Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Break the Tape!

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

It’s here! The last day of NaNoWriMo 2014. I crossed the finish line a couple days ago, but I’m still working on the project. For those of you still typing madly toward the 50k-word mark, GO! GO! WRITE! WRITE! You can do it! Get another cup of coffee and keep going!

I found this year’s NaNo to be tougher than in years past, mostly due to real life interrupting my writing time, space, and mind. Partially due to my failure to fully outline and connect with my project this year. My muse spent a lot of time in the shadows of all things real life. When I say “outline”, I mean a road map, a path from start to finish, but I don’t restrict my characters to the path. If they want to take detours, I’ll let them.

There is something, though, about the connection to your characters. If I can’t connect to the character, anything I write feels stiff and wooden, like the acting in some of those old B-movies. And some newer ones, like Liam Hemsworth as Gale in Mockingjay Part 1, which I saw last weekend with my daughter. OMG, talk about a stiff, wooden delivery of any lines or actions. Granted, Gale is kinda pissed at Katniss, but Liam doesn’t seem to be comfortable with the role at all.

Needless to say, I’m still trying to connect to my characters in this current project. It’s coming, but I might have to set them aside for a bit. Still, I’d like to at least get to the end before I set it aside. (NOTE: No one said you had to finish the book in 30 days, just write 50,000 words. And since most adult novels are around 80k-90k words in length, I’m good with not finishing the story by 11/30 this year.)

Now the holi-daze begins. Baking, band concerts, snowstorms, and shopping all work to keep the muse away. Now, though, is the time to keep up the habit you’ve developed over the past 30 days: Write Every Day. Even if it’s a blog post. Even if it’s only one more page in your novel. Even if all you can think to write is “I don’t know what to write”, just do it. So you don’t know what to write, that’s fine. Then try to describe the blinking holiday lights without using the words “blink” or “flashing”. Try to describe the smell of the Christmas tree without using the word “pine”.

Any little thing you can do to write will keep your muse at your side, ready to jump in and keep the creative energy rolling.

Write on!


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On the Home Stretch

NaNo Week 4 is here. Seven days left to hit 50,000 words. I can see the finish line, and it’s not that far away. How have you been doing? Will you hit your 50k before next Sunday?

After almost 2 weeks of hiding from the #@&!$ cold (Yes, I live in MN, but it’s still not supposed to be below freezing in November. It just isn’t.), we are getting a two-day respite. There’s nothing as refreshing as a walk in relatively balmy 40 degree weather, even if the sun is still playing behind the clouds.  Reminded me of spring, with the damp air and brown grass exposed after the snow melts. Except I know it isn’t spring; this is just the warning shot over the bow.

I’m within a few days of hitting the NaNo finish line. I’ll have my word count, but I’m nowhere near the end of the story. In fact, I’m just reaching the midpoint. This is a first draft/rough draft, so I can make notes and fast-forward to the major scenes, but the idea is to write the whole novel: beginning, middle, end. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who runs into this. My problem is this year I’m rewriting a novel I wrote a couple years ago, and because of real life chaos, I never got a solid story arc set up for the reboot.

Some writers are “pantsers”: they sit down and just write. That’s it. And it works for them. Some are planners: they have an outline, rough or detailed, and use that as a road map for the story. I like the idea of an outline, and I use one if only to make sure I stay within sight of the road. I brainstormed the story, but failed to build any sort of guiding outline. My muse is tsking, and I know he’s thinking “I told you so.”

Are you a pantser? What do you do when the story road suddenly disappears, and what you thought might happen won’t? Do you change your vision?

Sometimes planners have detailed outlines that guide their story like train tracks. The story can’t veer off the path without risking derailment. But what happens when the characters decide they want to get off the train? That’s why my idea of an outline is just as a guide. I’ve learned the characters know what they want to do, and they’ll do it, or risk becoming less real and more like cardboard cutouts. That’s the beauty of rough drafts; write it no matter where the story goes, and wrangle things into order later.

Kick your muse into high gear for the sprint to the finish line. Offer her extra-strong coffee or promise those fine European chocolates as a reward, but you can do it. See you at the finish line!


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NaNoWriMo 2014 Week 2 and Nature’s Wake-up Call

Knock, Knock.

Who’s there?

Winter–bwahahaha!

Yep, it’s here. Yep, we got slammed into it like a hockey puck into a net. No easing into the season this year. Again. Though I am relieved we didn’t get the foot of snow that was predicted for our area. Farther north of us, however, got dumped on. Like, a foot of snow or better dumped on.

Sigh. At least I didn’t have to shovel!!

Last year we had January weather in December. This year we get December weather in November. Average temps for our area: 40s. Temps for this week and next: 20s. If we’re lucky.

Which gives me a great excuse to focus on NaNo. By now we’re finishing up Week 2 and crossing the 25,000 word milestone. Have you hit the slump yet? Has your muse hit his caffeine limit and is now trying to shake off the post-rush tremors? Don’t let him get too far away.

If you’re in the central part of the US, where we’re enjoying unseasonably cold weather, you’re in luck! Sitting in front of a keyboard tucked into a Snuggie and accompanied by a steaming mug of hot cocoa (with or without peppermint schnapps) or coffee is a perfect way to avoid thinking about the fact that it’ll be around six months before we see spring.

