Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


Pinch Points In Fiction Writing

Never consciously thought about this before, but it’s a great reminder. Thanks, Sue! BTW, she has a great blog for mystery/crime/thriller writers.

Crime Fiction Writer Sue Coletta

A few people have recently asked me what Pinch Points are, which made me wonder if others are struggling with what they are and how to use them. After a quick Google search I realized there isn’t really much written on the subject, oddly enough. And they are crucial milestones in fiction writing because they show the face of evil in its purest form. The Pinch Points demonstrate what your hero is up against, what causes him/her to jolt straight up in bed, the bogey man in the nightmare.

“We need to see that antagonist form in its purest, most dangerous and intimidating form. Or if it isn’t dangerous then at least we need to feel it for ourselves.” — Larry Brooks

“An example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonist force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience.” — Larry Brooks, Story Engineering

evil eye


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Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave

blue spring flower cr

I was going to add a nice picture of a garden spider in the middle of an orb web here, but I think enough people don’t appreciate the beauty, just the creepy-crawlyness of it. So, enjoy the pic of our pretty blue spring flowers instead.

I’m reading my writing teacher’s latest book in her Door County Fudge Shop series. Great book, by the way. Mouthwatering! Anyhow, fudge aside (yes, she does have recipes in the backs of the books 😉 ), there’s a wonderful cast of characters, including a water spaniel named Lucky Harbor who is far better behaved than my own dogs despite his love of swimming and fudge (which, in the interest of his health, translates to goldfish crackers). As with all good mystery tales, there’s a handful of suspects who may be responsible for the crimes.

I admit I’ve never been good at deducing whodunnit. Once I get to the end of a mystery, when the perpetrator is revealed, I can sometimes think back through the clues and realize what I missed. Some mysteries, though, are so convoluted that I have a hard time tracking back through the breadcrumbs. Agatha Christie’s novels are like that for me. Remember Ten Little Indians (aka And Then There Were None)? I suppose I should reread it and see if I can follow the clues, but as I recall, that particular mystery stymied me even after I finished the book. Of course, it’s been a few decades since, but I remember feeling mighty confused at the end.

I’ve just reached the big reveal in Five-Alarm Fudge, and I can–with 20/20 hindsight–see the little clues sprinkled through the story. With the number of suspects available, I started to wonder how a writer can lay out the plot in such a way the reader is kept guessing until the reveal. An outline or some other sort of plot map would be necessary just for the writer to keep things straight. But how complex would that plot sketch be? Does the writer map each suspect’s movements and interactions through the main story? What sort of organizing method works well for that?

I’ll have to ask Chris what she uses the next time I talk to her, but as I’m beginning the first revision of my current WIP, a mystery complete with multiple bodies, I’m working out how I can weave character paths together so the reader won’t figure things out too soon.

How do you construct a mystery that leads the reader through suspects and suspicious events? Do you use a mindmap? Notecards on a bulletin board? Lego figures? Beat sheets? I’m open to suggestions; I’m still trying to tune my process, and my outline just doesn’t seem like it’s working very well. I’m leaning toward using beat sheets; I’m going to try them out this week and see how they work.


Measuring Time, Author-Style

Humor with a touch of reality–or is it reality with a touch of humor? 🙂 Enjoy!

Nicholas C. Rossis

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I love helping out others, especially Indie authors. After all, I wouldn’t be here today had not some lovely people taken the time to help me out.

However, I do suffer from a chronic shortage of time. This is partly because of my reluctance to say no when people ask me for help. In my defence, though, most people are not entirely accurate when they estimate how long it will take to complete a given task.

Therefore, I think we need to be honest about, say, how much time our request for a “quick read” or a “quick review” will take. After all, unless we’re Steven King, we can’t seriously expect people to read our 500-page-long book in a weekend now, can we?

After all, we can no longer afford the luxury described in The Gentleman’s Handbook of Etiquette and Guide to Polite Society (1860), which…

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A Writer’s Perspective on Reading

I’m rarely caught without a book in hand or fewer than a couple dozen in my tablet. Reading contests in elementary school were no challenge–I read more books in a month than most kids read in a year. Reading is one of the core tenets of writing, along with writing every day.

Anna Dobritt -- Author


A Writer’s Perspective on Reading

Yes, I am a writer. I love to write. I love making up stories about unusual pictures such as abandoned buildings, foggy forests, ravens, and writing prompts. I’m even learning to write short personal essays, which are hard for me. However, I am also a reader. If I could figure out a way, I would read novels and non-fiction at the same time I’m writing my own stuff. I know, there are audible books, but it’s not the same as reading the actual words. I’ve listened to a few audible books and they were good, but I don’t get the same impact from reading the actual text.

