Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Head Above Water

It’s almost here–the New Year!

I’m still pounding on my WIP. I can see the end, and I’m anxious to get there, but I feel like so many other things need to be done ASAP, like the FAFSA for my son (who graduates this spring from high school), scholarship applications for same, research for broken appliances and vehicles (repair or replace?), writing contest entries, writing conference signup, oh boy.

The cold stalking me (courtesy, I’m sure, of all the little kids I saw over the holidays) is threatening to take me down, but I’m trying to hold it at arm’s length, at least until I get my WIP draft finished. The problem: to fend it off, I need to rest/nap, which equals no writing (haven’t gotten the hang of sleep-writing yet).

So, if I seem a bit withdrawn, no worries. I’m writing. Promise! (note to self: take a few extra days off to finish WIP next time)

Got your list of resolutions for the new year finished? Neither do I. I’ve got a couple things on it, though:

  1. Be more cheerful with family. (I can hear the chorus of “huh”s in the background) I think it started when I was a teen, going through the hormone-driven emotional roller coaster so many of us are familiar with. That lasted until my late twenties, when I had a near-breakdown courtesy of postpartum depression. To compensate for the low lows (I think; I wouldn’t touch a psychology class with a 29.5 foot pole), I try not to go too high emotionally. It’s a bit of a drop to the lows from the highs, so I try to stay in the middle. Not necessarily good for the rest of the family, when Mom is seldom upbeat. I’m aware of it, and just need to be mindful.
  2. Focus on writing. Yes, this has a permanent spot on my list, but I start to slack around the holidays because there just isn’t any time for it with all the holiday-ing, and I get out of the habit. I won’t be able to finish my WIP draft tonight, but I’ve got the weekend and Monday off. And my Muse is prepped with craft beer and chocolate. Look out, words!
  3. Get an agent. Gotta have something somewhat out of my control on here, right? I’ve got high hopes for my WIP, and I’ve gotten some good advice for my current mss, so the plan is to get the WIP draft done, tweak my mss, then back to work my WIP draft into shape by April, when I’ll be attending the Writer’s Institute at UW-Madison. I’m getting closer, judging by a slow rise of interest in my mss this year, including a near-miss for a mentor in Pitch Wars.
  4. Smaller garden, so I have more time to write in the summer. Maybe I should bold this one, and make the font bigger. And highlight it.

Then I started thinking about resolutions, and why we bother when most of the time we forget by Easter just what we resolved. Another writer, who has a great blog about Irish myth and a YA fantasy series based on Irish myth, has a timely post about New Year’s Day and the various stories behind it, including a probable reason we continue to make resolutions. Check it out here: The Ancient Babylonians Invented New Year’s Resolutions. Stay a while and check out Ali’s other posts. My fantasy novel is based on Irish myth, and Ali is a great resource if that’s what you’re interested in.

May you greet 2016 with a whoop and a hollar!

May your writing be better than it was last year.

May your family be blessed with health, happiness, and prosperity.

May your muses continue to inspire you.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

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Happy Holidays!

May your travels be safe.

May your family be sane.

May you enjoy fellowship in your wanderings/gatherings.

May your carols be in-tune.

May you still find time in all the hustle and bustle to WRITE!

Even if it’s a paragraph. Even if it’s a dashed mad rant about your over-affectionate octogenarian relative. Even if it’s a heartfelt thank you. Find time to write.

WRITE. Can you hear me now?

I’ve been slacking the past few days, but in my defense, I got my cookies baked! Now, to guard them against the horde until Christmas Eve, when I have no available freezer space and an unusually warm December in MN.

To all of you and yours:

mrgifholiday1

 

 


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Mind over Main Character

Anyone who’s been popping in to read my blog knows I’ve been stuck in slow-mo with my WIP. The reasons are many, the biggest of which, I think, besides RL distractions, is a lack of connection to my MCs.

Sometimes, I can relate to my characters right off the bat because they resonate with me in some way. With this project, I’ve done the requisite character sketches, character building, and mental mind-melds, but I just couldn’t connect with them.

This weekend, something happened to change that. I’m not sure what, whether it boils down to “damn the torpedoes, full-steam ahead” intention to brow-beat the characters into submission, or I finally “click” with them, but I’ve managed to tap into their minds.

At some point during the first draft, I think I connected with them, but once I deep-sixed the original storyline and replaced it with a shinier one, I lost the connection.

Do you ever run into that? You create characters, mainline into their heads, then something happens to break the connection. Is it because they change in a way you don’t expect? Is it because you’ve rerouted the plot? Or maybe you didn’t have a true connection to begin with when you created them.

*Knock, knock*

I turn. Sigh. “What now?”

My Muse is leaning against the door jamb, hands tucked into the front pockets of his well-worn jeans, wearing a red and black plaid flannel shirt unbuttoned, with a white thermal shirt underneath, sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms. One of my personal fave looks for him, but I’m not going to tell him that. His slow smile is a bit lopsided. “I’m proud of you, love.”

