Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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First New Year goal = success! #amwriting #firstdrafts

YES! I did it! I finally finished my eighth (yes, my eighth start-over) first draft of Book 2! Woo-hoo!

Nobody’s around to see my Snoopy dance in my writing office.

“Ahem.”

Damn it. I can’t even celebrate finally reaching that elusive finish line by myself. “Really? C’mon, let me revel a bit. You know how long I’ve been working to reach the end of a draft for Book 2?”

“I’m well aware, love.” My Muse rests a hip on my desk and crosses his arms on his broad chest. He’s wearing a fisherman’s sweater in a powder-pale gray, along with dark gray lounge pants and slippers in the shape of …

“Are you seriously wearing koala slippers? They actually make those in your size?” I mean, I can see kids wearing koala slippers, but a grown man?

He sticks a foot out. “I have to support my fellow Aussies. Besides, they’re warm.”

O-kay. I admit, they are cute. I just never pictured a six foot-two inch tall, lean, muscular, oh-so-easy-on-the-eyes Muse with fuzzy koala bears on his feet.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, basking in the pre-revision glory of a finished draft. “You, ah, could go for a pub crawl with Mr. E.” I wonder if he’ll get the hint.

A crooked smile inches across his face. “In case you didn’t hear, love, there’s a major snowstorm raging outside through tonight. I think I’d rather hang out with my wonderful writer and work on her next project while she’s letting her shiny new draft rest.”

Ugh. “Fine. I have to rewrite the first chapter again anyway.”

An eyebrow arches. “Again? How many times have you done that already?”

“Erm, four. I think.”

My Muse rolls his eyes and sighs. “This isn’t going to be another Book 2, is it?”

I can’t resist. I stick out my tongue at him. “No. I know how this story will go. Mostly. Enough to get through the first draft, anyway. And I have to take two–wait, three more classes. Which reminds me, I have to sign up for one.”

His chest rises and falls with a deep breath. “You sure about that? Your daughter is home for the semester. Are you going to be able to focus on more than one thing?”

“She’ll work nights, just like she did over the summer and over winter break, so, yeah.”

He doesn’t look convinced. “Can you get the draft of this other project done before March? Because, as I recall, you have a lot going on that month. And,” he shakes a finger at me, “you will have to start revisions on Book 2.”

I drop into one of the corner recliners. “You sure know how to crash a party.”

“It’s not your first book, love. You know what you need to do.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.”

So, while the wind wages war with all those frozen water flakes outside, I’ll be working on my next project. Wait, I have some long overdue reviews to write, too. Maybe I can pull out my fresh new seed catalogs when I need a break instead of shoveling off the deck 😀

Have a great writing weekend! For all those in the path of this latest snowstorm, stay safe, stay warm!


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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.

Huh?

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 😀


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A-Musing Solstice Salutations #amwriting #wintersolstice

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

What the … The last thing I expected to see in my writing office was my Muse sitting in one of the corner recliners with my laptop. Of course, to see him dressed the way he was … oh boy.

The red and white striped sweatpants, like a wearable candy cane, would have been eye-searing enough without that sweater. Think bright green, with tinsel garland and strands of tiny blinking lights sown across it in tiers, complete with miniature glass ball ornaments.

Oh. My. Gawd. He looks like a Christmas tree sat on an elf. The only things missing are curly-toed slippers and a Santa hat. I’m not sure whether to laugh or … yeah, gotta laugh. I manage to choke back a guffaw. “Um, where the hell did you find that outfit?”

He looks up at me, his angular cheekbones, blue eyes, and the little divot in his chin contrasting with that get-up. “I’m getting into the spirit of the season.” He flashes his crooked grin, the one that always raises the temperature in the room.

Even now, with that ridiculous outfit, it’s getting warm in here. I shove the sleeves of my hooded sweatshirt to my elbows. “It’s hideous.”

He raises an eyebrow. Pretty sure I’m having a hot flash. Yeah, I’ll call it that.

“Really? I thought you’d like the lights.”

“Um, yeah, I do,” I admit. “What are you doing?”

“What you should be doing, love.”

I can’t believe he’s writing a blog post without me asking, begging, or bartering with him. “I came in here to write my post.”

“Way ahead of you, love.”

“Ah, o-kay. Why? You always grumble when I ask you to write posts for me.”

“What’s wrong with me writing posts when I want to? I thought you would be happy you didn’t have to beg.”

Well, sure, but it’s kinda like when kids do stuff without you badgering them to do it. “What do you want?”

His eyes widen. He puts on what I would call his innocent face. “I never said I wanted anything, love.”

I open the back door and stand in the breeze from the snow-covered yard to cool down. “Riiight. Just tell me now so I can grumble about it.”

He sets the computer aside and levers out of the recliner. “You’re letting the cold air in.”

“It’s hot in here.”

He reaches over my head and pushes the door closed. “It’s not.”

