Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Musing Mysteries, Part 1


I finished erasing the wall-sized whiteboard in my writing office. There. A nice, shiny, white expanse all ready for me.

And I stare at the nice, shiny, white expanse. Without a plan.

Which is my problem. No plan. Well, rather, I have a half-baked plan, but that’s about as tasty as a pancake that’s been pulled off the griddle too soon. You know, when it still has a gooey center.

So here’s the dilemma. I need to work on Book 2–which I’ve sort of drafted already, but the plot needs serious work. I’ve had things tumbling about in my head, and some stuff’s fallen into place, but there’s still a lot of questions.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m thinking too hard about it at this redraft stage. Kinda like Rough Draft, take 2. Or is it take 3 now?

“Why did I know I’d find you staring at a blank slate?” My Muse steps up behind me. He must have come in the back door. He leans on me, resting an elbow on my shoulder, his hand hanging limp. “So, how do you want to do this, love?”

“Well …” Man, he’s a bit distracting, all six-foot-two inches of so-easy-on-the-eyes Aussie complete with a super-cozy, super-soft, super-fuzzy arctic fleece shirt in a blue that complements his eyes. I duck away from him before I succumb. “I’ve got my presentation for the Writers’ Institute in April. Ten Clues to Writing Mysteries. Let’s work through those. Might help me organize the plan.”

He sighs. “You’ve got half of those things figured out already. Focus on what is still fuzzy.”

I press my lips together to make sure I don’t say it out loud. You’re fuzzy. Wuzzy. I had to. C’mon, you thought it, too. πŸ™‚

He clears his throat and crosses his arms on his warm, fuzzy chest. “Julie.”

Busted. “Okay.” I grab a marker and start my list, in no particular order. Characters.

“You’ve got that figured out, right?”

“The protagonists, yeah, of course. This is book two. I know them.”


“The cop that didn’t serve the restraining order right away.” He’s mentioned in the first book. “There’s still a lot of unresolved issues with the main character.”

My Muse waits. No foot-tapping yet. “And?”

“I’ve got secondary characters.”

“You need a stronger antagonist, love. You need more conflict with your main character.”

Yep. I know that. “Okay, so there are these brothers that are running …”

“Nope. Try again.”

Er. “There’s the drug boss that thinks the main character is in cahoots with the guy who was skimming from her. She wants her money, but my MC doesn’t know anything about it. Conflict and threat.”

He nods. “Okay, but there has to be more pressure on the antagonist. Is there something besides greed behind the threat?”


He takes a marker and adds a note. “Think about it. Next, what’s your protagonist’s motive? What’s the story goal?”

“Have you been talking to my writing mentor?”

“Focus, love.”

“Her goal is to make sure the man who helped her after the attack is cleared, so she needs to find out who killed the victim.”

“What are the stakes? What does she have to lose if she doesn’t figure it out?”

Dammit. Why did I think this was a good idea? “Her life. The bad guy thinks she was working with the victim, who skimmed from the pot.”

He adds it to the board. “Why does she have to figure this out?”

I know why he’s doing this. He’s walking me through the steps I haven’t thought enough about. (psst–I’m pretty sure he’s been talking to my writing mentor) “Because when she gets sucked into the mess, the man who encouraged her to keep going after the attack is the only suspect, and she has to clear his name. Payback for what he did for her.”

“Good.” He finishes the list. “One down.”

“Actually, that’s two. Character and stakes.”

He snaps the cap onto the marker. “Okay. Think about these for a bit, love. We’ll do some more next time.”

“Wait, what? Next time? Where do you think you’re going? I happen to know Mr. E is not available.”

He settles into one of the recliners, extends the footrest, and laces his fingers behind his head. “Let it simmer a bit. We’ll brainstorm in a few hours.”

I toss my marker onto the little shelf on the whiteboard. Well, okay then. I settle into the other recliner beside him. “You do know I’ve been brainstorming on this for a while. Like, weeks. Right?”

“And you’ve been spinning your wheels. Time to take this step by step.” He closes his eyes. “Think about the stakes. Think about what she risks by getting involved.”

“Did I mention she hated the victim because he was a buddy of the guy who tried to kill her?”