I think my love of reading is genetic since both my parents loved to read. Dad enjoyed mysteries, science fiction, and fantasy, while mom enjoyed mysteries, the occasional thriller, and romance novels. Going to the library was always…

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It’s a subdued Tuesday. The weather is gray and has returned to the less-enjoyable cool that reminds us it’s still April in MN. Gray, windy, damp-ish, and bleh. Kinda like my malaise right now.

Writers experience a rollercoaster of varying moods. Our ups are fueled by getting lots of writing done in a day, sending queries out, starting/finishing new stories, or receiving useful feedback from CPs on a project. The down moods are sustained by rejections received from the last batch of queries, a plot stumbling block, or a glance at the calendar showing the volume of real life activities that cut into our writing time.

I love my story and my characters, and so do a number of my beta readers. The book’s been hammered, revised, fine-tuned, polished, and showered with hopeful energy. I’ve got readers anxious for the book, and a beta reader asking for the sequel. Self-publishing is an option, but I’d like to try for the traditional route, at least for a year or two. Rejection is part of the process, and a partial or full request means that I’m doing something right–someone was interested enough to want to see more. It just stings to get the “thanks, but it’s not for me” email. Sometimes the sting is worse, especially when it’s from an agent or publisher we felt would really connect with the book.

My Muse hands me a bottle of craft beer. “I told you not to get your hopes up, love.”

I accept the beer. He already popped the top off and snapped it across the room, nailing the trash bin, as usual. Show-off. It’s a good brew; he managed somehow to get his hands on a flavorful lager I tasted during my writing sisters reunion last year. “I usually don’t. You know that.”

“But because the publisher likes series, you thought they’d be interested. You finally wrote up that series outline just for them.”

“I’ve got the first book done, and the drafts for the next three books written. Hell, I’ve got solid plans for four more books.”

He leans forward, elbows on knees, beer bottle dangling from his fingers. “You knew your contest entry this year wasn’t going to do as well as the one from last year. You were still riding the low from that when you got the rejection. You know better.” He checks his watch. “I’ll give you a few more hours to mope, then we’re going to send out more queries. And then we’re going to dive back into revision mode for your WIP.”

“Hours? I need chocolate. Hell, I need a bubble bath, wine, and chocolate. It’s a delayed reaction to the fifty-plus rejections I’ve gotten since I started this game. I need more than hours. I need days.”

He snorts, finishes his beer, and glares at me with his intense blue eyes. “Bullshit. You’re feeling sorry for yourself. You’re a writer; suck it up. What is it you always say? Art is subjective. Just because you wouldn’t pay thousands of dollars for a piece of canvas painted via jet engine exhaust doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t. Remember how you felt about ‘Citizen Kane’?”

“You mean the Orson Welles movie that’s considered one of the best films of all time? Yeah. It sucked.”

“So you say. Just don’t tell that to all the people who like it.” He adds his empty bottle to the recycling bin and pulls a fresh one out of the mini-fridge he keeps stocked. “There’s someone out there who will love your book; it just might take a while to cross paths with him or her. Get your head back in the game, love. You will be ready to write when I get back.”

“When will that be?”

He opens his beer and snaps the bottlecap across the room. This time, he misses the trash. He saunters over, picks the cap up, and drops it in the bin. “Not going to tell you. Just be ready to write.” He vanishes.

I hate it when he does that. Would it kill him to use the door? Sigh. He’s right, of course, but don’t tell him that. He’s smug enough as it is.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep the positive attitude. We are allowed to mope every once in a while. The important part is to remember that we are artists with words, art is very subjective, and above all: don’t quit. We’re writers; we’ll go crazy if we don’t write. So climb out of the funk, strap on that creativity helmet, sharpen your wit, and get back in the game!

Also, take a peek at our new guest blog post over on MeetYourMainCharacter. Don’t forget to check out the Random Topic for the month: Memories of an Aircraft Mechanic.


From One WIP to Another

Spring feels like it’s finally moved in. Last week we had some much-needed April showers. This week, sunshine! No asparagus yet, but I’m watching for it. There’s no asparagus like fresh garden asparagus you can pick, steam, and eat. Or nix the steaming and just eat it raw. Yum!

My Muse is allowing me a bit of a break, since I’ve been good and worked on brainstorming the revised plot for my mystery. As for my fantasy WIP, I’m working with a couple CPs. They’ve been great about finding those little things that keep escaping the editing pen, such as my MC wearing an ivory sweater while attending a foaling. Duh! No one in their right mind would do that, but I didn’t notice it until she pointed it out. Critique partners are wonderful–if you haven’t found any yet, check out the Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup group. The Sub It Club also has a great post with more sources for critique partners.

