Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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A little bit of everything #amwriting #amrevising

Last weekend’s book festival was, well, slow. Not a whole lot of people. I think the children’s book authors did the best. I sold less than a handful of books. Another author friend didn’t sell any. Another sold ten. Two years ago I sold twelve books at the same event. I get it; fewer people = fewer potential sales.

One thing I did determine is I really need to finish book 2. I need something new to add to my display. It seems, however, my focus has been scattered among the weeds: homework(!)–we’re doing a group project now, work, what to do with so many tomatoes (but hubs made bacon, so BLTs!!), morning or evening runs/walks, Sisters in Crime stuff, writing, critiques, my daughter’s choices, cleaning…

It’s like my brain is some sort of air popper and I can’t catch and hold onto anything. Focus is an elusive creature these days, and it frustrates me. When I started my new job and shifted my working hours closer to business hours (7:30a to 4:30p as opposed to 4am to noon), my plan was to use those hours before work in the morning to write, and maybe catch up on stuff like that email account I haven’t gone into for weeks.

What happened? The biggest thing is I’m not getting up at 3:30am like I had been. When I do get up (usually around 5-5:30a), I’m the only one awake, and I find I just want to enjoy the quiet. I also find that when I hit snags in my revision I tend to do a lot of staring at the page. Staring is not writing.

NaNoWriMo is three weeks away. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to work on, but I’m looking forward to the reinforcement for rebuilding my writing habits. I’m even thinking of trying the Pomodoro technique: focus on nothing but writing for 20 minutes, take a five minute break, then another 20 minute session, rinse and repeat.

Hope you all are enjoying the great fall weather we’re having. I know here in MN it’s unseasonably warm, ten degrees warmer than usual. It’s great for being outside. As someone said, we are getting a nice fall this year as opposed to a sudden shift from summer to winter.

My Muse is giving me the stink-eye. I’d better get back to finding my focus.

Happy Writing!

Do you think he’ll notice if I take some?


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Not a-mused … autumn edition #amwriting #amrevising

colored fallen leaves

I open the door to my writing office, juggling a bowl of cherry tomatoes and a glass of water. Feels like it’s been ages since …

“About fecking time you came back.”

“Damn it!” I chase two tomatoes across the floor while trying not to spill any water. “What the hell?”

My Muse scoops up a third wayward tomato. “That was my next question, love.”

I set my snacks on the desk and reach out for the captured tomato. “Either eat it or give it back.”

He pops it into his mouth and bites down. I imagine the tomato innards squirting into his mouth, and grab one of my own. Man, I love garden tomatoes. Cherry ones are so convenient, like Whoppers only squishier and not chocolate.

Mmm, chocolate. I wonder if I still have any chocolate left from the reunion.

My Muse finishes chewing and takes a swig of my water. He’s wearing his worn-well jeans and burgundy Henley with the sleeves shoved to his elbows. He plants hands on hips, stretching his shirt tight across his broad chest. Did that shirt shrink a little?

“Hey,” he snaps his fingers, “pay attention, love.”

Fine. “What?”

“Just when were you planning on coming back here?”

I raise my arms, encompassing the office. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

“No, when are you coming back here?” He reaches over and taps my head. “You have a revision to finish so you can send it to beta readers.”

“I was working on it earlier this week. I think. Oh hell, I don’t even know what day it is anymore.”

“It’s ‘butt in chair, hands on keyboard’ day,” he says, pointing to the recliners in the alcove.

“Hey, I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs, you know. I finished a beta read for another author, I’m working on a critique due in a couple days, I had a hella amount of instructional videos to watch and take notes on for my class–which reminds me, I have homework to do, and I should probably pay my tuition. I have another writer’s pages to read and critique. And, oh, I do have a full-time job, not to mention the real life family stuff, like helping my husband.”

“Yes, and your point?” He leans toward me and taps my head again. “This is where you need to be.” He points to the recliners again. “I want to see you spend at least an hour a day there. Not checking email …”

“Like I’ve been checking my email,” I mutter under my breath. I’m afraid to check one of my accounts–the number of new emails is probably racing toward a thousand.

