Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


6 Comments

Have pen, will edit #amwriting #amrevising

OMG! I just looked at the calendar. Do you realize we’re halfway through January already?! And I feel like I haven’t gotten nearly enough done yet.

‘Course, that seems like every day.

So, as I’m waiting for beta feedback to come in, I’ve been working on my police procedural, which I haven’t read for, hmm, a couple years I suppose now, since I didn’t do much writing in 2020 and last year was full of Book 2.

There’s something to be said for distance from your work. It was like pulling out a notebook you had forgotten about and reading that scene you wrote forever ago, back before you knew what the hell you were doing (as if I know what the hell I’m doing yet 🙂 ).

Some good stuff, but oh boy, talk about needing some restructuring. When I went through the story, I could see where the problems were: the first half of the book focuses on character development, and the second half on the mystery.

Yeah. I know, right? You gotta spend time with the characters before getting to the bulk of the good part? Not very balanced. So, I did the ol’ index card process of putting each chapter or scene on an index card and arranging them. I like to use a story timeline as a guide, kind of like an outline, but not really. I reorganized the timeline with the cards, and now have to make some scene revisions so it flows properly.

Hoo boy. Actually, it’s not too bad (better than rewriting the whole thing!), but still. I should have seen that problem a long time ago, but as with any other writing, you need to get some distance from your work to see it a little more objectively. Usually not years, though!

So, a takeaway? Set a project aside for a few weeks or longer (a couple of years?), let it (and you) cool off for a bit, then go back and look at it. Those little things, like sentences you don’t need, or scenes in the wrong place, or a different character as the mysterious spy, will be more noticable.

Stay warm! We’ll be welcoming highs in the single digits above zero next week. Gotta love winter in MN!

Throwback – Kitten Nyx and Kitten Tibbers being adorable!


9 Comments

New Year, new determination #amwriting #amrevising

Another new year stretches ahead. Man, last year seemed to fly. Not sure why, but I remember hearing somewhere along the way that time seems to go faster as you get older. Or more scatterbrained.

In retrospect, last year was better than 2020, despite the tenacity of the pandemic. I was able to write again, much to my and my Muse’s relief. I got to see my Writing Sisters in person at our reunion! In-person family gatherings were back on the agenda. I even got to do a couple in-person events!

One of the things I’m thankful for (in hindsight, of course!) is being restructured out of my job. Weird, huh? It forced me to look for a new job, and that led me to my current job, which is so much better than my last one (at least than the last six months of my last one). So thankful! My new job is with a great company with awesome benefits and heck, I even got a nice raise compared to my old job.

Now, it’s look-ahead time. New Year’s resolutions? Eh, I’d rather call them intentions. Or items on my yearly to-do list:

Finish Book 2: Revise according to beta reader suggestions, one more beta round, and off to my agent. Can’t wait!

Finish revising my police procedural: After I sent Book 2 off to betas, I’ve been reworking my police procedural. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned since the last time I worked on it. And I’ve let it sit long enough that I have the perspective to see what I need to cut. Answer: More than I would have two years ago.

In-person events: Of course, this all depends on the pandemic, but I’m looking forward to Left Coast Crime (Albuquerque) in April, since the event in San Diego was canceled after the first day due to the pandemic. And Bouchercon will be in Minneapolis this year! As other events come up, I’m hoping to get back to seeing readers again.

Mini-writing retreat: I came close to doing it last year, except I had all that job-hunting to do. This year, I’m planning to head off to a local, erm, not really resort, and not really a BnB, but they have cabins in the woods a person can rent like hotel rooms. After my dad sold the house (I had been going there while he and my uncle went on their cruises), I realized I do need that valuable alone time to focus on writing rather than cleaning, or gardening, or grumbling about how I can’t find quiet with the TV on all day long.

Writerly groups: I’m now the official president of our local Sisters in Crime chapter, so that’ll be interesting. I’m also part of a new critique group for suspense writers, and a group of fellow Sisters in Crime members as an experiment in cross-marketing. Which reminds me, I have newsletters to write and a website to update.

Novellas: I wrote two novellas starring the main characters of my published book over NaNo last year. I need to revise those and maybe use them as a tool (bribe?) for my newsletter peeps. Or stuff them into a drawer. Hmm. Maybe during my mini-writing retreat I can revise them enough so they don’t read like a 5th grader wrote them.

