Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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!


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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.


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Muse-ing Backup #amwriting #amrevising #amreading

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Bloody hell, it’s cold. I shut out the icy wind, stomp off my boots, and peel off my coat. I could have picked a writer anywhere in the world. Hawaii. The Bahamas. Hell, New Zealand. But no, I had to pick Minnesota.

No one is at the desk in my writer’s office. Not a surprise. The aroma of mulled apple cider infuses the air. The walls reflect colored light. I almost expect to hear carols.

Almost.

“Oi, are you here?” I round the wall that hides the alcove from the back door.

Christmas lights drape like garlands over the two recliners in the nook. My writer is focused on her laptop screen, headphones on–good. Very good, unless she fell down an internet rabbit hole, like Facebook. Then it’s just a time-suck. She’s wearing a fuzzy hoodie, sweats, and booties she has claimed are toasty warm. Her feet are tapping out a rhythm against an imaginary floor.

“Well, at least it looks like you’re working.”

She jumps. “Damn it! You scared me.”

I have to take pleasure in the small things, even if it annoys her. “I called out when I came in, love.”

She pulls off her headphones. “Whatever. You’re late again.”

“Late? For what?”

“For writing my blog post.”

“Excuse me? Your blog post. I’m here for inspiration.”

“Uh-huh. And writing my post this week. Where were you? Adelaide? Sydney?”

“Minnesota.” I grab a bottle of water from the friggie and claim the second recliner in the alcove. “And why would I be writing your post this week? You were going to talk about writing and voice, weren’t you?”

She hands her laptop to me. “Here. Just, I don’t know, write about the solstice. This is your chance to share about all those pre-written history stories of whatever celebrations they used to do for the solstice.”

“Why would you think I’d know anything about that, love? I am not that old.” Chaucer, maybe, but not the Iron or Bronze Age.

She gets up. “I don’t know, think of something. I have to walk.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t focus. Again.”

I can’t help but smile. “It’s not that you can’t focus, love. Say it.”

She turns to me and rolls her eyes. “Arrgh. Fine. I can’t decide what to work on.”

*Chuckle* “And why is that?”

“Really? I suppose you’re going to take credit for me being inspired by three different projects, one of which isn’t my current genre. You were the one who started that. Remember? That urban fantasy?”

“Yes, I am going to take credit, love. And you’re thinking about the urban fantasy because you’ve been reading Jim Butcher and KN Banet for the past month. So pick something. You’ve been doing fine with the police procedural.”

“Yeah, but I have to reorganize it, and add some scenes, and pull some scenes.”

“It’s called ‘revision’.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, but I’ve spent years on that book.”

“And you’ve won a contest with it, and a publisher offered you a contract for it, even if you didn’t take the offer. Finish the revisions, love.”

“It was a small publisher, and they wouldn’t negotiate the contract. I need to work on Book 2.”

“You will.” I love it when she’s like this, with all that creative energy. “You’re still waiting on beta reader feedback for book 2 anyway. Go walk. And bring back some of that mulled cider I smell.”

“It’s a candle.”

Damn. “Then bring back some hot chocolate, love.”

Happy Winter Solstice! Can’t wait for the days to start getting longer again (more sunlight, not more hours)!

Nyx as a kitten and lap warmer


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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!


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Another year, another win! #nanowrimo2021

Another year, another win! Not just having written 50k words in 30 days, but having rebuilt the habit of writing every day.

One of the things I find every year when I do this crazy exercise is the flow and ebb of creativity. Flow first, because it always seems when I start my NaNo journey I take off with a rush of creative energy, but by week 2, that energy starts to ebb, and I find myself writing a lot of inline notes to myself, or more accurately, stream of consciousness writing along the lines of “what if this happened now” or “this sounds stupid, fix it later”.

With the cooler weather, and … oh, heck, it’s the sunset at four freaking o’clock … I haven’t been walking as much as I was back before we turned the clocks back, and before the sun set earlier than six o’clock. Walking really helps with the whole brainstorming process for me. There was a writer some time ago who posted about walking whenever she got stuck … Come to think of it, a LOT of writers walk when they get stuck.

Anyway, I end up doing a lot of brainstorming, or just brain-nothing, when I walk. But now, with the early sunset and working until late afternoon (i.e. after the sun goes down), I’m not getting my daily dose of fresh air, and I’m not getting the benefit of the half-hour or so of “brainwalking”.

So what’s a writer to do? Wait for the winter solstice, for sure (about three weeks and counting!). But I’ve learned that writing longhand is a great way to stoke the creative energies. Of course, writing longhand means the computer doesn’t conveniently count how many words I write.

What does work, though, is writing … er, drafting a project outside of the NaNo window, then transcribing that into the computer as a NaNo project. It’s amazing how many words can come out of a longhand draft. I had started writing one of the novellas this summer, I think, then started it again (cuz I had a better idea, or the first one sucked worse than usual or something along those lines). I knew that novella was going to be one of my NaNo projects.

By the time I transcribed the part I’d drafted (only about the first third to a half of the novella), I’d gotten back into the story, and managed to finish it in a way I had never considered when I started it. Score!

I’m feeling like a real writer again. I mean, I am a real writer, but … you know what I mean. I’m back into the “writing every day” habit (or most every day), and I’m going back to my police procedural to revise that a bit right now. Or maybe my small-town mystery. Or maybe book 3 …

I feel a craft-related post coming up for next week, now that I’ve finished reading a couple books that had me analyzing the way the authors used the craft. Very interesting, and they had me reading as much for gleaning ideas on how to write as much as for the story itself.

Keep on writing!

For you, B! A furry kitty tummy!