Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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The Days After

Hope you all (in the US) enjoyed your Thanksgiving occasion without too much politicking, eating of yummy stuff, and shopping.

Ugh. Shopping. I’m an armchair shopper; you couldn’t pay me enough to battle the masses for in-store deals.

Well, okay, if I was getting a free shopping spree or something I’d manage.

I’ve got both Thanksgiving Day and the infamous “Black Friday” off of work as paid holidays (Yay!!) My son is home from college, my daughter has no school, and I didn’t have to cook for Turkey Day. I had two things that I wanted to take BF pricing advantage of.

There. Shopping done–for now. The kids haven’t gotten their lists together yet. I’ve got an extended weekend to catch up on stuff. I should clean… Um, I’m sure I have a reason to procrastinate on that.

Just before Turkey Day I sent my revised WIP to the agent who requested the revise and resubmit.

Hurry up and wait. And pray. And cross my fingers.

Now what? Dig into another book that needs revision? Which one? Another romantic mystery? My contemporary fantasy? Oh, I know. I need to come up with ideas for more books using my WIP characters (suggested by said agent).

I never thought about more adventures with those characters. My detective mystery, yes–I’ve got the next three books drafted. This one, though, not so much. Maybe I just haven’t gone that far yet; I’ve been focusing on polishing this installment.

I love the characters, and I love the setting and the premise, but I honestly never thought much beyond this book, though in the back of my mind I knew the possibility existed that I’d need to come up with something more for them.

No time like the present.

Sometimes stories start out as multiple episodes, like my detective series. But what if the story doesn’t start out that way? How do you come up with additional adventures for your characters?

Brainstorm! *sets up the brainstorming wall*

Yep. *looks around for colorful brain clouds amassing for a deluge* Uh-huh. *searches the horizon* O-kay. Any time, now.

I got nothin’.

Now what? You created the characters, breathed life into them, put them through conflicts and trials and heartache and, eventually, success of some sort. They survive to the end of the story, and you wish them good luck and move on to another story with other characters.

Except you need to go back to those characters, knock on their doors, and present them with a new itinerary.

Granted, nothing is for sure in this business, but it doesn’t hurt to be proactive. So, how does one go about creating more adventures for characters you love but just didn’t expect to spend more time with?

Everyone’s process is different. I know the appeal of my characters lies in their professions and the setting, so those are good places to start. My main protagonist works in the aviation industry, something I think people will want to read about, so I need to stick with that. Airports. Air shows. Air museums. Air guitars–er, maybe not. My other character is in law enforcement, so that falls naturally into a mystery.

My characters are developed, so I can shortcut that a bit, even though each adventure should encourage them to change a little. Now what? I need at least one dead body, multiple suspects, and a solid motive. The victim and/or the suspects and/or the culprit should have some sort of tie to the main characters. There needs to be conflict. My main characters have to be threatened somehow, have to have an “all hope is lost” moment, and need to come out on top in the end.

I cracked open a fresh notebook for the project, a two-subject one so I can use each section for a different story. And stared at the blank page.

So I started with the setting. I figured if I could at least give myself a starting point, I’d have something to work with. Then I added the big 6: Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why. Then started throwing ideas at the brainstorming wall.

p_20161126_073605_cr The more I tossed ideas around, the more that stuck to the wall as possibilities for the new story. I’m up to five pages of ideas, and the plot is starting to coalesce. I’ve got the tie to my main character, another source of conflict for the main character that leaked in from my WIP, and multiple suspects.

It’s starting to look a lot like a novel-in-the-making. Once I have the story figured out, I can do a rough outline, or (heaven forbid!) a synopsis (cue the spooky music and evil laughter).

Ugh.

Then I can dive into a first draft. I see another self-imposed NaNo month in my future. Maybe February.

How do you come up with “the further adventures of” for characters who didn’t start out starring in more than one book? Days of intense brainstorming? Afternoon walks through the woods? People-watching at the mall?

Enjoy your weekend, and get writing!


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Wake-up call

I imagine everyone in the US has heard by now the first major storm of the season is marching across the country’s midsection. I think it’s Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that yes, it really is November, even though it’s been feeling like September and October.

