Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Quick Note to Writers (and Princess Bride fans)

Remember the blog I mentioned a couple weeks back? Meet Your Main Character?

We’ve got our guest blogger’s post live on the site now. Stop over and take a look!

Our guest this month is Emily Bates, blogger at BumblesBooks and debut author. Her novel, Demon’s Heart, was released last month. She’s shared a great story with us about a job she had in college. I might have to borrow pieces of it for one of my future projects…

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Quotes to Think About (Sounds like my Muse)

Happy Tuesday! I have to admit, as I’ve been watching the news about the Nor’easter on the coast, I chuckle.

Heh. Nah nee nah nee boo boo! Thwpppt! Yesterday Minnesota had a high of 45 degrees. In January. We’ve had highs above freezing for the past week or so, and we get another couple days before reality returns. Hey, we’re just enjoying it. Even though Winter is returning this weekend with lows below zero, at least we’ve had our January thaw. Even saw an outdoor volleyball game on the news, with players wearing t-shirts, shorts, and boots (there was still snow on the sand).

A wonderful writer friend of mine is celebrating a birthday today. She shared this link with our writing group: Clarissa Pinkola Estes literary birthday

The page has a list of quotes, which are all wonderful, but a few in particular speak to my writing soul:

  • Writing, real writing, should leave a small sweet bruise somewhere on the writer … and on the reader.
  • If you’ve lost focus, just sit down and be still. Take the idea and rock it to and fro. Keep some of it and throw some away, and it will renew itself. You need do no more.
  • I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.

These sound like they come from the universal writer’s spirit, the one you channel through your Muse. Think about each of them (actually, the whole list is quite poignant). Roll them around in your mind. Use them to tune in to your creative energy, and watch your Muse settle back with a huge smile and a sigh of satisfaction because you have a better understanding of his job.

Four days and counting until Feb 1 and the first day of my self-imposed NaNoWriMo. Anyone want to join me? Fifty-thousand words in 28 days. I’m even cutting two days from my usual NaNo allotment. Normally, I wouldn’t tell anyone, but this way I have some sort of accountability, so I can’t use the excuse that it really isn’t November so it shouldn’t count. I’ll post my weekly word counts–even more accountability.

I’m breaking from the usual for this project; I’m actually writing what I know. I told my husband what my project was going to be about. He said, “It’s about time!” He’s watched Charlie Rose interviews with numerous writers, and he always mentions what the writer answers to Charlie’s inevitable question about advice for other writers. The most popular answers are, of course, write every day and write what you know.

What I know is not nearly as exciting as what I can make up, but I’ll try it out.


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The Rebirth of a Story

Before I forget, have you had a chance to check out the Meet Your Main Character website? Pop on over and give it a gander. It’s freshly minted, so if you have any suggestions, let us know. We’ve got a great guest blog post soon to be featured on our site. Princess Bride fans will love it! Our first main post will give you a glimpse into the daily life of an immigration attorney/mother/writer. Our members are globetrekkers, and we’ll be posting pics from our more widely-traveled writers from time to time. It looks like Jan is sharing a moment in time from her trip to Peru. Come take a look!

Have you ever planned out a story in your head, and even went so far as to start an outline, or even (gasp!) writing it, then discovered the story arc doesn’t work. Or the plot line is way more complicated than it needs to be? Or the timeline just doesn’t make sense? If you haven’t, I envy you.

I’ve been working on the outline for my February self-imposed NaNoWriMo project, and I was struggling a bit with the second half of the story arc. I like to talk the story through while taking my walks outside. It’s been really mild here for January the past week or so, so I’m trying to take advantage of the weather before the January thaw is over. It feels like March! Anyway, as I was trying to work out the second half of the story arc, following the original arc I created a couple years ago, I realized why I was having trouble with it.

It was stupid.

Seriously. Here I am trying to work out how the characters would travel halfway across the country to work on an investigation for a crime. How would the characters get there? Why would both characters be there if only one is actively investigating? How could I work the “crossed paths” in without being too manipulative? And then, as I’m walking, mental head slap. Okay, it was accompanied by a physical head slap.