Finish my rural MN mystery: It’s roughly half-finished. Of course, that might get elbowed out by Book 3. Who knows?

Okay, I think my list is long enough. Uff-da. How are you planning to use your new year? More writing? More nature-walks for brainstorming? Fewer hours in the rabbit holes and time-sucks of the internet?

Whatever you choose, may you enjoy good health and an abundance of creative inspiration!

Have a great new year!

Another day, another nap.


7 Comments

Writer to writer: POV #amwriting

I promised a writing craft post this week, which I haven’t done for a while. See, this is what happens after the garden is done and we get a foot–yes, a FOOT–of snow over the course of one day. No worries on the snow, though. It’s supposed to be close to 50 degrees F this week. It’s just those days until then …

I’ve been doing more reading lately than I have for a long time, trying to clear off some of the entries on my TBR list. Pretty sure I haven’t made a dent, though.

Anyway, I was reading a book a couple weeks back that got me thinking about POV. Raise your hand if you remember the last time you read a book written in 3rd person omniscient. I mean, that was written this century.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I haven’t read omniscient for, shoot. Hmm. Agatha Christie? Most books I’ve read are in 3rd limited, 3rd deep, or 1st person. I write in 3rd deep (or try to), and I have written in 1st person, but 3rd omniscient? Tagged onto that is tense. Most books I’ve read are written in past tense (“I dashed up the stairs”, or “He eased around the corner”), a very few in present tense, usually in 1st person present (the Divergent books), rarely in 3rd person present.

I think writers choose POV depending on 1) how comfortable they are writing it, and 2) how deep they want to pull readers into the character(s).

In first person POV the reader gets the story, both the feel and the plot, from only one character, as if they themselves were in the character’s head looking through character’s eyes. Add present tense, like in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, and the reader experiences the story “in real time”. Even with past tense, the reader is right there in the action. Can’t get any closer than that.

Yes, I know there is 2nd person POV, but you don’t see it much in fiction. I write in 2nd POV for my job as a tech writer. Just sayin’. Moving on …

Third person deep or limited POV takes the reader another step back from the action. It’s like first person without being first person. You’re deep into the character; not looking through their eyes, but pretty close, like you’re in a mind meld with them, but not them. The reader still only knows what that one character thinks and feels. Is third person limited the same? I used to think so, until I read an article about it. There is a difference, but I don’t remember what it is. I think it has to do with how much the narrator pops in to describe or explain things, but don’t quote me.

Then there’s 3rd omniscient, the “god” view. This puts the reader into the story, but not into any one character, so they can see and feel all the action and get the feels of all the characters in the scene without being limited to one POV character. It’s the most “distant” POV. Because of that, I think it would be tough to draw the reader into the story unless it’s a very compelling story. It’s one reason I don’t write it.

So, back to the books. I read Laurie Buchanan’s Indelible. I know Laurie from the Writers’ Institute, so of course she’s on my TBR list. What first struck me is the book is written in 3rd omniscent, present tense. Yes, present tense, which brings the reader closer to the action than past tense. The characters and the plot were intruguing, and even though I knew from the beginning who the bad guy was (omniscient, remember), I cared enough about each character to follow them through an intriguing story that had enough surprises to keep me interested.

Before that, and after that, the books I read were written in 1st person, past tense. A LOT of urban fantasy books are written in 1st person (in fact, I can’t think of any off the top of my head that are not in 1st POV), which is what I’ve been reading a lot of lately. However, I did read Jess Lourey’s Unspeakable Things, written in 1st person, past tense from the viewpoint of an adolescent girl in the 80s. Again, I tried to pay attention to how the book was written, and why the character drew me into the story.

As I was reading each of these books, the writer in me kept asking “why”. What compelled me to keep reading? Why did I feel close to the characters in 3rd omniscient?

With the 3rd omniscient, it was partly the present tense, which brings the reader closer to the story than past tense, and partly the voice. Oh, don’t forget the setting: an idyllic writing retreat in Oregon! If it really exists, I wanna go there!

