Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Distractions

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Flowers along the walking path at work.

Okay, I admit it. I’ve gotten little to no writing done this week due to distractions. Yup, it was one of those weeks, where anything that could interrupt writing time can and did. From picking up my daughter after school to taking her to Urgent Care (Did you know that the joints between the sternum and the ribs can get inflamed? Neither did I.), and various home distractions such as (okay, fill in your list: spouse watching television, daughter singing to MP3 player music, same making commentary about One Direction fanfic (ad nauseum!), various household and gardening chores, etc.)

Another writer had a post along the same theme earlier this week, which is maybe what made me start thinking about how easily I get distracted when my story stalls. She had a great list of things that we use to fill our days until we get to the end of the day and realize we were so busy we didn’t write anything. At this point, it’s really my MC tweaks that are sucking me into the mire.

I can hear it now: No excuses! Get your butt in that chair and write! Come on, I am writing.

“It’s not your WIP.”

My shoulders tighten. He’s standing behind me, isn’t he? Not sure I should turn around. Maybe if I pretend I didn’t hear him…

“I know you heard me, love. You can’t ignore me. It’s my job to keep you on track with your writing.”

I turn. My Muse is leaning against the door jamb as usual, arms crossed on his chest, lips pressed together in a tight line. Those furrows on his forehead don’t inspire the good butterflies in my middle. More like the evil butterflies with sharp wings.

“I’m still writing.”

“It’s almost June. You need to send fifty pages of your WIP to your writing sisters in a month.”

“It’s almost summer; I’m busy. Did you see the weeds in the garden? I need to rescue my spinach and beets from the green villains.”

He approaches, leans over me, and points to the screen. “Fitting blog title. Distractions. You’re not busy, you’re distracted. Goes along with procrastination.” He straightens, rests a hand on the back of my chair. I can’t decide if he means it as a threat. “It’s supposed to rain today, so guess what you’re going to do tonight after work.” It isn’t a question, more like a statement. The way he says it makes me think of my petulant teens when I remind them of their chores.

“You know, I’ve been putting off a lot of household chores–”

He stops me with a strong hand on my shoulder and a firm squeeze. “And you have two teens at home who are finished with school for the year. You know how you need to adjust your MC, just do it already. And I’m going to shadow you to make sure you focus. No chocolate until you get your head in the game.”

Ah, okay. I just got a bag of nice Dove dark chocolate with almonds. And one with sea salt caramel. Mmm, chocolate.

He squeezes again, and this time it hurts. “Head in the game, love.”

Here’s to planning a productive writing weekend. Write on!


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Identity crisis?

It’s mid-week, and we’re on the uphill climb toward seasonable temps. Again. Who likes waking up to temperatures within 10 degrees of freezing a week before Memorial Day? Granted, we do live in MN, and having snow after May Day is not unheard of, but we had a week of “OMG, it feels like summer”, then “OMG, is it fall already?”, to “OMG, it’s too darn hot and sticky for May”, and now “WTF, Memorial Day is a week away and there’s frost warnings? Glad I didn’t plant my tomatoes or peppers yet”.

The cooler weather has been good for walks–not too hot or cold. Walks are always good for communing with the muses, and my Muse. There’s something about the process that fuels creativity and encourages brainstorming. One of my writing sisters calls it “walking meditation”. Today’s walk along a trail took me through a small wooded area resplendent in fresh spring greenery, columbine and violets, Canada geese lounging on a pond shore, and the highlight of my walk: two pairs of geese guarding their broods. There’s nothing quite like a gander hissing at you, and wondering if he feels threatened enough–even though you’re trying to be non-threatening–to charge. Luckily, he didn’t.

During my walk, I brainstormed about my WIP, since I’m working on the first round of revision. Then I realized what my MC was missing. I know her core fear, but the cause of that fear wasn’t as concrete as it needs to be to create a believable character. She needs a change in her backstory, which will change her character. It won’t be a huge change, but the added facet to her backstory will change how she behaves and reacts in certain situations. Sigh. Better now, though, than after half a dozen rounds of revision.

Have you completed a draft with a character, started revising, and discovered the character needs to be a different sort of person than s/he started out to be? Did you make the discovery before you’d gotten too far through the revision process, or did you get to the critique or beta reader stage, then have to go back and revise all over again?

I’ve only gotten through the first few scenes, so it won’t take too much to go back and make sure my MC acts and reacts based on her augmented backstory.

