Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Feedback + Brainstorm = Revisions

I open the door to my writing office.

And stop.

Colored index cards cascade across my writing desk atop a collection of notebooks, along with an assortment of writing instruments. Hey, that’s where my purple highlighter went.

The white board has copied itself to another wall, but instead of my plotline, the new board is covered with titled lists for a couple of the characters in my WIP.

Two recliners flank the small refrigerator in the corner, and a wicker basket filled with microwave popcorn and Ghirardelli chocolates occupy a small table nearby. A stuffed Toothless toy dragon guards the basket.

Hoo boy. And my Muse is nowhere in sight. Outside the window the vista morphs into a scene overlooking forested hills with trees just starting to change into their autumn colors. The rolling gurgle of a stream over rocks accompanies the view.

“Will this work for you, love?” My Muse comes up behind me and nudges me the rest of the way into my writing office so he can close the door. He’s wearing his burgundy henley, sleeves shoved to his elbows, and jeans. He smells like apple cider and rain and that indescribable scent men have when they come in from working outside that makes you want to–er, cuddle with them on the couch and watch a movie (That’s what I was going to say. Honest 🙂 ). You know, before they get really sweaty and smelly.

I shake off the distraction. “What the hell?”

He crosses to the corner and pulls a bottle of New Glarus Brewery’s Moon Man from the fridge. “What do you mean, ‘what the hell’? You’ve got a direction, you’ve got a deadline, and I’m not going to let you screw that up. You’re too close.” He wraps me in a warm embrace ending with a hearty pat on my back before he opens the beer and hands it to me. “I’m proud of you, love. You’re almost there.”

I feel like someone set up a surprise party for me but forgot to tell anyone to show up. “Um, o-kay. I still have a good couple months of work to do, so why all this?”

He frowns. “Really? You’re not feeling the creative vibe here?” He moves to the window. The scenery adjusts to show less hills, more green trees with blushes of autumn pink, orange, and gold. A light breeze smells like forest and earth and fall. “Better?”

“Look, this is all great, but I need to map out my edits before this.” I start to return the beer, but hesitate. Why waste good brew? I mean, he went through the trouble of opening it for me. “This is serious.”

“I know it is. You are so close. This is your chance, love. We’re going to get these revisions done, polished, reviewed by beta readers, and sent off by the end of November. This is it. I can feel it.” He tugs me toward the second white board. “Here are your notes. We need to refine the ‘what-if’ scenarios and figure out where to make the changes.” He picks up a marker and starts another list. “I wonder if I should invite Sierra and Quinn back.” He turns to me. “Would that help?”

“No. The feedback is for the victim’s character thread, a little for Sierra’s brother’s thread, and other bits and pieces. I can revise the final confrontation without them. They’d only interfere, anyway. They’re not going to like one of the changes I’m going to make.” I know writing–well, revision–is a ton of work. I can make those changes without screwing up the rest of the story, right?

A dark figure appears. Doubt.

My Muse glares at it. It vanishes with a squeak of protest. “I’m going to lock that damn Doubt up with your Night Fury.” He grabs my shoulders and shakes me until I meet his eyes. “You got this. There’s a reason things happened the other day, remember that. You got this, love.”

I had a wonderful experience this week that equals another step toward my goal. It’s finally hitting me, after a day of surreal shock. I’m really doing this. Back to two- and three-hour sessions after work to get the revisions done. No NaNoWriMo for me this year, breaking my 12-year streak, but I proved to myself last year I can do a NaNo writing marathon any time I want to (take that, 50k words in 28 days–HA!).

Have a great weekend, and WRITE!!

 

 

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Revise, Revisit, and Revamp

(Okay, I cheated on the title since revise and revamp are synonyms, but it’s the rule of threes I tell you 😀 )

I reach over for my coffee, a Kona blend from Hawaii with hints of white chocolate and macadamia nut. The current view from my writing office overlooks bird-of-paradise and hibiscus bushes outside at the feet of papaya trees. I can hear the faint rumble of a waterfall in the distance, behind the sounds of the stream burbling over rocks just outside.

My Muse enters without knocking, as usual. He’s still wearing the Vikings jersey, and well-worn (in every sense of the adjective) jeans. “What’s with the Hawaiian theme?”

“It’s been a good week.”

“Hawaiian good?” He picks up the mug I just set down and sniffs it before sipping. “Hawaiian coffee, too?”

“I figured I’d run with the theme for now.”

He wanders to the window. “You’re not slacking, are you?”

“I’m revising, you know that. Hell, you went all Indiana Jones on my ass and canceled your pub crawl to make sure I dug in.”

He turns from the window and smiles that crooked grin that melts a little something inside. “It worked. Besides, Mae’s got Mr. E on house arrest anyway while she works on book 3.”

I reach for my mug, and realize he’s still got it. I’m going to have to make another pot if he’s gonna bogart my coffee. “That’s my cup.”

“Get a different one. I haven’t had Kona for a while.” He sips my java as he wanders to the wall-sized white board. Frowns. “Where are the new threads?”

