Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Looking Back–Looking Forward

This weekend is the traditional reflection on the past year, and the look ahead to what’s coming up in the next. Hey, who am I to mess with tradition?

And it’s a ready-made blog post subject so hey, less work, right?

But first:

weather12-30-17wndchll Get a load of that wind chill number, kids. And wow, that dew point! Now, granted, the sun’s not up yet, and we’re within spitting distance of January, but our average temperature for this time of year is closer to 24 degrees (F) than zero. So, we’re under a National Weather Service Wind Chill Warning until sometime on Monday.

Guess what I’m NOT going to be doing this weekend πŸ™‚

Looking back

My writing journey has spanned many years, even more if I count all those years in elementary and high school during which I wrote my very first “never to see the light of day” trunk novel and a lot of teen angsty poetry involving eagles and mountain wilderness.

The most-significant year of my writing journey was 2012, when I took the plunge and attended the week-long Write-By-The-Lake retreat at UW-Madison. There I met not only one of the most wonderful writing teachers, but I also met my Writing Sisters. To this day I marvel at how the planets aligned that summer to put me in the same room with so many skilled writers. We added another great gal to our group a few years ago, and we’re still going strong.

The second most-significant year of my writing journey is this year, 2017. This is the year I signed with my agent, a great writing coach and advocate. She helped me make my book stronger. I signed my first publishing contract. I still can’t really believe it. I suppose reality will kick in when I hear back from my editor–Yikes!

Over the past five years I’ve learned a lot about writing. I’ve made a lot of great writing friends, even though I haven’t met most of them in person. Yet, anyway. πŸ™‚

A takeaway for everyone on a writing journey, no matter if your goal is to be published or to just get your current project done: You’ve moved forward. If you feel that you haven’t gotten anywhere, look back and really see what you’ve done. Every step, from that first idea, to putting pencil to paper (even if it’s electronic), to revising is a step. Every critique you get, every one you give, has the effect of expanding your knowledge of the craft. Have you made progress since last month? Last year? I bet you have, even if it’s just a paragraph describing that incredible apple strudel you had at the local farmer’s market or a poem written after you met your first child/grandchild.

Look at it as progress. Keep moving forward. Some steps are smaller than others, but they are steps, just like on any journey.

Looking forward

This year promises to be full. Uff-da. From everything that goes into getting a book ready for publication to sending my youngest off to college, things are going to be busy.

If you are looking for a writing conference, no matter where you are, consider the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute. Seriously. And I’m not recommending it just because you’ll get to see me with my Writing Sisters there–we’re doing an author panel. And not because I’m giving a workshop with one of my Sisters, either. Although, both are excellent reasons to come πŸ˜€ Mark off that second weekend in April, the 12th through the 15th, and come on out to Madison, WI. I’ve met people who’ve come all the way from California and Maine there. It is a spectacular weekend where you can absorb all the creative energy stirred up by so many writers gathering together.

This coming year will also be an experience getting my first book ready for the world, including editing (ugh), blurbs, cover design, and all the other things that go into releasing a book into the world. A grand learning experience for sure.

This year I’m hoping to attend the Writers’ Police Academy for the first time. I hope Lee Lofland, who basically runs it, will still schedule it for 2018. Lee’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer this year, so things are pretty chaotic in his world right now. If you follow his blog, he keeps his followers up on what’s happening. The WPA is the weekend after my Writing Sister reunion, so it’ll be a few busy travel weeks for me, but everything I’ve heard about the WPA sounds like it’ll be well worth it.

How about you? What new adventures are you planning for the coming year? A new project? Polishing a current project? Finishing one? Starting one? Maybe taking a class or going to a writing conference? Resolve to move forward on your writing journey, even if it’s to finally write that story about Great-Aunt Ruth (everyone has a Great-Aunt Ruth, right?) and her roadtrip through South Dakota where she met her first buffalo, saw the Black Hills, and lost almost everything she’d packed into a carrier strapped to the car roof.