Um, this is unexpected. “Ah, okay. No ‘get your ass to work’? No ‘stay in your room until you get the next scene written’? Are you ill?”

The smile turns into a full-on grin. “No. I’m basking in the glow of a writer who’s finally thinking about her WIP, and not just when she’s in her writing room, but all the time.” He staggers the last three words. “You know that’s key. You can’t not think about the story when you’re connected to it.”

“I beg to differ.”

“You won’t think about it as often if you’re not truly connected to it. Why do you suppose you’ve been having so much trouble with this WIP? You haven’t started really thinking about it until a few days ago.”

“I have been thinking about it.”

He pushes off the wall and saunters toward me. He sure seems smug. “You have, but you haven’t. A writer needs to live the story in here,” he touches my forehead, “and here,” he touches my sternum over my heart, “to direct the most creative energy. It works the best for rough drafts, the ones where you compose the core story. Revision needs it too, but a lot of revision is sanding off the edges you’ve left and fine-tuning the details, unless you’re adding scenes.

“When you steer your thought process toward the story, it’ll click eventually, and you’ll have a direct line into it.” He wraps an arm around my shoulders and pulls me in. “Now, was that worth weeks of angst?”

He smells like a cozy fire and hot cocoa. Very distracting, yet comforting. I did it. I tapped into my story so I can (re)write it. “I suppose, when you take Real Life into account.”

“The more often you do it, the better you’ll get.”

As with almost anything.

“So, it should be no problem for you to get that deep revision done by New Year’s Eve.”

Er, okay. I guess I’m digging in deep the next couple weeks.

Good luck, all, on your upcoming holiday preparations. I’ve still got cookies to bake, but with almost zero freezer space and an unseasonally warm December in MN (warm December = no outdoor freezer), I’ll have to wait until next week to do my baking. There’s nothing like fresh cookies!

 

 

 


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Priorities

I realized something this week. Well, last week. My oldest child is now 18.

Let that sink in for a minute.

My first stories were published while I was pregnant with him. I even got paid real money for one of them, not contributor copies.

I toyed with my writing from that point on, since Real Life demanded more of my attention. I still wrote, but I didn’t (couldn’t?) focus on the goal of getting published again.

Until my mother was in hospice. I realized if I really wanted to get published, that is, publish a novel, I needed to get moving. I’d putzed around with my stories, finished the first iteration of my fantasy novel, written various scenes as they burned to escape my head, but I wasn’t focused on writing. I had two kids, a full-time job, a monster garden, … did I mention the kids?

The summer after my mom passed, now ten years ago, I read an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about a group in the Twin Cities that participated in a novel-writing marathon every year. NaNoWriMo.

I remember the “fire in my belly” when I read through the article. This was it. NaNoWriMo was my ticket, a way to get my shit together and start focusing on my writing again. I had an almost-eight-year-old and a five-year-old, but I needed to write.

I knew I could write passable fiction–hell, I’d been published. I also knew, however, that there was more to writing than I thought. It’s kinda that way with everything, isn’t it? Parenting, working, even the whole being married thing. The whole Real Life thing.

My wonderful hubby (don’t know how I snagged him, and certainly don’t know how he’s put up with me for so many years) gave me time to write. Still gives me time (hell, he makes me go write when I become unbearably aggravated because I’m not writing).

Ten–wait, eleven NaNoWriMos, a stint on a writing critique website (thank you to RedRider, Dawn, Les, Helen, and my other mentors from Fanstory.com), a couple online classes, writing books, Writer’s Digest magazine, a writing conference, and a week-long writing retreat in a Master Novel class later, I’m here.

I try to focus on writing even through the RL time commitments, including a full-time job, a house that doesn’t get the cleaning and organizing attention necessary to prevent embarrassment when visitors show up, and the various parenting oversight an 18-year-old boy needs to prepare for graduation and subsequent college (read: grad pics, scholarship apps, college registration,  job hunting, you get the picture). Add to that a teen-aged daughter (if you’ve ever had one, ‘nuf said), and RL really starts eating into my writing time.

Oh, boy. Did you catch that? Real Life is important, but dammit, so is my writing.

Right now I’m deep into a heavy revision I want–need–to finish by the end of the year. So, where does my time go? Full-time job, check–can’t go without that one. Hubby, check–he picks up my slack on the homefront (and it’s a lot of slack, but he’s a stay-at-home dad/handyman/mechanic/cook/hug-supplier). Kids, check–counting down to the day my daughter leaves for college. Household chores, check–I clean (hate it), it gets dirty again, but there is a limit to the procrastination. Christmas stuff, check–baking, still gotta get the kids’ gifts, etc.

RL or writing? Both would be ideal. But I can’t prioritize writing all the time. To all those writers who have no children (or grown children), have a spouse that works so they can stay home to write, are retired, or have enough resources while devoting time to writing, I envy you.

Real Life has farther-ranging consequences than my writing. Each day is its own, and priorities change day by day. Today, writing. Tomorrow, RL?