My Muse gives me the stink-eye. “Not checking Facebook, not reading all the random articles that pop up on your home page …”

“Okay, okay, I get it. Some of that stuff still needs to be done, you know. Facebook is where our Sisters in Crime chapter communicates with the members. And where I need to share my upcoming book festival.” Speaking of, I’ll probably have to spend a day working on my website with customer service since my design software broke, or redesigning it without the cool software. Ugh. If it comes to that, there goes another day.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have Book 2 to sell at a book festival?” He grips my shoulder and nails me with stern blue eyes. A shiver runs down my spine. “I’m going to be a hard-ass until you get your writing back into your routine. You’re adjusted to your new work schedule and the garden is almost done. Take your daily walk, run, whatever, but I want no excuses. Got it?”

“Yes, I got it.”

“Good. Grab your computer, sit your ass down, and get to work.”

Now’s probably not the time to tell him about the new idea my writing teacher gave me. He’d have another excuse to be overbearing and grumpy.

Happy upcoming Autumn Equinox! Man, it’s fall already. Take some time to enjoy it before the snow flies (or the rainy season starts. Whatever is the thing in your region).

Dory - just keep writing
Zoey sleeping


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Muse-ing “street cred” #amwriting #amrevising

Badge from University of Wisconsin - Madison Writing Certificate: Fiction
Made it!

I straighten the framed certificate of completion for my writing certificate on the wall of my writing office behind my desk. It looks good, if a bit lonely all by itself. Maybe I should frame a picture of my first royalty check to balance it.

“Looks good, love. Congratulations.”

I don’t bother to turn. “Thanks. The book still needs work, though.”

“You knew that before you turned it in.” My Muse is standing on the other side of my desk, arms crossed on his broad chest. His smile reaches his blue eyes. He’s wearing his burgundy henley, sleeves pushed to his elbows, and his worn-well jeans.

“I also thought my writing teacher would only read the first 200 pages. She read the whole thing.”

“And that’s a bad thing why?”

I groan. “The part after page 200 is the part that needs more work than the rest because it’s where I made the most changes over the past two revisions.”

“At least you recognize that, love. It comes with practice.”

“And learning,” I add. “It’s kind of annoying, really.”

His brow arches. “How so?”

“Do you know I’m starting to analyze television shows for storytelling? Just last night Hubs and I were discussing how a new plot thread was introduced into a show, and how it felt like someone just decided that the main storyline wasn’t enough, so they shoehorned a new angle to it. It seemed to me like they just found out the show would be renewed, so they had to add something else to carry it through another season. They didn’t do it very well.”

His smile changed somehow from proud to knowing. “How could they have done it better?”

“A lot of ways. Especially seeding more hints along the way.” I get that they wouldn’t take the effort unless they knew it would pay off or they would need it later, but still, it could have been little things and pretty easy. “At the very least, they could have given a better explanation of something major that happened in the very first episode. That would have been smoother than a character dropping a bombshell reveal out of nowhere.”

His knowing smile broadened.

“What?”

His chuckle rose from deep in his chest. “You are growing as a writer, love. And a storyteller.”

That was kinda the point of going for the writing certificate. “Writer, sure. Storyteller? I can name a dozen people off the top of my head …”

He cuts me off. “You recognize the elements of good storytelling, and you are aware of them in others’ writing as well as your own.”

“Oh gawd. Now you sound like a writing craft book.”

“You are learning. And you are putting what you learn into practice, which is why it took you six …”

“Seven,” I correct.

He sighs. “Seven tries to get your plot right in this manuscript. It’s better than finishing the manuscript with a flawed plot and starting over after three rounds of revision.”

True. “All that writing stuff I’m trying to learn is sinking in.” I look at my writing certificate of completion. It took me over a year, but I’m glad I did it. I just wish they hadn’t cancelled the program. Stupid pandemic.

“To celebrate,” my Muse says as he heads to the mini-fridge, “Beer and chocolate.”

