it means that I’m worried about something related to my writing. Breaking it down further, I sometimes worry about whether Jane would appreciate my taking her stories and twisting them around. What would she really think of all this fan fiction? Would she be flattered or annoyed? Another interpretation might be that I worry about whether what I’m writing will please my fans, or if they will hate me for it and come after me, figuratively speaking.
No matter how one might interpret the nightmare, usually my writing-related dreams are more helpful than not. For instance, the idea for the JAFF I’m currently working on, Darcy’s Awakening, came to me in a dream. I dreamed that when Darcy meets Lizzy at the Meryton assembly, he’s already engaged to someone else. I woke up thinking, wow! That’s a plot! Shortly after, it occurred to me who I would have him be engaged to, and the idea shocked even me. If you happen to be following the story on either fanfiction.net or Darcyandlizzy.com, you already know, and perhaps are one of the people who have expressed your great astonishment in the reviews, while also urging me to post more chapters as quickly as possible to see how it turns out.
In general, my sleeping hours really feed my writing. Often, if I am stuck trying to figure out what should happen next in a story, or how a plot point should come about, I run it through my mind before I go to sleep, and often come up with an answer. Then, it’s a matter of remembering it until morning. How I wish I were one of those late night writers who leap out of bed and write it all down. Alas, I need my beauty sleep, so ideas have to wait until the morning to get fleshed out on the page, and this is not convenient because sometimes I do forget an idea. For instance, one night I came up with a great idea of how the Gardiners would work into the plot of my current story, and then forgot by the next morning, and now can’t remember for the life of me.
I think the most useful my nighttime mind has been for my writing though is when I wrote my first novel, my Regency time-travel book, The Time Baroness. This was before I knew I even wanted to be a writer. In order to fall asleep at night, I used to sometimes tell myself stories. One night, after reading a Jane Austen novel before bed (I don’t even remember which one), I began telling myself a story of a woman from the future, a scientist, who travels back in time to Jane Austen’s day in order to find out what life was really like for women back then. Of course she meets with romance and adventure, and eventually the story became so interesting to me it kept me up rather than putting me to sleep. That’s when I knew I had to write it down.
I often share that story when people ask me how I got the idea for that book, which leads me to wonder how other authors get their ideas. Whether night-dreaming, daydreaming, or some other source, if you’re an author, please share! Where do your ideas and inspirations come from?