Anyway, getting back to my task master Muse, we’ve been working on revising my mystery. It’s working out well at this point; I’ve got most of the brainstorming finished. Next step: update the outline, then dig into the draft. You’ve all been through the process, and you know a major rewrite is almost as much work (or more) than the original draft. Not really a problem, since it comes with the territory, but I’ve got two more story ideas rattling around in my head I’d sure like to get down on paper. Do you ever run into that? As soon as you get one story down in a rough draft, there’s two or three more that coalesce in your creative neurons. How many WIPs do you work on at a time? Right now I’ve got two that are active, and a half dozen that are rough drafts waiting their turns.

I like that I’ve got the ideas, but I don’t like the amount of time I know it’s going to take to whip those rough drafts into shape before I can dig into another one. I’ve got enough craft projects half-done (you know, the cross-stitch that you were going to finish when your first child was born seventeen years ago, and the latch hook (oh, gawd, I’m dating myself now) project that you tried to pawn off on your younger sister who still didn’t finish it). I just want to do all of them at the same time, but that’s just asking for frustration and a rebellious Muse. Besides, I don’t think my family would appreciate me spending every waking moment heads down on the computer. Oh, and the gardening season is coming up.

“Hey, break’s over, love.”

Oh, snap. Maybe I can bribe him. “Whaddya say to a couple craft beers and a piece of my pistachio dessert left over from Saturday’s family gathering?”

He’s got that look. I avoid his gaze by focusing on something else, like his broad shoulders, the sunburn on his forearms and back of his neck, the worn-white seams of his jeans…

He waves a hand in front of my eyes. “I’ve got a lovely orange jumpsuit with a wide collar from the late seventies if you find this outfit too distracting.”

Eew. I’ve seen a picture of that jumpsuit. He neglected to mention the bell-bottoms. I shudder to think people actually wore that. “I’m not distracted. I just don’t like when you glare at me.” That sounds legit, right?

“Liar.” He hands me my notebook and pencil. “Finish the final few scenes, and I’ll back off for a day.”

“Oh, boy, a whole day.” Sarcasm comes easy.

“Add the beer and dessert, and I’ll give you two days.”

“Best I’m going to get, isn’t it?”

“In a few weeks you’ll be out in the garden, so yes, that’s the most I’ll give you.”

Sigh. My Muse is great to work with, but sometimes he can be a little tough. Okay, a lot tough, but right now I need it because he’s right, in a few weeks I’ll be out in the garden instead of writing. “Fine.”

Happy Writing!


Writing Retreats and Happy Places

I just read an article that got me thinking about writing retreats and mental vacations (hey, no comments about absent minds 😉 ). It’s about happy places and why people consider those locales their very own Happy Place. Which just led me to think about writing retreats, including DIY writing retreats (great post here).

Which leads me to think about my own DIY writing retreat (pay no attention to the Muse laughing in the background). Living out in the country, about a mile and a half outside a small rural farming community, is nice in the respect that there’s less “urban noise”, and more greenery. On the other hand, not having a good office to myself for writing is something I’ve learned to deal with, and the reason I turn a nice shade of green when I hear about my writing friends spending hours in their office. With a “Do Not Disturb” note on the door (which, I understand, cats have a peculiar way of ignoring).

I have an opportunity to acquire a nice-sized (15′ x 8′) playhouse someone is selling. It’s 2×4 construction, with siding and two windows and enough room for an overnight siesta. Oh, to have a writing shack! We’d have to tuck it into the edge of the grove, yet close enough to the house so distance isn’t an excuse to avoid the trek. So why hesitate? My other half is known to absorb storage space like a thirsty sponge. The 15×8 space might just be too much of a temptation to put stuff there. Oh, and the $. It’s a reasonable price considering the size and construction, but I happened to come into very close contact with a deer this winter, so we need to replace/repair that vehicle.

Still, sooo tempting. And the seller has equipment to move it. And it’s just on the other side of town. So I’m rereading the DIY writing retreat article and writing my pro/con list. I wonder if I could deduct it as an expense on next year’s taxes…

Are you fortunate enough to have a place of your own to write, where it’s your territory? Is it an office? Writing shack? Rapunzel tower (my hubby promised me one of these, but I suspect my hair will be as long as hers before I get it)? Do you head to a hotel for a weekend when you really need to focus on getting those 20,000 words done? Another author I follow has a writing cabin complete with helipad (though I suspect that’s more happy place than real place)(Hope you don’t mind the mention, Craig). Maybe the real question is: does your Muse has his/her own room in your writing space?

Speaking of my Muse, he eased up when I told him I needed to finish revisions on another WIP before we got too deep into brainstorming. Right now he’s kicked back in the corner pretending he’s dozing, but he’s got my notebook and pencil at the ready.

May you enjoy a writing space that doubles as your happy space!


Oh, BTW, my writing teacher’s third book in her Door County series, Five-Alarm Fudge, is released today! Way to go, Chris!