“I haven’t worked them through yet. I’m still not sure how to weave them in.”

He takes a marker. “If you’re going to go with the agent’s suggestions–and I strongly recommend it because they make sense–you need to reference the brother’s added thread here,” he makes a note on my timeline, “here, and here. If you work with your victim’s thread,” he takes a different colored marker, “you need to adjust here and here for sure. Probably here as well.” He scribbles something.

I join him at the board. “What on earth does that say?”

He peers at his handiwork, then wipes it off with the side of his fist and rewrites it. “Can you read it now?”

Revenge. “Really? That’s quite the trope. I was going to soften her a bit.”

“But if she’s thinking of payback for what happened …”

“How’s that better than blackmail?”

He finishes the coffee and heads to the coffeemaker for a refill. “It’s the personal connection that counts. Revenge requires it to be more personal. The closer the personal connection between the victim and the antagonist, the higher the stakes. That’s Mystery and Suspense 101. Bonus points if there’s a connection between the protagonist and the antagonist.”

I follow the thread. “I just cut five hundred words, and I still need to cut. How am I supposed to add these without bumping my word count back up? I’ll need to add a scene to make the brother’s thread change work.”

He rests an arm around my shoulders. “No, you won’t, love. Well, maybe. Depends on how you handle it.”

“Any suggestions?”

He squeezes my shoulders. “Lots. Let’s get started.”

Isn’t it funny/aggravating when a what-if question or suggestion makes you realize the story has to include that idea? Like a head-slapping “duh” moment?

Yeah, it’s like that.

Sigh. And after I’ve submitted it to agents. Ugh. At least I haven’t gone too far in the submission process quite yet. Small-ish changes, but they’ll round out a couple threads nicely.

Have a great weekend!

 


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Another Step Closer

The old storyteller tradition isn’t around much anymore. We’ve evolved from villages gathering around a communal fire and listening to stories of history and gods to putting those stories and so many more on real or electronic paper and letting people from far outside our community share them.

This writing life is a long one. It can be ponderous at times, fraught with perils such as Doubt, Writer’s Block, and Lack of Inspiration.

Every hazard, though, can be overcome by sheer determination. Some call it stubbornness. Some call it not knowing when to quit. Some call it persistence.

I like the last one. Reminds me of the story Hank Phillippe Ryan told at the Writers’ Institute this past spring, the one about how her editor loved her story, but the board shot it down. She rewrote it, and it did sell. Same with Stephen King, how he tossed one of his first manuscripts when no one was interested in it, and his wife rescued it and told him to keep going.

It’s tough, though, to keep going when you feel like you’ve done so much work, learned so much about the craft, followed the advice of the heavyweights like Donald Maass and Anne Lamott and Stephen King, spent years polishing and honing and editing and writing. You belong to writers’ groups, have a critique partner or three, even go to writing conferences once or twice a year.

And nothing happens. Crickets. Queries sent into cyberspace fall into a cyber black hole. Live pitches to agents fail to garner material requests. Contest entries and pitch parties are nothing more than distractions. (confession time: not my experience. I’ve gotten more positive results than that.)

So you take your precious manuscript, the one you’ve sweated and worried over, the one you’ve edited to within an inch of its life, and chuck it into a dark, dusty corner of that desk you never use. You look at the shelf of writing books, and wonder how many knickknacks those same shelves could hold. Maybe you could fit your entire state bird plate collection on them. Or remove the shelves and hang your grandmother’s memory quilt on the wall. That should cover it.

I think most writers have been there. Maybe not to the reject-all-writing level, but we’ve wondered, more often than not it sometimes seems, why the hell we subject ourselves to this torture. I mean, if a kid loves football, plays throughout elementary and middle school, takes private lessons, and never gets picked for the varsity team even though he always tries out, he’s wasted all that time, energy, and money. He may as well put that energy into something more achievable, like fishing.

The thing with writers, though, is we can’t stop. If we stop writing, we go a little insane. All those stories in our heads just build and build until our head explodes and all those stories get splattered over everything in sight.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Persistence. Some writers are blessed/cursed with it. It’s not that we don’t know when to give up, it’s that we can’t give up.

Each small success is another step closer. Finish a short story? One step. Send the story out? Another step. Actually get it published? A big step. Finish a whole novel? Another step. And we continue on our journey. A short story writer’s goal might be inclusion in an anthology or publication in a widely-read periodical. A novel writer’s goal is to get that novel into the hands of readers, onto the shelves at Barnes and Noble, maybe even onto the racks at Walmart or Target.

So many steps to get there. Some writers are fortunate enough to get there faster than others, but persistence is the key. And persistence does pay off. See, if you got this far, you’re persistent 😀

I am fortunate to know many wonderful writers. It’s amazing how small the writing community seems, yet so far-ranging and encouraging. One of my writing friends mentioned a pitch contest I’d never heard of, so I figured, what the heck. I’d already tossed in for Pitch Wars and missed, but I did get some good feedback.

