Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Write what you know?

Sounds like a great idea, right? If you write what you know, just think of all the research you don’t have to do. That’s more time you can spend actually writing. Then again, you miss all the fun of actual research (I mean, just think of the rabbit holes you can explore when you google “lethal food”). Disclaimer: No, I haven’t googled it yet, but I write mysteries, so I’ll get there πŸ˜‰ .

Not only do you get to skip out on a lot of research, you get to use all that special knowledge you’ve got stored in that gray matter of yours. It’s almost as good as bar trivia, right? I mean, if you find a substitute for drinking a shot every time you get a question wrong (just to keep the record straight, I’ve never personally played bar trivia, but I wouldn’t mind trying it πŸ˜€ )

Sounds like a plan. Heck, a lot of writers do it. Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, just like Kathy. John Grisham is a lawyer in the South, and he writes legal thrillers set in the South. Right now I’m reading a Jammer Davis book by Ward Larsen. Jammer is an ex-Air Force pilot and aviation accident investigator, just like … wait for it … Ward Larsen. The list goes on.

It’s a good way to make your characters sound authentic. And that’s the idea, right? Make the reader believe your character really knows what s/he is doing. If you are an investigative journalist and know the ins and outs of the business, including working for a television news station, your investigative journalist character will be authentic and believable, just like Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Charlotte McNally.

Since you’ve done the job, you can add extra details to ensure the reader believes in the character. And adding that tidbit to the blurb lends you some weight with readers. Think: well, this author is a third-degree black belt in jujitsu, so this book about a ninja should be pretty good.

But … (you knew this was coming πŸ™‚ )

There’s a line between authenticity and readability. If you worked as a chocolatier for ten years, and your main character is a chocolatier, you can have that character describe how to get the perfect temper for the chocolate. If you, a geologist writing a thriller, make your character a geologist,Β  that character can describe the aspects of drilling for oil, or searching for gold, or taking core samples in Antarctica.

And just as you’re describing how the change in strata means a volcanic eruption a couple million years ago produced a solid vein of gold rather than gold scattered through the rock, your reader is skipping ahead to where the bad guy has your main character lined up with the cross-hairs of the scope of his high-powered rifle.

See the dilemma? You want to include the details to prove you know what you’re talking about, but unless the reader is interested in geology, they don’t want to wade through that. If you want some examples of TMTI (too much technical information), read Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan books.

dash8 smOkay, so how much do you take out so the reader won’t skip that part? Or, how much do you include to make sure the reader knows you know what you’re talking about? That’s where I’m at with my manuscript. After talking with my agent, and reviewing the somewhat-but-not-very-helpful feedback from the publishers who have passed, I’m tweaking my manuscript to remove even more of the TMTI bits, because we suspect that might be a big part of the reason they passed. If the editors stumble through those parts, it ruins the reading experience. In fact, the most recent publisher to pass said it was a really close decision. If there’d been a little bit less TMTI, would they have accepted it? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s something.

For instance, my main character, who is an aircraft mechanic, is asked about the fire bottle for the auxiliary power unit (APU) in an airplane. Initially, she described it thus:

β€œFire bottle. If there’s a fire in the APU, it’ll blow. There’s an explosive squib here,” she pointed to a nodule on the bottle connected to a wire harness, β€œthat ruptures the diaphragm and releases high-pressure suppressant.” She indicated the line that carried the chemical extinguisher to the combustion chamber of the APU.

If you’re someone familiar with mechanical stuff, you can probably follow this pretty well. But if you have trouble doing more than pumping gas or airing up your tires, you’ll probably skim this. So, time to leave out more of the details:

β€œFire bottle. If there’s a fire in the APU, it’ll blow. There’s an explosive squib here,” she pointed to a nodule on the bottle connected to a wire harness, β€œthat releases high-pressure suppressant.”

Why did I keep the detail about the squib and the wire harness? Because it’s relevant in one of the climax scenes. Which is smoother to read? The second one, I hope.

I’ve pulled a lot of the remaining technical details out (by this point far less then in earlier drafts), but it’s still a struggle of wanting to prove I know what I’m talking about (authenticity) and making it accessible to mostly non-mechanical readers (readability). After my guinea pigs–er, readers go through it, I’ll send it to my agent for the next round of submissions. Here’s hoping!