It’s a journey. Take a minute to enjoy it. Then get out those seed catalogs and dream about the garden–I mean, what else is there to do when it’s f**king cold outside?

Have a Happy and Safe New Year!

 

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Chipping away

Have you ever been driving somewhere–maybe to an appointment or to meet someone–things are going smoothly, traffic’s moving, they’re playing music on the radio instead of commercials, and then … STOP. As in, brake lights for as far ahead as you can see.

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You check the time. Sure, you left fifteen minutes early (you did, right?), but is this going to crush your 15-minute cushion? The route is familiar, so you know the next exit is a couple miles ahead, but how do you get to where you’re going from there?

The line creeps forward, two feet at a time. Stop. Creep. Stop. That 15 minutes is now 12. Creep. Stop. Twelve is now 10. Creep. Stop. Wait.

Eventually you reach that one exit. Should you take it? It’s out of your way, and hell, you’re already late. And traffic seems to be moving a little faster now. So, do you take the alternate way or just stick it out?

I started out okay, then came to a screeching halt. The traffic jam I’ve hit has a couple names. Procrastination. Writer’s block. Real life during the holi-daze. I’ve been working at it in bits, some scene writing, some plot work, but it feels like using a hand chisel against a reinforced concrete wall. The universe noticed, and saw fit to send me some suggestions in a couple articles I’ve found in the past few weeks.

The first one is about handling procrastination. This article suggests redirecting: “All writers who aren’t writing are rebelling against some injustice or another. The practice here is replacing one story with another.” Hmm. Go ahead, read the article. I’ll wait.

The second article‘s title is a bit misleading when taken at face value, but I love this line: “Here are some ways to write every day even when your muse is off shopping.” Heh. I have a tough time imagining my Muse doing much shopping, unless it’s for beer and chocolate.

Both go back to the suggestion to “write every day”. I have to admit, it’s been a few days since I’ve written; okay, technically I’ve been writing during the ten minutes I take for lunch (because does it really take longer than that to eat a sandwich?). I’ve been chipping away at the elusive 2nd and 3rd acts of my WIP. I’m more planner than pantser–I need a path to a goal. I can wander off the path, but I need a target.

This story’s target is blurry at best. I think that’s why I’m struggling. I don’t know exactly how it ends, or how the threads weave together, not really. So, last night I pulled out “the notebook” (dramatic music here).

notebook1

It’s an inch thick, and I’ve used it for free-writing. Some qualifies as journaling, some as stream-of-consciousness, some as random scenes, and some as brainstorming. I read some of the scenes I’d written for future “episodes” of my detective series. Man, I love those characters!

I’d done some early brainstorming for my book to be released in 2019, a smattering of ideas that helped me work out the plot. It reminded me of talking through the story with my writing sisters–bouncing ideas around with them always seems to help.

notebook2

I don’t pull this notebook out very often, but I think I’m at the point where I need to. I’ve got ideas and plotlines and timelines scattered though multiple notebooks. Maybe if I just sit down and write through a stream-of-consciousness it’ll help the Act 2 & Act 3 blurs come into focus.

I’ll try some of the suggested exercises from the Writers in the Storm article: Write a letter from your main character to you, and writing something that happened to the character before the book started, and what happened after in the character’s viewpoint.

Using this one special notebook might help me focus, something I’ve had little of lately. I’ll reference the two articles as well, to keep my brain on track (you know, that whole focusing thing πŸ™‚ )

And another blogger reminded me this past week that I’ve been neglecting my cat-loving followers (and yes, B, I mean you πŸ˜€ ). So here’s a shot of Zoey chillin’ in my chair.

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Have a productive writing weekend, everyone! The holidaze are here next weekend already–Yikes!


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THE STORYTELLER SPEAKS – IT’S HERE!

Looking for a book to curl up with during the holidays? Check out Annika Perry’s new collection of short stories, flash fiction, and poems.

