Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Musing Mysteries, Part 2


Okay, so how many of you are ready to attend a writers’ conference? Let’s see hands. C’mon, don’t be shy. I’d love to meet you. Even though I’m giving you a sneak peek at my presentation, it’ll be way more fun in person. Really. Promise.
WI2018 Check out the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute. It’s an amazing three days (four if you count the extra presentations on Thursday) dedicated to writing. Whether you are practicing the craft (we’re always practicing, right?) or starting the quest toward publishing, the Writers’ Institute is a great opportunity to learn, meet other writers, and enrich your creative energies. Here’s a little view into the fun: Writers’ Institute Pathway to Publication.

Eight-ish weeks to go. I’m getting excited–I’ll get to see my Writing Sisters. Can’t wait!

“Are you about ready, love?” My Muse is leaning on my desk in my writing office. He checks his bare wrist as if he kept a Timex there.

“Why, you have an appointment?”

He straightens and crosses the office to the white board. “No, but you do. What’s next on your list of clues to writing mysteries?”


I grab a marker and add another entry to the list on the board. “The clock is ticking. A deadline.”

“Okay. What’s your deadline in Book 2?”

Hmm. “My main characters are only in town for three days.” I hold up a hand. “Don’t. Just don’t. I know, I know, three days. How many impossible missions were accomplished in three days?” That has got to be the most common deadline ever. I mean, outside of Kiefer Sutherland’s famous twenty-four hour countdown.

My Muse sighs. “At least it made a little sense. These days a team of geniouses save the world in mere hours every week. In a one-hour show.”

Nothing like the regular usage of the deux ex machina plot device—the oh-my-gawd-how-lucky-that-theory-actually-came-through (a “magical” intervention of some thing) tropeto allow Team Scorpion to stop a tsunami, or prevent an underground explosion that would’ve destroyed L.A., or catch two kids who have to jump out of an airplane at precisely the same time to land in a net (that was a Valentine’s Day episode). Probably not the best example of working against a deadline.

“Anyway. l’ve got a three-day deadline. Next?”

“Doesn’t seem like your main character is in a whole lot of danger.”

I point to the previous entries. Characters and stakes. “We went over the stakes already. And the characters. And the threat to the main characters, remember? The drug boss. The teacher who helped the protagonist after the attack, and who is now suspected of murder.”

“Raise them.”

“Excuse me?”

He adds to the list. “How can you raise the stakes, love?”

Raise them? More? “You heard the part about the drug boss, right? And how she thinks my main character is involved with the victim who was stealing from her.”

“Yes, I remember.” He underlines the entry on the list. “What can you do to the story that will make the main character less likely to quit?”

Hmm. If the main character was related to the suspect, or the victim, that would increase the risk to the main character. That won’t work with this story. There is a connection between the suspect and the protagonist. And a connection between the suspect and the victim.

“The victim is the suspect’s son-in-law.” I call this ‘blood is thicker than water’, because a connection between relatives has more meaning than between strangers.

“Better. Can you do more?”

A connection between the antagonist and the protagonist, or the protagonist and the victim, or the victim and the suspect are solid ways to raise the stakes. So, how can I ratchet things up?

Aha. “The suspect’s son died in an accident, and he learns the victim was involved. Oh, did I mention the suspect and the victim are family–by marriage?”

“Good. Now use that.”

I am. The trick is going to be using that to increase the threat to the protagonist. I’ll have to noodle on that for a bit. Two more down: deadline and raising stakes even more.

In other news, Week 2 word total is 21,816, about 1500 words short of the 23,338 I should’ve hit. It’s been slow, but I’ve gotten past the inciting incident now, so the story should flow faster. I will say that writing 1 to 2 hours every night is helping charge my creative energies.

Keeping my Muse close doesn’t hurt either πŸ˜€

Have a great writing weekend!


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, two 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.

18 thoughts on “Musing Mysteries, Part 2

  1. Oh, I’ll bet this will be a great experience! And I’m happy for you that you’ll be presenting. I hope you’ll post and let us know how it went.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Best wishes for the conference!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re steaming ahead, Julie! I like the way the muse keeps upping the ante. πŸ™‚ And its great to hear that you’re getting into the creative groove. Nothing gets the writing flowing as much as sitting down and writing. Ha ha Have fun at the conference too. It sounds like its going to be great. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Julie, Enjoy your conference and good luck with your presentation. I’m looking forward to finding a conference closer to home to attend sometime soon. Frances

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Frances! And I hope you can find a conference close to you. In my experience, it’s time and money well spent to learn more about writing, querying, publishing, and platform. And meeting other writers is a bonus. Have a great rest of your weekend!


  5. Yeah!! Congratulations on your writing…you’re doing brilliantly. I’m so happy for you! You and your muse are working well together in your brain-storming sessions and coming up with great ideas. I like the how the intensity is heightened with the relationship aspect.

    Julie, best of luck with your presentation… oh, I wish I could come to the conference!! I’m currently working on giving my first school talk …. I keep having to β€˜put’ myself in the audience to make sure I pitch it right!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Annika! I took a walk yesterday, and had an ‘a-ha’ moment that I’m pretty sure will fix my slowed progress on Book 2 (which I’ve set aside for right now while my Muse and I work through my ‘issues’). It kinda hit me all at once while my Muse was asking all those questions.

      Good luck with your first school talk! You’ll do well πŸ˜€ Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! You mean writing every day for two hours can be productive? I have to try this! Your muse is in the zone, too, which is a help I’m sure. So much to look forward to, Julie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Ha ha, Molly! Yes, it’s amazing how getting back into writing every day gets words on the page πŸ˜€ Had an ‘a-ha’ moment this weekend for Book 2, so that’s renewed my inspiration. The plot will have to be redone, but it feels like a more natural story.

      Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Renewed inspiration is a wonderful thing, Julie. I’ve had a shortage lately. Perhaps I need to go out looking for my muse again. I haven’t seen a moose lately and the cows are staying inside. Maybe I could actually find it this time.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. You work so well with your muse! πŸ™‚

    You’re really doing great on your word count, too. I’m only a little over 23K after 2 months!!! I keep going back and changing things. Time for me to focus and plow ahead.

    I know you’re going to have a blast at the writing conference. Those eight weeks are going to fly by!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mae! Yes, if you keep going back, the word count doesn’t go up as fast. I’ve learned to muzzle my internal editor during NaNo-type drafting marathons. I make a ton of inline notes, but at least once I get the words down, I’ve got something to work with. And when I need to change the plot (which I so often do!) I haven’t put extra effort into scenes I’ll dump. Of course, that happens in all stages (I rewrote the ending for Book 1 a couple times, then ended up deleting a scene and rewriting it–again!)

      I can’t wait for the conference–I always have a great time, and a mini-reunion with my Writing Sisters is always a bonus!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have no idea what to comment on this.
    There. That’s my comment. Am I allowed to get away with that every once in a while? I hope the quota isn’t once a year because I’m in trouble if so. Can it be like a fiscal year sort of thing rather than calendar year?

    Liked by 1 person

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