Anyone see my muse? He seems to have wandered off. Time to just start writing. Hopefully he’ll see the Bat-signal and show up before I finish my second mug of cocoa (and yes, mine has a splash of schnapps, because hey, it’s cold outside!)

Enjoy your weekend, and WRITE!


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Why NaNoWriMo?

For all those writers who thought about it, then decided not to join the madness:

The Most Important Thing You Could Hear before Starting NaNoWriMo.

This article really hit home for me. I started participating in NaNo in 2005, the year my mother passed away. I had so many stories in my head, but it took forever to get them out. I’d witnessed my mother’s rush to do so many things in the time she had left, and realized I needed to do something to kick my writing self into gear.

I still have the newspaper article from the Mpls. Star Tribune about some Twin Cities authors that do NaNo every year. My goal that first November (and every November since): build a habit of writing every day.

It worked, for the most part. I’d get up early and write before I had to go to work. Since I started my new job with a forty-five minute commute, I don’t write in the mornings anymore except on weekends, but I still try to write. And I still try to reinforce the habit.


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NaNoWriMo 2014: Day 6

Day 6: Still no rescue vessels in sight. Another life ring washed up on shore; I’ve almost got the Olympic logo filled out. Found another coconut tree. Still hunting for the chocolate tree. The wine should last, if I only drink a bottle a day. Thank goodness for liquor store clearance sales! Only 24 days to go.

Note to self: Invest in satellite phone for Internet connection. I’m good, as long as my computer doesn’t crash, but I can’t update my word count.

Snagged a brief Internet connection when the trans-Pacific flight passed over. Thank you on-board wireless! Great pep talk by Veronica Roth: NaNoWriMo Pep Talk: V Roth

My Muse is still wandering around the island looking for a clue. I told him the only thing between us and 50,000 words is 26 days. And I told him if he has to wander, he better damn well find that chocolate tree. He doubts the Winner ship will arrive on time. I told him that ship will show up early. We have a bet: if the Winner ship shows up before November 30, he can take all of December off. If not… well, I didn’t go there because I know the ship will get here. Hell, this is my tenth go at this NaNoWriMo business. I think I know what I’m doing.

My Muse is calling; he claims he actually found chocolate. Better not be pellet-shaped and smell like rancid dirt like last time.

Captain Writer, signing off.


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And . . . They’re off!

Happy NaNoWriMo Day! First day of the marathon. This is my tenth NaNo. By now I’ve gotten the hang of it. Two thousand words a day is my goal. And a daily writing habit. Actually, the daily writing habit is more important than the book, I think.

Anyone else taking the challenge? One of my Writing Sisters is taking the challenge this year with me, using the “forced” writing to work on a scene she’s redoing for her novel. I think one of the mistakes writers make with the NaNoWriMo 50,000 words in 30 days challenge is that it has to be a novel. It doesn’t. It just has to be 50,000 words.

And if a writer expects anything they write during NaNo to be polished, well, you’re going to be disappointed. NaNo is an exercise in many things: discipline, putting words on paper (either tangibly or electronically), and ignoring that inner editor that always wants you to go back and polish what you just wrote. It is not an exercise in producing awe-inspiring prose. You have to plant the seeds and get dirt under your fingernails before you can even think about how the flowers will look.

The main reason I started doing NaNo was for the discipline. I figured, in order to actually write 50,000 words, I had to write every day, otherwise I’d never make it. One of the most proclaimed pieces of writing advice is: Write Every Day. Period. And I think that’s one of the toughest things to do for writers who have full-time jobs (not writing jobs), and kids at home, and housework, and a garden or yard, and– Well, you get the picture. And it works, at least for a while, until real life starts yanking my chain around again. Once it’s a habit, it’s pretty easy to do, especially if you have a project to work on.

Which is the next benefit, in my opinion, of NaNo. I’ve had story and book ideas flailing around in my head since I was in elementary school. I think a lot of people do, especially creative people. But those stories aren’t doing any good in your head. If you don’t let them out, they just keep using your mind like a lottery ball machine, bouncing around and colliding with each other. You need to pick a number and let them out. And NaNo is the perfect opportunity to do so. Once you commit to writing 50,000 words in a month (or 1,667 words a day), you can let those stories out. Get them on paper and give them a voice. They’ll stop bothering you, or at least bother you less. Just get the words out.

And don’t edit as you go. I know, there’s that little figure that sits on your shoulder with a stubby pencil behind her ear who corrects your writing as you go. Been there. The problem is, you spend time revising what you’ve just written, and that means you don’t get anything additional put on paper. Your inner editor slows your progress to the speed of a lava flow on the Big Island (Hawaii). Guess what? If your inner editor has her way, you’ll never reach 50,000 words. You might revise the same scene 50,000 times, but that doesn’t get you any closer to the end. Flick that editor off your shoulder, open the sluice gates to your mind, and let the story flow out. Just write. Leave notes for yourself along the way. And remind yourself you’ll fix it later, after the holidays.

Got it? You’ll finish NaNo with a rough draft, one that’s likely crap-tastic, but it’s a FIRST DRAFT. They’re supposed to be crappy. But you developed the habit of writing every day. You got that story on paper after thinking about it for months, maybe even years. And after the holidays you can let your inner editor out of his cage and let him help you revise your draft to his heart’s content.

Happy NaNo-ing!