I stare into twinkling Christmas lights before taking a step back. Into the door. “So, let me get this straight. You are writing my blog post without my asking because why? You’re feeling generous?”

“That, and it seems people like when I write posts.”

Actually, I think it’s just him. He usually has some sort of writing wisdom to share. The fact that he’s incredibly easy on the eyes has nothing to do with it.

Nope, that has absolutely nothing to do with it.

“I think I’m going to stand outside for a few minutes.” I turn to open the door again.

“I’m almost finished. Then it’s your turn, love. You only have a few more chapters left for the Book 2 draft. Then you can dig into that other project you keep thinking about.”

“See, I knew you wanted something.”

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

This will be my (and my Muse’s) last post until after the New Year (except for the standard Merry Christmas/Happy New Year posts 😀 ). Enjoy your holidays with friends and family. Safe travels to all.

Keep writing!


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It's over! Now for my next trick #amwriting #nanowrimo

Whew! I did it. Managed 50k words in 30 days. Uff-da!

And of course, the week fight after NaNo, my schedule was … yeesh. Needless to say, I haven’t written a word for a week. Three evenings were filled with subbing at the library or our Sisters in Crime chapter year-end potluck. It’s all fun, but not conducive to writing much.

Just when I thought I could finally get back into my treadmill routine before an hour-plus writing session, the migraine hit. Double ugh. And this time it carried over for a second day because apparently it didn’t have enough fun the first day. Sigh. Even now it’s still jabbing me. I don’t get them often, but when I do, I can’t write. (For those who suffer with chronic migraines, I am in awe that you can carry on with everyday stuff when they hit. Especially if you can also write when your head is waging war within. Seriously.)

Needless to say, I haven’t written anything this week until now. Next week is finals week, so I have my empty nest for one more weekend before the kids are home for semester break.

How far did I get on my WIP? Not quite finished, but I’m at a point where the scenes should flow from brain to keyboard pretty well. Not quite to the climax, but close. If all goes well, I should be finished with the draft of Book 2 by, hmm, the end of next week.

To all my fellow NaNo-ers, congratulations! Whether you managed 50k words or more, or less, you have that many more words now than you did when you started. High five!

I’m still way behind on reading blogs, etc, so don’t be surprised if I finally get to the post you wrote two weeks ago. Or three. I’m also way behind on a lot of other stuff. I keep looking at my list hoping it’s getting shorter.

Not so much. In fact, I think my list just gained another three items. Dammit.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and managed to travel safely despite the winter storm. Nothing like a wham! Bam! Here I am! arrival of winter on a holiday weekend. So glad I couch-shop on Black Friday, aka the weekend all the die-hard shopping people brave crappy weather to just miss the best deals on the hugely-discounted items any store has, because they only have, like, three of them in stock. Anywhere.

I’m eager for the solstice. At least then the days will start getting longer again (yes, I know, still 24 hours in a day, but more of that time will be light.)

Okay, off to keep up the writing habit I redeveloped over NaNo. Stay safe, keep writing!


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Hometowns and history #amwriting #Englishteachers

“Just come back later,” I tell my Muse, who is wearing a look of concern. Then again, he had that same look last night when I finally returned home from my author event. “I’ll make up the word count this weekend. Promise.”

My Muse crosses his arms over his broad chest and taps a foot. “You are supposed to be writing, love. You didn’t write anything yesterday.”

“I know, I know. I had an author event.”

“All the more reason I should be writing the post.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “I’ll count these words, okay?”

He sighs. “Fine.” He waves a finger. “You will make up your word count and get ahead this weekend. Your kids are not home. No excuses.”

Except for the bathrooms that need cleaning. And the vacuuming. And …

“Julie. You need to write. Your short story has to be submitted by the end of the month.”

“I know, I know.”

Last evening I had an author event at my hometown library.

The “new” Myrtle Maybee Library in Belgrade, MN

When I was growing up, I spent a LOT of time there perusing their collection. I would ride my bike the five or six blocks (small town blocks, not city blocks) to the library at least once a week and check out enough books to last a week 🙂 Despite being quite small in size, our local library had a lot of books. Then I discovered I could order books from other libraries!

Since then, the library has moved to a larger location. The new place used to be a hardware store, and is a little more than twice the size of the old place. Ah, the memories!

I saw some familiar faces and got to reminisce a bit. Since my dad sold the house last year, I haven’t had a reason to go back until now. So much has changed, but so much is still the same. I met people I haven’t seen for years, and to my pleasant surprise, I remembered their names! (You know what I mean, right? The old “I know I know you, but I can’t for the life of me remember your name” dilemma.)

The person I really wanted to see again showed up. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Anderson, was my favorite English teacher. She loved Anne McCaffery’s Pern books as much as I did. She may not remember, but I remember telling her I was going to write a book.

