Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Chipping away

22 Comments

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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Author: Julie Holmes, author

Pen names: J. M. Holmes, J. M. Goebel A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I've been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. In real life, I am a technical writer with a family of two teens, a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, three chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

22 thoughts on “Chipping away

  1. Well said, Julz! I too have wrestled with writer’s block, as you know. Most of the time, there is another story, or idea, or emotion, waiting to get out – so your free writing journal is a stellar idea! The other thing you said that resonated with me was, “Man, I love those characters!” I love mine, too (though they’re technically not “mine”…), and often the way I work through a tough spot is to fully immerse myself in a character and try to capture everything about him. Often the story will follow the character and go in a whole different direction I hadn’t seen coming, but that works well. (Would it surprise you to know I have very few stories outlined at the start?) Anyway, hope you are able to bust through soon! πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks, D! Still wrestling, and now I’ve made a list of stuff I need to do before Christmas–yikes! I’ve got a feeling that I won’t get a lot of writing time in the next couple weeks, so I’m trying to make the most of what I do have. And yes, loving the characters will help you work through the story, because who wants to spend time with someone you don’t like? I’ve had stories follow the characters, too, and sometimes I have to take those journeys and save them for a later story. So glad you stopped by! Can’t wait to read your new stuff πŸ˜€

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  2. Keep going! You’re not alone!

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  3. Julie, I got laughing as I really thought you talked about traffic jams and was going to say. England has this all the time. 😊
    As to the writing, I haven’t set many deadlines, just as well as today and the weekend is full of Xmas preparations. Tree just up and lights in. Decorating to go…and no procrastination…baking Pepparkaka tomorrow, wouldn’t dare not too. πŸ™‚

    So you found the note books, brain storming book . A sign, go for it.
    Have fun and feel the joy when it comes together.
    Miriam

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    • Traffic jams in England? No way! *heavy dose of sarcasm* I don’t really have a deadline per se for Book 2, but I want to finish the draft by the end of the year. With all the holiday goings-on in the next couple weeks, I’ve been thinking about taking some extra time off work to try and focus. And I’ve got cookies to bake as well–looking at my list, I’m going to have to start this weekend. More time not writing–sigh. Have a great weekend, Miriam!

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  4. That looks like a magic notebook, Julie. Handwriting is quite different from typing and seems more creative or free-flowing in a way. It’s a good way to shake loose ideas. I hope you find the answers at the end of your pen on those clean pages. In the meantime, enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas to you, your family, and the handsome muse. ❀

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    • I’m starting to think the notebook has some magic in it. I’ve read through some of my older scribblings, and I can feel the creative energy seeping in. And yes, handwriting has a way of stirring the slurry of ideas–I like to write by hand when I brainstorm or build plots because it seems to cultivate that energy. Merry Christmas to you and yours as well, Diana! Have a wonderful weekend!

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  5. Julie, thanks so much for linking to James’ article over at Writers In the Storm. We sure do appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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  6. I agree with all of the above! I think the notebook is a great idea. My problem is that I have all these cheapie notebooks and I misplace them. For instance, I fully intended to keep a “notebook” by the bedside. I noticed a few nights ago it had disappeared. That’s because I had wagged it somewhere to write something else…sigh. I think the really nice leather notebook shown in the picture is a good idea. I think I would attach more importance to it and keep it with me. So thank you and keep moving forward–metaphorically speaking! πŸ™‚

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    • I hear ya about all the cheapie notebooks everywhere. I’ve got a bunch of them myself, and I’ve been trying to use one per project, but you know how that goes–grab the notebook closest at hand to make notes. I like the thicker notebook (surprisingly reasonably priced from BN) because it’s got a lot of pages, so it’s good for a catch-all. Have a great rest of your weekend, Paul!

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  7. Hola, gato! So nice to see you in all your cute kitty fluffiness. Purrr…. purrr….! Mmmmm—that’s the sound of me rubbing my face in her fur. It’s not weird, really. Is it, Zoe-zoe? Do you mind me calling you Zoe-zoe? No? Good. Mmmmm…
    Ahem, whoops. What were we talking about? Writing! Right! Of course we were! I was with you all along. No distracting me! So I was totally pulled in by your traffic story! I can so relate to the whether or not to get off at the earlier exit dilemma. I didn’t realize that was a universal thought process. I must admit I was a little disappointed not to hear the ending of that story, but it wasn’t real! Bawaawaa!
    Writing, writing. Yes, good stuff. Keep writing and all that. Now speaking of READING, please let me know, as soon as you finish ch. 9, how you reacted. Did I mention it was my favorite chapter? πŸ˜‰ After that I promise I won’t press you, but Mmmm… chapter 9. Almost as good as rubbing your face in car fur. Well, might be a tie. πŸ™‚

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    • LOL! I think all writers go through this sort of dilemma: the story comes easily, then not. Real life’s been cramping my style and interrupting my creativity, and frustration follows, so I’m trying to be nice when I’m actually really anxious and frustrated because I can’t write. Sigh. And I’ve started chapter 9 πŸ™‚ Have a great rest of your weekend!

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      • I’ve been a terrible writer in that I write when I feel like it, and don’t write when I don’t feel like it. Since I have no contract and no deadline as yet, I guess I can get away with that. If I were a professional writer, I’d have to get my act together. Sadly, Mom is my primary profession, which is way above 40 hours a week. Although, I do have to have my sample chapter complete for the parenting book before I leave town on Friday, so I guess there’s that constraint. Crud. Now I’m sort of feeling the burn.
        Yeah, ch. 9!

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  8. I think I need a notebook like you. I have notebooks for works in progress, but nothing for just random writing exercises and thoughts. That’s a great idea and a way to write when we’re not working on THE PROJECT of the moment. I’m kind of stalled too. I eked out two scenes today but I waited too long to get started. Both scenes are short. Their actually pretty decent but if I were aiming for word count I’d be hitting a drought.

    It’s good to know when we go through these things that we’re not alone. Maybe it’s just the holiday looming around the corner. I’m all for saying we’ll be back at it with a vengeance after the New Year. Sounds like a plan, right?

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    • I think you’re right about this time of year being tough. So many other things to think about. I have notebooks all over (what writer doesn’t?) but I like considering this one as “special”. It gives it a sort of magic, maybe? It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about my WIP, but it’s just putting that mental movie down onto the page, especially when the movie isn’t clear. Sigh.

      Hey, I’m all for digging in after the New Year! Gotta take a day or two off work, I think. Just to give myself some time to try and align the mental blocks πŸ˜€

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  9. P. S. I forget to say how extra adorable Zoey looks in that picture. What a cutie! πŸ™‚

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  10. Julie, I love your notebook and the aura around here…I can sense it from the photos and your description! πŸ˜€ With the exercises (great ones!), the articles to hand you sound set!! Do you think the deadline is contributing a bit to the block here? I wish you best lo luck coming out of the jam…but remember to enjoy the buildup to Christmas! Hugs, my friendπŸ˜€β€οΈπŸŽ„

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    • Thanks, Annika! I think the time of year is contributing to my block, honestly. Last night was cookie night, and I’ll have a few more of those before the weekend. My daughter will do one variety maybe, but she’s got tests to study for, so I suspect I’ll be doing those as well. Real life!

      Have a wonderful Christmas, Annika!

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