It’s been a short week–at least it seems like it. Had a nice day with relatives last week, and everyone (in-laws) got to meet my son’s girlfriend. Whew, it’s over! For all those who celebrate Easter, have a blessed holiday weekend. For everyone else, get writing!


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Just a bit o’ pics

Hey there. Today is family gathering day. Last week, I threatened to have just pictures. I know, I know, you are sooo dreading this, and I won’t blame you if you leave now. I promise I’ll have more to say next week.

Oh, before I get to the boring stuff (you know, pics), a quick update. Another publisher crossed off the list. Three to go, and hopefully one of the question marks will come back with a positive response, but I’m not holding my breath. After talking to my agent a couple days ago, I’ll go back through the manuscript and make some tweaks before she sends it off again.

Alright, if you don’t make it through the rest of the post, have a great weekend! πŸ˜€

Zoey sit_cr

Is this my good side?

Zoe2_cr

Hey, that’s my spot!

zoey3_cr

Is there enough room for me?

Here are our new additions:

chicks

Brown leghorn chicks

Enjoy your weekend!


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Wake-up call

I imagine everyone in the US has heard by now the first major storm of the season is marching across the country’s midsection. I think it’s Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that yes, it really is November, even though it’s been feeling like September and October.

It’s been sooo nice all fall. I’ve been going for walks at lunchtime all week. We’ve got a nice 2-mile walking path across the street from the building where I work. I’m not saying that I can’t walk once the snow flies. It’s just that I’m less motivated to do so when it’s cold. And good walking shoes/boots for the winter is a plus, but not a plus I have right now. I can’t find any I like (not that I’ve been looking very hard πŸ™‚ )

Anyway, I’m in the area of the state that won’t see a foot of snow from this storm – Yay!! It does remind me of my WIP, where a blizzard plays a significant role in the story, and in the relationship between the two main characters. (No, I’m not going to give you more hints. That would take all the fun out of it πŸ˜‰ )

So, after this storm, our daily highs in the 50s and 60s (F) are predicted to drop to highs just above freezing, complete with wind chills below freezing. Talk about a hard stop. The impending weather inspired me to buy a new winter hat and gloves. Yippee!

Why is this a biggish deal? My hubby is frugal. In the grand scheme of things, he won’t cut open the toothpaste tube to scrape the last vestiges of its contents, but he will pull it out of the garbage after I’ve squeezed every last bit from it (or so I think) because it has another 2 or 3 toothbrush coatings left in it. To his credit, though, he can fix almost anything, and we have never had car payments.

When I told him I was buying a new winter hat because mine has a hole in it and hell, I’ve had it for 30 years, he immediately offered to find me another one from the family hat collection (You know, the one that consists of hats that every family member wears and no one can remember where they came from. Kinda like the lost and found collection.).

Yeah–no. I figure I can buy one new hat (two if you count the one for my daughter) after 30 years, four of which were before we met. And a new pair of gloves that won’t unravel at the tips and costs a buck and a half at Walmart. And maybe a pair of mittens that I don’t have to wear buck-and-a-half gloves in for them to be warm enough.

Ha! Merry Thanksgiving to me! (I’ve got my Christmas gift all planned out, I’m just waiting for Black Friday πŸ˜€ )

It’s kinda like when you buy that new notebook and fancy pen or pencil. For writing, of course. There’s a sort of promise that comes with it, the anticipation of using the first fresh page. Maybe you sprang for that Moleskine journal and a fine-tipped gel pen, perfect for use during the drive to the in-laws for the holidays. Or you finally get an iPad. Or a new laptop/tablet/computer. Or that new writing software you’re trying out for NaNo. There’s an excitement, an eagerness to dig in and try it out.

It’s like a new story, the one that’s been mulling around in your head, when you finally get the chance to put it on paper. When the characters and the setting and the story line all come together and develop a life of their own. Or like a revision to a story already written, a revision you know will add that little extra facet and bring the whole thing together.

I’m at that excited point now, with my WIP revisions almost finished. Just a run through Grammarly, maybe another read-through, then it’s off to the agent and crossing fingers she’ll like what I’ve done.

Then Turkey Day.

For those NaNo-ers, you should be around 35k-40k words by the end of the weekend.

Have a great writing weekend!