Annika Perry's Writing Blog

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It is with great pleasure I can now announce that The Storyteller Speaksis available on Amazon.

The Storyteller Speaksebookis available on Amazon UK or Amazon USor any other Amazon outlet.

The paperback will be published in January 2018.

About the Book

It only takes one event to change a life. What is that action, decision, occurrence? Whose life is affected? Changed forever?

In this eclectic mix of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry the pendulum swings between first love and murder, from soul-destroying grief to reconciliation. The tales veer from the sweet satisfaction of revenge to new beginnings, from heart-breaking miscarriages of justice to heart-warming Christmas misadventure.

One common thread binds them all; the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.

Open your hearts and minds as The Storyteller Speaks.

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No Muse isn’t good Muse

I look up as the door to my writing office opens. My Muse enters, closes the door behind him. He’s wearing a black hoodie with a kangaroo pocket and the MN Vikings logo in bold purple, yellow, and white. His well-worn jeans (in every sense of the word) have a stain on one leg at knee-level. He smells like stale beer, fried food, and that scent of “crowd” you get whenever you walk into an indoor stadium. 2704_minnesota_vikings-primary-2013

“When did you go to a Vikings game?” I ask. “They play tomorrow.”

He looks down at his sweatshirt. “Why do you ask?”

“You smell like a football game. I thought Aussie football was more your speed.”

He drops into the recliner next to mine in a corner of the office. “Of course it is, love, but I can’t very well head home every time I want to watch a game. American football is the next best thing. And maybe I’m caught up a little too much with it; you know the Vikes will probably blow the next game.”

Uh huh. “So, no washing your lucky shirt?” Superstitious much? They’re 10 and 2, but history tells us they choke when they get too close to the playoffs. Whatever. I’ve been feeling like my creative energy is in a holding pattern, there but mostly inaccessible. My stomach bunches up as I ask him the question that’s been bothering me for the past week. “Are you avoiding me?”

He reaches behind the chair to grab a beer out of the mini-fridge. “Why do you ask?”

I slide my mechanical pencil into the spiral binding of my notebook. He didn’t answer my question. “You know I’ve been trying to work on Book 2 since before Nano. I’ve been trying to cobble together act three of the plot thread. I think that’s why I’m stuck.”

The bottletop tings as it hits the desk across the room and bounces off the rim of the trash bin. “You haven’t exactly been begging for my help, love.”

“What do you mean?” I retract the footrest of my recliner, slide to the edge of the seat, and turn toward him, waving my notebook like a baton. “I can’t focus. It’s not like I haven’t been trying. So why have you been AWOL?”

“You’ve been distracted.”

“Like that’s ever stopped you before.” Wait. “Distracted by what?”

He leans forward, elbows on his knees, beer bottle dangling from his fingers. “Real life. Winter. Waiting on your editor’s feedback. Your kids’ non-existent Christmas lists. Procrastination. Pick one.” He tips the beer to his lips.

The room gets warmer all of a sudden. I miss him. Really miss him. And not just because he’s a fine specimen of masculine energy. “Again, that’s never bothered you before. You’re usually on my ass about something. I’ve been trying to work through the plot of Book 2. Where are you? Not on my ass.”

He leans toward me. “Better question, where are you?” He touches my forehead with a finger. “In here. It’s like you’re waiting for something, and everything else has to wait. I can’t shove creative energy into that.” He leans back, hits me with those incredible blue eyes. “You have to let me. It’s my job. You have to keep moving, love, or you’ll stagnate. You know that. That’s why you need to power through. What do you call it? The muddle in the middle.”

“Yeah. It’d help if I had a friggin’ clue what the climax is supposed to be.”

Another sip. “You know how it ends. The good guys win. The bad guys complain about meddling kids.”

“Har, har. There’s more to it. The sorta bad guy needs to redeem himself after giving my protagonist a hard time six years ago. There’s got to be more danger to my protag. My two MCs have to have more conflict.” Sigh. “Maybe I’m writing the wrong story. Maybe I should work on my rural mystery for a while.”