See, I did it! Me and Mrs. Anderson, my high school English teacher

It was a great crowd. The library scheduled my visit during the time the book club normally meets, so the book club members were there, along with a number of other locals. My old piano teacher was there; my siblings and I all took piano lessons from her. She is now teaching my nephew!

Mrs. Adrian and me. Still teaches piano to my family (my brother’s kids take lessons from her)

It was a long day, but a great day. Our former neighbor (she still lives there, we don’t) was kind enough to take pictures for me (thank you, Kathy!). There is something nostalgic, and somehow comforting, about going back to the place where you grew up (provided you had good experiences there, of course). I met my dad at the local cafe, but I had to smile when he called it by the name it had way back when we first moved to town. Since then, it changed names at least once, and is now a Mexican restaurant with a nice supper crowd.

Okay, back to my NaNo writing. I missed my word counts this week, but it was a busy week, with my Sisters in Crime meeting and a day of subbing at the library, plus the author event. No kids home this weekend, so I’m planning to hit it hard to catch up and give myself a bit of a buffer. We’ll see how that works out 😀

Have a productive writing weekend!


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Na-no-na-no-na-no-na-no-WriMo! #amwriting #nanowrimo

Holy earworm, Batman! It’s our theme song.

I can’t help but roll my eyes. “Very funny.”

My Muse raises an eyebrow, adding to his roguish appeal, as if his cream-colored fisherman’s sweater, worn-well jeans, and five o’clock shadow wasn’t enough. “I was thinking campy.”

I have to add another eye roll, because what else do you do? “Har, har. Just write the post, please.”

He leans back in my office chair, fingers laced over his lean middle. “Relax, love. This isn’t my first post, and I suspect won’t be my last. How many words have you written today?”

Erm, yeah. About that. “I’m not quite at my target for today yet.”

“And why not?”

Damn. “I’m trying.”

“Not hard enough, obviously. This is the first day, love. You have to get your ass in gear if you’re going to hit fifty thousand words.”

“I know. I know. It’s only the first day.”

He leans forward, rests his crossed arms on my desk, and focuses his sharp blue eyes on me. “I’m writing your post. Your job is butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.”

I flip the leg rest out on my recliner and adjust my laptop. “I’m almost there. I’ll hit my daily goal today.”

“What about tomorrow’s goal? You have a local author fair tomorrow.”

“I know, I know.”

“And you need to turn in the next chunk of pages to your writing teacher, right?” He shakes his head. “I can only do so much, love. Do I need to bring Grumpy back for a month?”

Oh, gawd. “No. Don’t you dare. I’ve got my plan. It’ll come together.”

My Muse offers a wry smile. “It better.”

I open my mouth, then snap it shut before I blurt out the inevitable ‘or else what?’.

He chuckles.

“What?”

His crooked grin hits me like a Taser shot. Not sure whether that’s good or bad. “Get back to work.”

“Don’t forget Zoey.”

“Not my first post, love. It’s under control.”


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Don’t say it’s Snow #minnesota #amwriting #winter

snow2

It is. The four-letter S word. NOOOOO! It’s too early! It’s only almost the middle of October.

Then again, we will miss out on the BLIZZARD hanging out in North Dakota. Whew!

So not ready for this. I’m still trying to enjoy the fall colors. Sigh. Then again, bonus: what a great excuse to stay inside and write! Granted, this weekend–tomorrow really–is only a taste of winter, and we get back to our regularly-scheduled autumn next week. Cooler than average, but no snow.

I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the garden; I’ll try to get it once the weather clears up in a couple days. The only things really left are the kale and the brussels sprouts. I’m not going to cover the peppers or zucchini. They will fall to the cold.

I’ve got one more unit left to finish for my class. I get to write a query and synopsis for my WIP. However, I’m going to finish the draft first. Translated: put off writing the query and synopsis as long as possible. 😀

And for those preparing for NaNo this year, I’ll see ya there! (buddy up if you want: my NaNo handle is Aislinge) Depending on how far I get with the draft for Book 2, aka my WIP, aka my class project, I’ll either keep working on that, or start drafting–again–another project I keep thinking about. And I’m going to squeeze in a short story somewhere in there. Our local Sisters in Crime chapter is putting an anthology together again this year. Deadline for submission is December 1. Whether my story will get chosen or not, who knows, but it’d be great if it was.

Another short post this week. Somehow I always feel like I’m trying to keep up or catch up. It’s tough enough to keep up with things around a full-time job, garden stuff (except that’s pretty much done now), and house upkeep (read: the house is sooo not clean). Crossing my fingers any sort of cold or flu stays far away.

Some of my writer friends have been under the weather lately. I know I can’t write or work on the computer when I’m sick, so I tend to watch TV, or maybe read. TV-wise, I will often pull out a How to Train your Dragon movie or a Star Wars movie. What about you? What do you do besides sleep when you’re sick?

Happy Writing and may Winter stay away for another month!

zoey2

Bah! Wake me when it’s over.