With the 1st person, it was the POV, but again, the voice. It wasn’t just seeing the setting and story through the POV character’s senses, but the voice of that character, and how she described things, and the secrets she knew but never came out and said (hence, the title, Unspeakable Things).

Voice. That thing we writers always hear, but have a hell of a time trying to define. It’s that something about a writer that lets us recognize an author’s work as theirs rather than someone else’s. We are told we need to “find our voice” in our writing. It’s maddening, because no one ever really tells us how to do that outside of “just keep writing. You’ll develop it”.

So helpful … not. Far be it from me to give anyone advice on finding their voice, because I’m still searching for mine. Anyway, maybe I’ll delve into that a little next time.

Or I’ll bail and make my Muse write the post 🙂

Anyway. Gotta slog through a foot of snow to check on the chickens, so I’ll spare you more ramblings. Just think, in less than two weeks the days start getting longer again! Yay for the Winter Solstice!

Happy Writing!


7 Comments

NaNo Week 2: Steady as she goes #nanowrimo2021

Week 2 of NaNo is off and running. I had a few spits and starts this past week, some good writing time interrupted by my class. Sigh. Still debating whether to take another class next semester.

Anyway, a few days of clearing 2k words, a few days of missing 1,000 words, but overall I’m keeping up. The story is meandering pretty good, but hey, it’s a first draft. Trimming comes later, with the whole revision routine.

Are you playing NaNoWriMo this year? Are you keeping up? One of my Writing Sisters had the fortune to spend a solid week quietly writing at the beach.

I’m envious. I mean, a solid week of nothing to do but write, walk along the beach, and write some more? Yes, please! It got me thinking about the place here in MN I’ve been eyeing for an extended weekend of writing. Not now, because winter in MN and the only heat in those little cabins is wood heat, but definitely thinking spring/early summer to test the place out over a long weekend. If it feels good, I see a week-long annual writing retreat in my future 🙂

There are other options, I know, more formally set up as writing retreats or residencies. I’ve been thinking about those as well. More pricy, but there’s also the thing about muses gathering when writers get together. More creative energy to help inspire.

More to think about. Not now, though. Winter is coming (we got a coating of snow yesterday, but temps are predicted to hit 50 F this coming week, so welcome to November in MN, climate change edition). Well, maybe in a warmer locale…

Back to writing. Hope you have a bountiful writing week!

Just a feel-good pic of Tibbers and Nyx


8 Comments

Week 1: So far, so good #nanowrimo2021

Quote from barbara kingsolver: there is no perfect time to write. there is only now.

Week 1 of NaNoWriMo is almost over, and I’m on track. Not ahead, since I missed my quota a few days this week, but I’m about where I should be.

What’s better than getting back into the “writing every day” habit? Realizing the difference between two versions of the same story.

I spent time over this year writing the opening scenes for a novella in longhand. One version in one notebook, then later decided to redo it, and used a different notebook. Couldn’t find the newer notebook, so started transcribing from the older one first. The writing? Meh.

When I finally discovered the newer version, I see the differences in the writing. Namely, the second one is a better version. Why? It reads like I was more “in tune” with my creative energies, if that makes sense.

I’ve also started reading a new book (new to me, and if anyone is wondering, it’s Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey, a local author and foster mom for adorable kittens! The one she’s fostering now is unbelievably cute! (she posts pics on FB)), and the writer in me is taking mental notes on how she’s writing, and the techniques she’s using, especially when it comes to drawing readers in. Granted, she was an English professor until she started writing full time. If you ever have the chance to attend a presentation by her, I recommend it.

Anyway, the take-away for me is being conscious of ways to draw the reader in and immerse them in not only the story, but the characters. That’s the difference between the two versions of my current project: the first is more mechanical, the second has more “heart” to it. Now that I recognize that, I’m going to try to incorporate more of that into my own work. I’ve even gone through some of my assignments from my writing classes that went toward my writing certificate, and I’ve done it. I’ve written with more “heart”, but those were short (2k or less) pieces. I can do it, now it’s a matter of focus and being conscious of not just the actions in the scene, but how to immerse the reader in the scene with the characters.

Practice! I’m off to write. And don’t forget to turn the clocks back tonight!

It’s getting cold. Only time I need a lap!