Duh. Why do the characters have to travel out of state? Why can’t the whole thing take place in the same state? There was no reason for the trans-continental travel, not really, except that it created extra activity. So, now I am working on a revision of the crime, which leads to a revision of the suspects, which leads to a revision of the story threads. (Shut up, Muse. Stop gloating. And you don’t have to remind me you told me so and that’s why the original draft didn’t work.)

Sigh. For those pantsers out there (you know who you are), what do you do when you get to that point in the story where any direction you want to go seems forced? Do you back up and rewrite an earlier scene or two? Do you just soldier on and make notes on what to revise later? This is one of those times I’m glad I went from pantser to outliner. I can’t help but wonder at the amount of work I’d have to do to revise the story arc after I’ve written half the novel.

So, back to the drawing board. How often have you written a novel or story that you initially thought had a great timeline and storyline, then realized it doesn’t make sense? How did you go about fixing it? Did you rewrite the whole thing? Rewrite the second half of the project? Maybe you changed a character or two to make the timeline more realistic. Does your muse try to tell you ahead of time the story isn’t working? Do you listen?

Enjoy the week, everyone!

Write on!


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Meet Your Main Character–by writers, for writers

Our website is now live! Meet Your Main Character

As writers, we strive to create realistic experiences for our characters to draw our readers in. We write what we know, but often we want to write about things we don’t have first-hand knowledge of. Okay, no one I know of has ever flown on a dragon or battled an ogre, but I do know an immigration attorney and a former counterintelligence analyst. Writers can gain knowledge through research, interviews, or spending a day doing the things you have your characters do, but what if you don’t know anyone who’s ever milked a cow or moved to a whole different country on a whole different continent? What if you aren’t even sure where to go to find someone who does have the knowledge or experiences you want your character to have?

Enter the Meet Your Main Character crew. We are a group of six writers with innumerable experiences in many different areas, from growing up in South Africa to setting up orphanages to surviving a hurricane. We can help you bring authenticity to your scenes by relaying our own personal experiences. If we haven’t lived it, we can help you find someone who has.

Every month you’ll learn more about each of us and the things we have done on our life’s journey. Send us a question, and we’ll try to help. Our guest bloggers will share some of their adventures as well. We’ll also have a special page featuring contributions from a group of young writers who are great sources for insight into the lives and interests of young people making their way through junior high and beyond.

You can also follow us on Twitter at: @mymc_writers

Stop by and say hi!


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The Lifeblood of a Writer

I came across this post today by Lauren Sapala, and it struck me (not like a lightning bolt, more like a forehead slap) because it explains so well how I envision a writer. Not the I-stopped-writing-because-a-writing-professor-said-I-was-no-good part, but the when-writers-don’t-write-it-is-more-than-a-hobby-we’re-ignoring part.

When we don’t write:

Quote: It’s an essential part of our being that is being neglected. It’s like slowly starving yourself.

I’ve just recently learned how true this is. Okay, it took me a lo-o-o-o-n-g time to figure it out, but it’s so true. For myself, when I don’t write for a few days, I get anxious, antsy, frustrated, grumpy, and I’m sure my family could come up with a few more adjectives.

Once I finally realize why I feel off, I pick up a notebook and a pencil, or fire up my computer, and start writing. Nothing specific, nothing necessarily for any project I’ve got in the queue, just writing. Sometimes it’s even a rant about how flipping cold it is but it’s still better than last year’s winter. Sometimes it’s just writing down my internal dialog (yes, I know I need to dust, but it’ll just come back in a couple days, and I really should take down the Christmas tree because Christmas is over, and I need to do a load of whites because I’m running out of good socks). You get the picture.

And presto! After a couple hundred words or so, I feel better. Noticeably better. It’s almost as good as a half-hour running program on the treadmill (I’d run outside, but I draw the line at fifty degrees. And there’s no way in this world I’m running in 30-below wind chill. Ain’t happenin’.). And tacking on a writing session after a treadmill session is even better.