It’s been sooo nice all fall. I’ve been going for walks at lunchtime all week. We’ve got a nice 2-mile walking path across the street from the building where I work. I’m not saying that I can’t walk once the snow flies. It’s just that I’m less motivated to do so when it’s cold. And good walking shoes/boots for the winter is a plus, but not a plus I have right now. I can’t find any I like (not that I’ve been looking very hard 🙂 )

Anyway, I’m in the area of the state that won’t see a foot of snow from this storm – Yay!! It does remind me of my WIP, where a blizzard plays a significant role in the story, and in the relationship between the two main characters. (No, I’m not going to give you more hints. That would take all the fun out of it 😉 )

So, after this storm, our daily highs in the 50s and 60s (F) are predicted to drop to highs just above freezing, complete with wind chills below freezing. Talk about a hard stop. The impending weather inspired me to buy a new winter hat and gloves. Yippee!

Why is this a biggish deal? My hubby is frugal. In the grand scheme of things, he won’t cut open the toothpaste tube to scrape the last vestiges of its contents, but he will pull it out of the garbage after I’ve squeezed every last bit from it (or so I think) because it has another 2 or 3 toothbrush coatings left in it. To his credit, though, he can fix almost anything, and we have never had car payments.

When I told him I was buying a new winter hat because mine has a hole in it and hell, I’ve had it for 30 years, he immediately offered to find me another one from the family hat collection (You know, the one that consists of hats that every family member wears and no one can remember where they came from. Kinda like the lost and found collection.).

Yeah–no. I figure I can buy one new hat (two if you count the one for my daughter) after 30 years, four of which were before we met. And a new pair of gloves that won’t unravel at the tips and costs a buck and a half at Walmart. And maybe a pair of mittens that I don’t have to wear buck-and-a-half gloves in for them to be warm enough.

Ha! Merry Thanksgiving to me! (I’ve got my Christmas gift all planned out, I’m just waiting for Black Friday 😀 )

It’s kinda like when you buy that new notebook and fancy pen or pencil. For writing, of course. There’s a sort of promise that comes with it, the anticipation of using the first fresh page. Maybe you sprang for that Moleskine journal and a fine-tipped gel pen, perfect for use during the drive to the in-laws for the holidays. Or you finally get an iPad. Or a new laptop/tablet/computer. Or that new writing software you’re trying out for NaNo. There’s an excitement, an eagerness to dig in and try it out.

It’s like a new story, the one that’s been mulling around in your head, when you finally get the chance to put it on paper. When the characters and the setting and the story line all come together and develop a life of their own. Or like a revision to a story already written, a revision you know will add that little extra facet and bring the whole thing together.

I’m at that excited point now, with my WIP revisions almost finished. Just a run through Grammarly, maybe another read-through, then it’s off to the agent and crossing fingers she’ll like what I’ve done.

Then Turkey Day.

For those NaNo-ers, you should be around 35k-40k words by the end of the weekend.

Have a great writing weekend!

 

 

 

 


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Moving Forward

*Knock, knock*

Since when does my Muse knock? Eh, whatever. I adjust my position against the smooth hide of my Night Fury conscience and go back to staring at the lake stretching out before me.

“Julie?”

“Go away.”

Grass whispers as he makes his way to my perch on the shore of the lake outside my writing office. “Looks like someone turned the color off.”

I suppose one could say that. Today the sky is filled with clouds in that dull, depressing gray so common in autumn after the trees lose their leaves. It’s the color that often heralds an icy rain. He’s right, everything seems to have lost any luster. The grass is muted. The lake reflects the grumbling sky. Even the white bark of the birches looks covered in smoky haze.

“Leave me alone. I’m wallowing.”

My conscience shifts, stretches a wing, then curls back into a ball. I lean against it, enjoying its warmth at my back.

“Can’t let you do that, love.”

“You do know what happened this week, right?” I try not to think about the consequences of having a narcissistic, misogynistic, thin-skinned, tantrum-throwing bully running my country. So, I turn my thoughts to the loss of my favorite uncle, the one who was a composer, musician, and who showed me the wonderful old part of Salzburg.

“Yes. And you’ve had days to grieve. Now it’s time to get back to work. You spent the 14-hour drive time to Ohio and back reviewing your manuscript. Good job. Now you need to make those revisions.”

