Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Automatic writing and plots? #amwriting #nanowrimo #writerscommunity


Image by yogesh more from Pixabay

As I was working on my WIP (yes, THAT one), I realized something. An odd/ad-libbed/spur-of-the-moment aspect of a minor character I created on-the-fly solved a problem I was having with the plot.

A big problem.

It was weird. It made me think of automatic writing, which made me think of one of my fellow authors/bloggers who has just released the last book of her Hode’s Hill series (Congratulations, Mae!) In the first book of the series, Cusp of Night, spiritualism plays a big role, and automatic writing was one facet of that whole movement. Anyway …

Holy crap. I solved one of the problems I’ve been trying to figure out by first creating a minor character I didn’t expect to have and then giving that character a part I didn’t know I needed.


See where the automatic writing comes to mind? This sort of thing happens to me on a regular basis. I work through the bigger aspects of the plot, barrel ahead with the mantra, “it’s a crappy first draft, I’ll fix it later”, agonize over the stuff I can’t figure out, then somewhere down the line a piece falls into place, and POOF, the plot becomes more solid, and the story “works”.

It’s like my Muse is doing his job, but his timing is off. Sometimes waay off. *checks for Muse, then in a stage whisper: Psst, I think he’s on a beer run.*

Image by Vicki Becker from Pixabay

As fiction writers, we often have story ideas and plots in our heads. For me, the plot lines often seem pretty straightforward at first. The timelines work, the characters have appropriate motivation, and all is well in the planning stage.

Sometimes in the beginning the plot lines are more like a tangle of yarn that needs to be teased into quasi-order. It’s when things look like they’ll work that you have to keep an eye on those buggers, or they’ll start dodging around like a litter of energetic kittens.

I walk through the timeline over and over, and think I have the threads woven together in some semblance of order. Then I start the first draft.

What seemed to make sense suddenly doesn’t. And of course that realization doesn’t happen until I’m halfway or two-thirds of the way through the draft.

I think the more we read, and the more we practice storytelling and plotting and creating character arcs, the more instinctive we become as writers. I’ve been asked by people how I knew the plot wasn’t working. The only thing I can come up with is “I just knew.”

We know what works because somehow along the way we learned it, even if we haven’t taken a class or gone through workbooks or read Save the Cat or The Writer’s Journey. We can use the tools, whether beat sheets or timelines or whatever your preference, but there’s a part of us we may not be conscious of that knows what pieces and bits to add and when.

And that seems to be the way it works, at least for me. I’ll put something in a story, unplanned but it works, then way later on in the story I’ll write something and think wow, it’s a good thing I added that unplanned thing earlier because that makes this part work.

Magic. Or my Muse. Both. Bottom line, the more you practice, the more you read, the more you learn, the more those writer instincts will help you so you don’t get two-thirds of the way through the draft before you realize the story doesn’t work.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it πŸ˜€

Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over 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, four 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 “Automatic writing and plots? #amwriting #nanowrimo #writerscommunity

  1. I honestly think our subconscious minds work on our problems and challenges while we’re doing other things, Julie. In some way, just getting that first draft out frees the mind up to tackle those plotholes, issues with characters, and so on. So, we’re fixing and refining as we go along. BUT…we can’t free our minds to do that if we don’t just start writing. That’s why first drafts are crappy so often, and then we find ourselves coming up with good solutions. Especially when the Muse is away on a beer run… πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you’re right, Margot. And so much yes about start writing. With this project in particular, I’ve experienced a lot of plot refinement as I write, ideas that seem to appear out of nowhere, but I know somewhere in my subconscious, my writer brain is working through the bits and coming up with solutions πŸ˜€

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, yes, yes. So fun to read this and it is such a weird thing, isn’t it? The more I write, the more it flows, which is a good reason to write everyday if we can. The “muse” drops hints and insights into our consciousness and things that didn’t work suddenly make sense. Now I have to run to Amazon and pick up Mae’s book. πŸ™‚ Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! It is a weird thing, and every time it happens I always marvel at it. And yes, writing every day helps; more practice! I’m a third of the way through Mae’s book, and it’s great so far (not that I had any doubts πŸ˜€ )

      Have a wonderful weekend, Diana!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s cool the way your automatic writing (well sorta) worked out. I think you’re right about the more you practice, read, learn, the more your instincts develop.

    Your cat leaping up: such a beautiful kitty!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is kind of like automatic writing, Julie! I had the same issue in past and current work and then it fixes itself at some point. Its nice sooner than later so less to fix. Then you know its right. Great post. Have a great week and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve had that happen, too. It’s like I’m madly typing, trying to keep up with what my characters are whispering to me. I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Many thanks for the mention of Hode’s Hill.
    I had a moment of automatic writing today as I was working on my most recent WIP. I love when those moments happen. I don’t always understand what they mean when they occur, but I know they’re key and will resolve themselves later. I’m so glad you’re experiencing them, too. Happy writing, Julie!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s my take, too. I don’t always know why I put stuff in that I didn’t plan or anticipate, but later on it makes something else work. Those moments are the ones when I think that maybe someday I’ll be a real writer πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

      Have a great week, Mae!

      BTW, enjoying Eventide!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I LOVE when that happens. Stephen King wrote something about that in On Writing, too. That a-ha moment when the pieces fall into place and it’s sheer bliss. At the writing conf. I attended, an instructor said we should think of a problem we need solved as we lie in bed at night. She swears that our brains work on it while we sleep, and we come up with a solution when we wake. I’m not sure it’s happened for me quite like that, but sort of close. Either way, awesomeness! πŸ™‚
    Meow, meow, Zoey Zoe Zoe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love those moments, too! Now if I could just avoid those 7 drafts where things didn’t work… Stephen King’s On Writing is on my list to read; I’ve heard a lot about it. Maybe I’ll read it on my way to San Diego in March (after I read your book πŸ˜€ )

      Zoey says ‘Hi!’ back!

      Have a great week, Betsy! SKOL! (that’s for Paul πŸ˜€ )


  8. It’s fun and freaky when those wonderful ideas and solutions just pop into the head, but I once tried actual automatic writing and will never do it again. Very scary.

    In re Mae, I love her books. She has a way with monsters, has so much compassion for them. I have her latest but it’s so scary I have to read it during the day. I’m such a chicken.

    And as Mae said, you ARE a writer. Awards, contracts, fame and money do not a writer make and never will. A writer is someone who loves and practices the craft and respects the written word. Just don’t stop creating those words, characters, worlds, incidents and great endings.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You tried automatic writing? I don’t blame you for not wanting to go there again; just knowing what it is is spooky, like ouija boards.

    I loved Eventide, and yes, it’s scary in parts, but Dante and Madison both succeed (sorry for spoilers πŸ™‚ )

    Thank you! I think we all go through the whole writer doubt thing, especially since it took me eight tries to get through the story. Sheesh. πŸ˜€

    Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

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