“Good. There’s a reason for her to not want to get involved, but she does because why?”

“Because of what the suspect did for her when she wanted to give up her dream.”

The corners of his mouth turn up in a grin. “Use that. Work on how that plays into the threat to your MC.”

Sometimes I wonder if I’m stuck because I’m trying to address everything I know the story needs before I get into the story. Overthinking it. It’s a first–well, a do-over first–draft, it’s supposed to be a mess because part of the process is working out the story.

So far, I’m doing my Feb NaNo on my rural mystery, and working out the wrinkles in Book 2, because my editor said I can send her the first 50 pages and a synopsis when it’s ready. It’s going to be a while. For those wondering about my NaNo progress, week 1 word count is 16,643.

I’ll walk through the other clues in my presentation over the next few weeks. Maybe this’ll help with Book 2. It should help. If nothing else, I can say I’m working on it, right?

Have a great writing weekend!


Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I have 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. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, seven 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.

17 thoughts on “Musing Mysteries, Part 1

  1. I love how you use conversations with your muse to teach readers about your process, Julie. A great example of β€˜show don’t tell.’ And it doesn’t hurt that he’s hot. In a fuzzy wuzzy kind of way. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, Molly! So often these conversations with my Muse helps me sort things out as well πŸ™‚ I suppose it’s better than talking to myself–and answering πŸ˜€ Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, overthinking. This might be why I do my best thinking lying in bed. Hard to think too hard when you’re in that sleepy state. πŸ™‚ Also, just saw a cat walk by outside and thought of you. One of the neighborhood kitties used to come to our screen door and meow until we let it in for some good petting and sometimes a treat. I miss that cat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I try to do my thinking in bed. My problem is I tend to fall asleep within 5 minutes of hitting the pillow πŸ™‚ I do pretty well on long walks, but this time of year is way too cold for long walks unless one does cross-country skiing (the workout keeps you warm). See, the universe is telling you you need a cat. 🐈

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Julie, clever brainstorming conversation. Both sides of the brain working! I like reading how you figure the flow and elements in a story. Makes me think! Guess, I do much the same, except I’m left talking with myself, and you have the hot, warm and fuzzy MuseMan. Have a great weekend. Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oooh. I enjoyed watching you and the muse work. Such important steps goals/stakes/urgency. I tend to do lots of that work in my character profiles simultaneously with plotting. It’s hard, but once it starts clicking… And 16K words is awesome! Congrats on that. It doesn’t sound like you’re stuck anymore. Happy Writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Diana! I think I’m moving forward, anyway. I try to work things out before I start writing, but sometimes I think the story should work a certain way, then when I get to that point (or beyond) I find out it doesn’t. I keep hearing my writing mentor’s voice πŸ™‚ asking about story goals and motivations. Now back to the other mystery πŸ˜€ I should probably just work on one story at a time, but I’ve neglected my rural mystery too long, I think πŸ˜€ Have a great rest of your weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. 16K in one week is rocking it! I wish I could be that prolific.

    I really enjoyed your brainstorming session with your muse. It’s fun seeing how you work together πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a good week. This week, not so much, even though I took a day off work. Funny how tough it is to write when the other half insists on having the TV on ALL THE TIME. And me without a genuine writing office. Sigh. That’s on my wishlist. Both the kids will be in college this fall; I’m planning a project πŸ˜€

      Have a great writing week!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations on your first week – that’s a fantastic amount of writing! I love your brainstorming with your muse … clear boards are just so scary to face! The chat seems to clarify a lot and you’re getting there! Yep, you’re working just fine!! Hope the second week of your wel-imposed writing exile is going well. Hugs xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Annika! Week one seemed to be okay. Week 2 is a bit more of a struggle. I like the chats with my Muse because it lets me talk things through legit (no one thinks I’m nuts because I have discussions with myself–er, my Muse πŸ˜€ ) Today is supposed to be above zero, so I’m hoping to get a nice walk in. That’ll help with the ol’ gray matter as well.

      Have a wonderful week!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Starting from scratch is both nerve-wracking and exciting, but at least your muse knows to ask the right questions to get you moving in the right direction. Taking notes for my muse to tell me later on.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Musing Mysteries, Part 2 | Facets of a Muse

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