“I know. It’s on my list for this weekend and next week. The agent doesn’t want me to send her anything until the week of Thanksgiving, anyway.”

He sits beside me, legs crossed, and leans against my conscience’s haunch. “You can’t let yourself be dragged down, love. It slows everything down.”

Thunder rumbles across the sky. A breeze with an icy edge mars the smooth lake surface. “I can take a day to mope.”

“You’ve already done that. Now, get off your ass and get those revisions done.”

“I don’t even need to send the manuscript until the week of Thanksgiving. She doesn’t want it before then.”

My Muse sighs. “That’s no reason to slack off, love. She also said to take your time.”

I have to stand. I have to find a way to shake the malaise.

The cloudy sky clears. Brilliant blue glows, lending its color to the lake, which swells into an ocean expanse to the horizon. White-barked birches morph into brown-skinned tropical trees complete with palm fronds, papayas, and coconuts. The chilly breeze warms.

“Better?”

Honestly, yes. But I don’t want to let him know that. “I’m not done wallowing.”

He stands and lays a hand on my shoulder. “You are now. Let’s get this done.”

Deep breath.

Okay. Time to move forward. The tough thing sometimes is to let go of what is out of your control. Kinda like wanting to control what a teenager does when she’s not at home, between school’s end and the time they get home. Is she really doing her homework?

Anyway, looking forward to a quiet weekend to work on my WIP. For those NaNo-ers out there, you should be a 25,000 words by the end of the weekend (see, I pay attention even if I’m not playing this year).

Enjoy your weekend! Write on!


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Can’t Do It Alone, or How Betas Rock

I’m talking writing, here. Fiction writing, to be exact, though even non-fiction writing benefits from multiple sets of eyes reviewing everything from sentence structure to fact-checking. You write alone, but critique partners or groups are key in helping you build a solid story.

I’ve been working on my revise and resubmit for the past couple months, and sent my manuscript off to a few beta readers. I’ve gotten feedback from almost all of them now, which gave me the idea for this post.

Beta readers are like the tasting panel for your book. You’ve done the research, mixed and remixed and revised the recipe until you think it tastes pretty good. You’ve let other people sample the brew, maybe even worked in the kitchen with them, and they’ve offered suggestions and advice that improved the flavor, color, and texture of your creation.

Refining the recipe is a necessary step. You’ve done that, and you could release the new and improved product into the wild and wait for people to try it, and hopefully love it.

Better, though, to toss the finished recipe off to a test panel made up of people who just like a good-tasting product, and people who have discerning taste–maybe super-tasters–who can tell whether you used old seasonings, or if the cow that gave the milk grazed in a grassy pasture or munched on hay. The panel can tell you there’s too much nutmeg, not enough vanilla, or just enough cinnamon. They’re the ones who will recommend more marshmallows, or less chocolate, or melting the butter instead of softening it.

They’re the ones that help you make those last-minute tweaks before you submit your creation to the judges.

My beta readers ranged from a fellow writer (in a different genre) to a retired school administrator to a couple of mindful readers. By selecting different types of readers, you get a better picture of how the story might be received by an audience.

Feedback. It does a story good!

I’ve gotten detailed feedback from my betas–some more detailed than others, of course–all useful. All valuable. My betas noted things I totally missed, like lakes are frozen in the winter in MN (don’t ask 🙂 –total brain cramp on that one), and if you mention something significant early in the story that affects one of the main characters, that something should probably play a bigger role in the story later on.

As the writer, you’re too close to the story to see these types of details. Someone who has never read the story has a better chance of seeing those bits and pieces that could make or break a reader’s enjoyment of the work. Beta readers are a resource all writers should utilize, but especially writers of longer works. There’s more opportunity in longer pieces to miss things, leave holes, or overdo bits.

Finding good beta readers might be tough, and might alienate you from those friends for a long time, but people like teachers, fellow writers, and avid readers (of something more than graphic novels or Harlequin romances) can point out what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved.

I have a couple weeks to revise my WIP before I send it off. Then cross my fingers that the agent will like my changes.

To my beta readers: THANK  YOU!! *applause* *fireworks* You provided me with valuable feedback and great suggestions. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you spending the time not only reading my story, but writing up your notes for me.

Write on!