My Muse shakes his head. “Finish this draft. If you don’t do it now, you might not ever do it. Once it’s written, you can go back and fix it.”

That’s the problem. Writing it. “You need to stick around.”

He chuckles, but not like he’s amused, more like he’s patronizing me. “Will you listen to me? Because if you won’t, there’s a rugby match in Adelaide calling my name.”

“What happened to the Indiana Jones fedora and bullwhip? The whole drill sergeant thing?”

“It’s not working for you right now, love. So,” he straightens, “I’m going to try something different.”

Uh-oh. “Like what?”

His slow smile tightens my shoulders with unease. “Oh, I have some ideas. Just have to try a few to see which ones work.”

Oh, boy.

My son’s home from college for the next month. He just turned the big two-oh, so I’ll probably take him on a mom-and-me birthday outing tomorrow. That leaves today to grind through the middle of my WIP. Maybe I’ll toss a bomb into the mix, just to get something moving.

Go forth and write!


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Hello December, or Help! I’m stuck

You sure it’s December? Because it was in the upper 40’s (Fahrenheit) this week. In Minnesota. After Thanksgiving. To give you an idea, the average temps this time of year are around freezing. Usually snow doesn’t stick around until after Thanksgiving, but so far in my part of the Great White North, there’s been no white. You’ll have to head north, like Duluth or International Falls north, to find snow. If it hasn’t melted by now.

Seriously. It wasn’t that many years ago when it was in the teens on Thanksgiving Day.

Anyway.

I hit 50k words before the end of NaNo, so yay. Problem is, I’m losing momentum again. The story isn’t done. I’ve reached the spot where I’ve adjusted the storyline, but, well, …

Have you ever lost your “umph” for a story? You get to a point where you’ve lost all interest in the story, but you know you need to power through and finish the draft? Yep, welcome to my world. Part of it is the story, part of it is the time of year (how busy are you this time of year with potlucks, and parties, and ?), and part of it is the effing melonheads in DC doing their damndest to screw everyone who doesn’t make six or more figures.

So, how do you move through this mire?

Anyone?

giphy1

Bueller?

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Okay, I’m going to toss out some ideas.

Idea #1: Wade through it. I’ve got a rough outline, so I have a direction. It’s different–better, I like to think, but … And first drafts are supposed to be crappy, so I shouldn’t worry what it ends up being, because there’s going to be revisions. Lots of revisions.

Idea #2: Switch projects. I’ve got another story I plan on hitting after I finish the draft for Book 2. So, maybe I press the “Pause” button on Book 2 and start a self-imposed NaNo for my other project.

Idea #3: Go back to a past project and work on revisions. I’ve got a police procedural that needs some work, and I’ve actually done a little on it this past week. I’ve got a contemporary fantasy that needs some revising, and an epic/traditional fantasy that still needs the ending written. A genre change might be good.

Idea #4: Do something completely different. As in, not work on other projects sitting around. Write a short story, or revisit poetry, or hell, stream of consciousness writing through my anxiety about stuff I can’t fix.

Idea #5: Take a break. *silence* Yeah, that’s what I was doing before NaNo. I did NaNo to bust the non-writing slump. Nope. Scratch this one.

Idea #6: Take a walk. Or two. Or three. I haven’t done this for a while, partly because of the weather–even though it’s been unseasonably warm it’s been windy as hell, and partly because the gravel road I walk on is a high-traffic area this time of year since the neighbors are bringing in semi-trailer loads of harvested corn. All. The. Time. Not good to walk on a gravel road that hasn’t seen any sort of moisture for weeks with semi-trucks racing around on it. *Cough*

I like to listen to music when I write, so I’ve got that covered.

If you’ve got any other suggestions, drop them into a comment. It’s the weekend, so I’m going to write.

I will write.

Hear that, brain. I’m going to write, dammit.

You, too. Take advantage of the time before the holidaze, while the craziness is still somewhat manageable.