Writers: Has This Ever Happened to You?

Mystery Novel in Progress

Those of you who know me know I am in the middle of writing Hidden Depths, the fifth mystery book in the Fin Fleming Scuba Diving series. It was coming along great. Everything was going so well I thought I’d be well into the sixth book before I even reached the due date for this one.


Refresher on my Mystery Writing Process

I have been a full-time writer for several years now. For the first few of those years. I wrote content for companies and other people’s websites. Boring but lucrative.

While all this was going on, I took a zillion classes and even faltered through a couple of MFA programs without finishing. Too long out of school, I guess. But I learned a lot.

For one thing, it taught me serious discipline. How to write, even when I didn’t want to. How to treat writing like a business. How to plan and outline.

Nowadays, I’m at my desk by 8 or 8:30 AM. I take a short mid-morning break to walk Mol

ly around the block, and I break for lunch at noon, then it’s back to work until 3:30 or 4.

When I start a novel, I know what the opening will be, what the ending will be, and two or three key scenes in the middle. Tentpoles, as the brilliant Hallie Ephron calls them. In between the tentpoles, I let the story unfold as it will.

So, What’s Your Point, Sharon?

Well, in Hidden Depths, one of my key tentpole scenes was a scene I was really looking forward to writing. I wrote it in my head multiple times. I couldn’t wait to write it. It would be brilliant.

So one morning, I sit down at my desk and I write the following scene. And another. And another. I’m finally finished. Yippee.

I start to edit, and I find people referencing this key event, but the key event is not in the book.

I looked everywhere for it. Old drafts. Trash. Outtakes. Doesn’t exist.

What the?

Dream Writing

When I was working in business, I often dreamed about work at night, and the dreams were so realistic I sometimes felt like I worked 16 hour days. Occasionally, the dreams were so real I had to check to make sure I’d actually accomplished the tasks I’d dreamed about.

I believe that’s what happened here.

I thought back to my memory of writing the pivotal scene. I saw myself typing away. I edited. I polished. All in one sitting. Molly never poked my ankles even once.

That’s not my usual process. Uhoh.

That’s right, folks. I only dreamed I had written the scene. I tried to go back and fit it in, but the narrative had drifted in ways that it might not have if the scene had actually been there. Now I have to go back and pretty much rewrite two thirds of the book.

So, finally, I’m getting to the question. Have any of you ever had an experience of a dream so realistic you truly thought it had actually happened? Do any of you dream about work?

Sharon WardSharon Ward is the author of the traditional mysteries In Deep, Sunken Death, Dark Tide, and Killer Storm, all part of the Fin Fleming Scuba Diving series. Hidden Depths, the next book in the series, will be out in spring, 2023 Sharon was a marketing executive at prominent software companies Oracle and Microsoft before becoming a writer. She was also a PADI certified divemaster who has hundreds of dives under her weight belt. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, MWA, ITW, Grub Street, and the Cape Cod Writers Center. She lives near Cape Cod with her husband Jack and their miniature long-haired dachshund Molly, who is the actual head of the Ward household.


  1. I frequently wonder about my memories—have they happened or did I dream them? Funnily enough, my husband doesn’t suffer from this at all, so when we have different memories of the same event, it gets even more murky.

  2. I’ve never had this happen with a book but sometimes I dream in such detail, I have to remind myself that it was only a dream. I bet the book will be even better than the dream!

  3. I often remember my dreams for a while, they’re so realistic.
    One night I dreamt a perfect novel. Beginning, middle, end. It was magical and wonderful.
    Something roused me from sleep and I reached for the pen and pad I keep next to me, and jotted the bones of this fantastic story. Satisfied I had a winner here, I rolled over and went back to sleep.
    The next morning my eyes opened and my first thought was of this wonderful story. I reached for my pad to refresh my mind what this book was about, because I could’ve recall dreaming of a great book, but not the story itself.

    On my pad, expecting to see a page of scribbled thoughts, was this one word: BREAD.
    To this day I have no idea what that means…

  4. I once dreamed of the perfect title. Woke up and was so sure I’d written it down, but I couldn’t. I could see the outlines of the title in my head, but I couldn’t figure it out. Never did. So frustrating.

  5. No, no helpful dreams for me though I sometimes wake up with thoughts or ideas for the manuscript I’m working on. But sometimes half way to falling asleep or waking up I hear my characters having conversations and that dialog often wind up in the book.

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