“Wine,” I say, because beer doesn’t go with chocolate as well as wine does, “and better hold off on the chocolate for now. I have another revision to finish. You’re sticking around, right? No celebratory pub crawls with E?”

“Of course, love. I’ll be here.”

I’ll hold off on the next round of revision until after I get the garden in. This weekend is garden weekend, so I should have some pictures for you next week. In the US, enjoy your holiday weekend, and remember those who served our country and fallen.

Happy Memorial Day! Keep on writing!

Zoey sitting outside


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Tricks of the revision trade #amrevising #amediting #amreading

To answer your first question, yes, I did get my manuscript turned in to my writing teacher before our Zoom call this week. Woo-hoo! Happy dance!

Well, except I didn’t make it all the way through the manuscript on that last revision round before I sent it. I was working on it last night and realized there are still a few inline notes I haven’t taken out yet. Mostly because I still need them. 🙂

I’m one of those writers who likes to go through printed copy when revising, because for me it’s easier to make notes right on the page. I end up doing some brainstorming work as well, filling margins with my chicken scratch. The toughest thing is always catching silly flaws, like missing words or misspellings, because as the author, we’ve been through the words so many times. It’s like when you have kids and you see them every day; they change and you notice, but don’t. Then when a relative sees them for the first time in months, they are in awe at how much the kids have changed (which is another tip: leave your work alone for a couple weeks before diving in to the next round of revision).

I have a few go-to techniques I use when revising, but one I especially like. Here’s a peek into my revision technique (wow, that rhymes!):

Compile to Word and read on my iPad

My writing tool of choice is Scrivener, for many reasons. I know, I know, writers have a love/hate relationship with Scrivener: they either love it or hate it. I’m one of the love crowd. While I compose using Times New Roman, when I compile to read through it, I use a different font (actually, I change the font on the Word end). Seems that is enough to knock my brain out of writing mode so it can look at the book a little differently. Less “OMG, I’ve been staring at these words for how long? I know what they say”, and more “Hey, look, it’s different.” Yep, not much, but it’s the little things 🙂

Print it out

Once I’ve read through the book on my iPad (and yes, I still use paper to take notes of things to fix) and made a round of corrections/revisions, I print it out (again using something other than TNR), then go through the hard copy. It’s easier for mark it up. There’s something about paper that inspires me to brainstorm while I’m revising (which just complicates the next round 😐 ).

Back to front

Another thing to try: read the story from the end forward. Start with the very last sentence, then read each sentence that comes before. It’s enough to trick your brain into seeing the prose differently. Of course, by the time you’re halfway through, your brain has caught on to your sneaky tricks.

Read it out loud (my favorite!)

I love this one! Why? Because I think it is easier to hear problems with rhythm and stuff like echoes and missing words (which your brain tends to fill in automatically) when I hear them read aloud. Reading the prose out loud yourself is helpful, but I think hearing someone else read it to you is better. And wouldn’t you know, Word has a read-aloud feature. Sure, you can’t have Sam Elliott or Mae West read it to you, and it does sound like a computer reading (not as mechanical as it used to be), but it beats recording yourself reading it aloud then playing it back. I mentioned this in a post a couple years back, when I had an older version of Word. I have a newer version now, and it’s easier to turn on. Here are instructions if you are interested.

And there you have it. These suggestions are for the read-through-and-figure-out-what-needs-work stage. Every writer is different, and what works for me might not work for you at all, but I think any time we can offer suggestions to each other to make our tasks more effective, if not easier, we might pick up something new that works for us.

It seems we blew right past spring here in MN. Average daily temps this time of year are supposed to be around 70 F. This weekend (at least the next 4 days) are supposed to be tropical heat (80s +) and humidity (dewpoint in 60s+). Ugh. It’s garden planting time, and tropical heat and humidity just make the dirt stick easier to my sweaty skin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but c’mon, we get that weather in July.

I’ll try to take pics of each stage of my garden planting adventure, so stay tuned.

Have a great writing weekend!