So, when I read Lauren’s post, especially the last half of it, I felt validated. The beginning of the post just made me sad that she’d taken a single writing professor’s words so much to heart. As I continually remind myself, and any of my writing cohorts who start to doubt their authoring efforts, writing is an art. Art is subjective. So, not everyone will like your writing. Not everyone will dislike your writing. It’d be like someone telling Sting he can’t sing or write music and he should try a different line of work. You may feel the same, but I happen to think Sting is a great singer/songwriter.

But even if no one likes your writing, and you are a writer, for heaven’s sake, don’t stop writing. Writing well takes lots of practice. And more practice. And a bit of luck, a good Muse, and good writing/critique partners. If you are a writer, you won’t be able to stop writing. If you do, there will be a point at which you will feel as Lauren described: real pain in your body, like a choking grief or a simmering rage.

Been there. It just took me a really long time to realize I felt that way largely because I wasn’t writing.

Bottom line, listen to your intuition–and your Muse. If you’re a writer, you HAVE to write. So write. You’ll feel better, and you’ll be practicing your art.


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Let Your Readers Think For Themselves

Came across this gem of advice from a fellow writer and felt compelled to pass it along. Now to fire up that revision engine again…

A Writer's Path

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Not long ago, I did a post on showing vs. telling. I’d like to continue along that same vein by talking about ways to allow the reader to think for themselves without being spoon-fed.

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A New Year, a Writing Project, and a Renewed Focus

Now that everyone has (hopefully) recovered from the New Year revelries (you have recovered, right?), it’s time to take advantage of this last “holiday” weekend before getting back into the normal rhythm of everyday life. You know what I mean. Daily schedules have been thrown out of whack since Thanksgiving due to shopping, parties, preparing for parties, cleaning up after parties, more shopping, cooking, etc. And can’t forget the kids being on Christmas break. I’m so glad school starts back up on Monday!

Okay, got your New Year’s writing goals set?

No? What do you mean, no?

Can you write 500 words by tomorrow night? Really, 500 words isn’t much; this post is about 570 words long. It doesn’t have to be anything specific, even a recap of the kids opening presents under the tree, or watching the ball drop on television, or the less-than-tasty fruitcake your “favorite” aunt brought to the family gathering. I’ll bet you can do it. Describe in detail the delectable dessert your sister made, the luscious chocolate one with hints of raspberry and mocha. Compare it to clouds, write how the flavor reminded you of that Christmas years ago when Grandma accidentally burned the ham and had to substitute sloppy joes, and how the dessert totally made up for it.

Write a never-to-be-seen-by-anyone-who’s-related-to-you vignette about how embarrassed/pissed off you were when your brother showed up to watch the bowl games with six of his buddies in tow when you specifically told him the kids had the flu and you didn’t want any extra company because you weren’t feeling too good yourself. And how you knew you should have told him not to come over at all. Make sure you tell him he’s hosting bowl game day next year.

Set a writing project target. Take that pristine 2015 calendar, and put a sticker on January 31st, along with a note to write the first chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to write for the past decade. Just the first chapter. Give yourself an extra bonus if you get two chapters written. There’s your writing goal for the year: two chapters a month. Bonus points if you write more. One hour of writing a day: a half-hour while drinking coffee in the morning, and a half-hour before Jimmy Fallon comes on in the evening. And yes, recording your dictation of the chapter(s) during your commute to and from work counts, once you type it (or let the speech-to-text program do it for you).

Sound doable? Call up your best friend, the one who knows you’ve been talking about writing forever, and tell them they’re in charge of keeping you honest. Make sure they’re also the friend who can inspire you to keep going. I’m rebooting a mystery from NaNo 2013. My target is a complete rewrite by Feb 28, NaNoWriMo style. That boils down to 2,000 words a day, every day, in February. I’ll keep you posted.

Have you ever wondered what an immigration attorney’s day looks like? What does a South African think about MN winters? Ever wonder what a counterintelligence analyst does? MeetYourMainCharacter.com will be a resource for writers searching for details about everyday experiences, and some not-so-everyday experiences, to help you round out your characters and bring authenticity to your work. Ask us to help you. If we haven’t lived an experience ourselves, we probably know someone who has. Watch for news of the website launch in the next week or so.