For those who are gardeners, especially in Zones 3 and 4 (you know who you are), Memorial Day weekend marks the safe time to plant the garden without fear of frost (unless you’re in North Dakota or northern MN). Get those seeds and plants in!


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Time Flies!

I looked at the calendar yesterday as I was trying to figure out how to coordinate a number of family appointments, etc. OMG! Two weeks–TWO–until the end of the school year.

Ack!

It wouldn’t do to have a calm, relaxed last two weeks of school, either. Nope, gotta get an awards night in, a field trip to the art museum, a tree-planting day for the tennis team (a good thing!), a Senior High Community Service day (a good thing!), a Junior High dance, a field trip to the Valleyfair amusement park (think a scaled back, wanna-be-Six-Flags-type park), etc. all in the next two weeks, and that’s not counting finals. Best toss in a holiday and orthodontist appointment(s) somewhere in there as well.

Why, oh why so much crammed into the last two weeks of the school year? Granted, my kids are teens–one in junior high, the other in senior high, and thank goodness one of them can drive, but still, I feel like we’ll be more busy in the next couple weeks than we’ve been since the holidays. Then again, next year my son graduates from high school, so maybe this year’s activities aren’t so bad compared to what they’ll be next year.

My biggest complaint is the erosion of my writing time. The garden’s been planted, and now begins the great weed chase. It’s like Whack-a-Mole: there’s one; oh, there’s another; hey, I just pulled one there; dammit there’s two more; I thought I dug that dandelion out; WTF–those weeds weren’t there yesterday! Needless to say, weedy carnival games + later sunsets = less writing time. Rainy days = a great excuse to stay out of the garden and write instead!

On the bright side, weeding is pretty mindless, so it’s an opportunity to brainstorm story ideas, plot lines, characters, and blog posts. Oh, and I can talk to my Muse without anyone thinking I’m more nuts than they already do. 😉

“Hey, are you talking about me again?” My Muse appears, hands in the pockets of his well-worn jeans (he does wear them well 😉 ). He peers over my shoulder at the computer screen. “You don’t talk to me when you’re weeding. You talk to yourself.”

“Back off. It’s my blog post, and I’m already two days late with it.”

He leans a hip against my desk. “If you talked to me while you weed, you wouldn’t have to take walks to talk to me. You could use that time to write.”

“That’s so not the purpose of taking my walks. It’s my way of mitigating stress. Besides, I run now during the nice weather.”

He chuckles. “Yes, and you listen to audio books instead of working on your writing. You can write to mitigate stress, you know.”

“With audio books I can kill two birds with one stone–and don’t you dare call me on the cliche. Aren’t you supposed to be working on something?”

“I’m working on you. You need to get moving on your WIP.”

“Hello–awards night last night. That was an hour and a half. And I read through the contest critique for my fantasy. Need to revise that again so I can submit a partial.”

He crouches next to me so his face is level with mine. His blue eyes remind me of spring skies. “WIP first, then the fantasy you’ve been pounding on for the past ten years.”

“But it’s a partial request.”

“How much revision do you need to do on your fantasy?” Before I can answer, he waves a finger at me. “I’ll give you two days to work on the partial of your fantasy to submit, then you will set it aside and work on your WIP. Rainy weekend ahead, so you should be able to get some writing done.”

“Saturday morning is pegged to running errands in–”

He waves his finger in my face. “Ah, ah, ah, no excuses, or I’m going to dog your ass until you can’t think of anything but writing.”

“And how is that different from any other day?”

A sinister smile oozes onto his face, along with a dark glint in his eyes. “Remember when I reminded you how I can stop playing fair?”

Gulp. It took me hours to shake off the emotional whiplash from those conflict climax scenes from my various manuscripts. They’d run the gamut of anger, despair, fear, and lust. “Yes,” I answer, but my voice wavers.

“I’m prepared to stop playing fair. And next time, all your brainstorming scene work is fair game.”

I think my heart is still where it’s supposed to be, but I can’t feel it beating. I wrote those scenes because I had to get them out of my head, and they don’t fit into any current projects; they are parts of future projects on my list. Most of them have high emotional intensity between characters, more so than in most of my finished drafts. If he pulls those into his arsenal, it won’t be pretty.

“Looks like you get it. I’ll see you later.” He straightens and vanishes.

Sometimes I wish he wasn’t such a taskmaster, but I need him to be. Note to self: pick up some chocolate on the next shopping run 🙂

Have a great day, everyone, and Write On!