So, I did PitMad this week and the pitch contest my friend told me about. And I got positive responses from multiple agents.

Another step closer.

I got an R&R request from another agent, along with a lot of good feedback.

Another step closer.

I’m going to get there. Step by step.


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Of Night Furies and Doubt

I sit at my desk in my writing office, fighting to keep my eyes open. Ever have those days, the ones when you can’t keep your eyes open for some reason? I lean my head back and stare at the ceiling. As I watch, the boring suspended ceiling tiles turn into a mosaic that reminds me of looking through tree leaves to the sky.

nightfury1A growl outside the office, then a high-pitched whine and sharp BOOM! Then an angry voice touched with an Australian accent. The door to my office opens, and I catch the tail end of the rant. “… I don’t fecking care if you can take down a bewilderbeast. I will kick your sorry ass to World’s End and back.” My Muse closes the door behind him and brushes at a charred hole on the shoulder of his rugby jersey.

“Bloody fecking dragon. This is one of my favorite shirts.” He glares at me. “Why the hell is your conscience a Night Fury? What’s wrong with a cricket?”

“Did you see my writer’s doubt out there?”

“No.”

“That’s why.” Besides, I love dragons. Always have, especially Anne McCaffery’s Pernese ones. And Temeraire (Naomi Novak). And …

“Judging by the amount of writing you’ve gotten done, I say it’s not doing a very good job keeping Doubt away.” He heads toward a small chest of drawers in a corner of the  office, pulls out a purple jersey with an NFL tag on it, then peels off his rugby shirt.

Oh. My. Sigh. I drink in the view of well-toned masculine scenery before he pulls the Vikings jersey on. He meets my eyes with his. “Not that I mind your appreciation, but you need to focus, love.” He tosses the rugby shirt into the trash can beside my desk.

“I’ve gotten the first chapter revised.”

He crosses his arms on his fine chest. “It’s been a week. You haven’t been outside in the garden because of the mosquito swarms, you’ve been home every night, so why have you only done one chapter? You should be through the first quarter of the book by now.”

Something dark flits past.

My Muse snaps his hand out like a snake striking.

An unearthly screech is choked out by his fist around something that reminds me of a Dementor without the whole Edvard Munch Scream thing going on. He shakes it. “This is the deal, Doubt. You leave my writer alone, or I’ll lock you up with her conscience in a tiny, blast-proof room. Then we’ll see how long you last. Got it?”

The thing sticks out its tongue and makes a raspberry sound, then dissipates into a vapor trail that exits through the window.

“It’ll be back.” I lean back to stare at my leafy canopy mosaic.

“Not for a while, love.” His face appears in my field of view. The lines on his forehead and his frown don’t bode well for me. “Get to work.”

I want to. I’m stuck in the rut Doubt dug. I did, however, have a break-through with my first chapter revision. “I’m letting my revision rest.”

He sits on the corner of my desk. “You are procrastinating and you know it. Send the revision to your mentor and let her review it. You need to dig into the rest. Start from the end and work forward. Start from the beginning and work back. Hell, start from the middle and work one direction, I don’t care. You’ve got a pitch party coming up next week.”

“My son’s home this weekend.”

“Your point? He’s only an hour away, and only been at school for a couple weeks. It’s a holiday weekend; you have an extra day to write. Use it.” A fedora appears on his head along with a curled bullwhip in his hand. I can almost hear the theme from Indiana Jones playing in the background. “I’m canceling my pub crawl with Mr. E this weekend so I can stay on your ass.”

Gulp.

Okay, time to buckle down. On the great news front, one of my writing sisters just got a contract for her third MG book, my blogging friend’s latest is selling well, and to top it off, my writing mentor and her writing partner are now listed in the IMDb. Their script is in pre-production. Lots of great stuff happening.

I’ll get there. I know I will. Patience, persistence, and continuing to hone this craft will get me there.

And chocolate.

And craft beer.

And dragons. 😀

 


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Omniscient POV versus Head-Hopping

Love this! Great reminder, and good explanations of each POV. Reminds me that when one is a bestselling, multi-genre author, breaking the “rules” on a regular basis bugs those of us who are trying to work within them (yes, N.R.) 😉

Myths of the Mirror

Omniscient

Today, I’m going a little techie for all the writers out there. This is another one of my “learn by failure” posts.

When we write, we strive for stories that will grip our readers. We want an emotional investment, and the best way to do that is to immerse our readers inside our character’s head, heart, and skin, the deeper the better. The reader sees, hears, smells, and experiences what the character does, up close and personal.

When I started writing, I was a point-of-view “head-hopper.” I wanted to share every character’s thoughts and feelings in every scene. My writer’s group rolled their eyes and eventually critiqued it out of me. I learned the hard way – by rewriting my entire book!

Head-hopping is a common glitch in early writing as authors learn the ropes. It’s often confused with a Third Person Omniscient Point of View. So, what’s the difference?

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