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Writing and Body Language

What a great list! This is something to keep accessible, especially during revisions when you’re trying to keep the dialog scenes moving. Thanks, Jen!

Jens Thoughts

I find one of the most talked about topics in writing is “show don’t tell”. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I try not to I still do, and I also find myself repeating words or not describing actions well.

I stumbled on this list of body language for us to keep near us while writing.

body-language-for-writers

he lowered his head
she hung her head
he ducked
she bowed her head
he covered his eyes with a hand
she pressed her hands to her cheeks

she raised her chin
he lifted his chin

her hands squeezed into fists
his hands tightened into fists
she clenched her fists
she balled her fists
he unclenched his fists
her arms remained at her sides

he shrugged
she gave a half shrug
he lifted his shoulder in a half shrug
she gave a dismissive wave of her hand

she raised a hand in greeting
he…

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First time writers: Ready, Set, Bleed!

Even though I’ve been writing for years, this advice is still relevant. It reminded me to step back and really remember what I need to do.

Anna Dobritt -- Author

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First time writers: Ready, Set, Bleed!

The day has arrived, you tell yourself. This is the day I’m going to become an author! No more working at McDonald’s or that dead-end office job. I’ve got a best seller in my mind that will take the world by storm! So what do you do first?

Don’t give up your regular job unless you are able to afford it. If you have a spouse that earns a decent income and you’re working just to have something to do, talk it over with them. You may have a great story to tell, but wanting to rely on that one idea  to earn money is the quickest path to ruin. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a book. You will become annoyed, frustrated, and angry. Many times you will question your decision to become a writer. You will feel alone and…

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Beating the Garden Drum

garden 2015It’s time. The way the weather has been for the past week, we’re pretty sure we won’t get frost anymore this spring. Every year is different. Last winter we had snow in May, so we had to wait to put the garden in. This year it’s been dry, but warm.

Typically in MN, the safe date to put the garden in is Memorial Day weekend. The problem is, we have a short enough growing season that some veggies, like bell peppers and winter squash, may not have enough time to get ripe before the plants succumb to frost at the end of summer. The peppers don’t have a chance to turn red and the winter squash don’t develop the hard rinds needed to keep them good through Christmas.

So, we like to plant as early as soon as we’re certain we won’t get any more frosts. Some veggies are okay with light frosts, but we usually have trouble getting the garden prepped that early. This year, though, we got a three-point* tiller for the tractor. It works so well my hubby tilled the garden over and over just because it was fun!

In case you’re wondering, my garden (see the pic 🙂 ) is about 75′ by 30′. Yeah, I know, it’s HUGE. Every year I tell myself I’m going to do a smaller garden. Ha! The worst part is weeding. We mulch what we can, but that’s a LOT of mulch. After weeks of weeding, watering, and hoping the weather cooperates, the taste of that first ear of corn, or the first cucumber, or the first ripe tomato, makes it worth it.

Well, except when I’m being eaten alive by mosquitoes or it’s hot enough to melt tar.

With a garden, one should plan what veggies go where. By keeping a record, you can make sure you rotate the veggies the next year. By rotating where each vegetable gets planted, you confuse the bad bugs, or at least that’s the theory. My plan this year was set, until my hubby got till-happy. So, back to the drawing paper. Which leads my wandering mind back to writing and planning. Planning a book is kind of like planning a garden. An outline allows you to lay out your scenes (rows of veggies). If you want to shuffle scenes around, it’s easier to do it in the outline than in the manuscript. I use Scrivener, and one of the nice things about it is you can drag scenes around if you like, but if you use something like Word, it’s not as easy, so planning becomes even more important.

Which reminds me. I’ve been working with beat sheets to fine-tune my WIP’s plot. I like the opportunity to really think about each scene. When I do my outline, I don’t get into the scene detail. I don’t think I know the story well enough until I finish the rough draft ala NaNoWriMo. If you’re a planner, how detailed is your outline? Do you outline each scene, or just hit the waypoints of the plot?

I love spring, I love the idea of growing my own vegetables, but I don’t like how my writing time shrinks. I look forward to rainy days so I have an excuse to write more!

*Three-point refers to the mount on a tractor that has three points of attachment to an implement. The top attachment is a pivot, and the lower two are hydraulic cylinders that raise and lower the implement. The whole arrangement is set up like a triangle. You can find more info here: Explanation of a three-point hitch.