Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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A little potpourri #amrevising #amgardening #amreading

Dontcha hate it when all those pesky real-life responsibilities get in the way of your writing? Cleaning, paying bills, full-time job, cleaning, paying taxes, migraines, COVID vax, updating my resume (yep, I’ve fallen victim to the acquisition company’s line: “I’m sorry, but your position will be eliminated as of the middle of summer), socializing with the fam. You know, the stuff you have to do because you’re a grown-up (at least in age). Hang on, I have to go open the chicken coop so the girls can get out and stretch their legs.

Okay, I’m back. We lost a chicken a few weeks ago to some unknown predator. Could have been a raccoon (though why a bandit would bother trying to kill a chicken is beyond me; I don’t think they’re that ambitious), or a hawk (except hawks don’t usually eat the head right away), or a skunk (again, would they go through the effort), or more likely the tomcat we’ve seen roaming around (and that treed Zoey last week). Hey, as long as the remaining four do their jobs and lay eggs …

Speaking of outdoors, hubs tilled the garden. Since last year, he’s tilled two spots: my usual garden, and what he calls “his” garden, where he plants potatoes and the sweet corn I swore I would never plant again. This year I asked him to save a spot for the pumpkins he asked me to get for him (Pepitas variety, in case you’re wondering. Hull-less seeds so he can roast them in the fall). Besides, my SIL asked me to grow some pumpkins for her. The two varieties need some space so they don’t cross-pollinate. Hubs planted some potatoes already, with more in line to plant.

Me? Nothing in the garden yet. In MN we know we can have frosts as late as the week before Memorial Day. In fact, we’ve had frost warnings the past few days. Which doesn’t bother cool weather crops like lettuce, spinach, cabbage and relatives, and a few others, but in my world I’d rather plant once instead of plant some, then later plant or re-plant the tender stuff. Besides, I have a revision to finish.

The seedlings are looking really good. I’ve started hardening them off, which is a fancy way of saying putting them outside for a while so they get used to cooler temps and wind. I figure I’ll stick with my usual timetable of Memorial Day weekend for planting.

Things are looking up for in-person events this summer–YAY!! I’m mostly excited about the probability of seeing my Writing Sisters in person at our reunion this year. Okay, I’m excited to see my fam (sibs and such) at our summer gathering, too. Last time I saw my sibs was during our Christmas Zoom. My dad made a surprise visit a couple weekends ago, because he wanted to get out.

Now, my dad has this wonderful (not) habit of calling just before he leaves home (instead of, like, the day before) to see if we’re going to be around for a visit. Luckily, he’s about an hour and a half away, so that gives us some time to quick-clean (trust me, it’s not nearly enough time, because all that cleaning gets in the way of writing 🙂 ). He didn’t used to call ahead; my mom would. In fact, I got a call from my mom one day (years ago!). She asked if Dad had talked to me about the piano.

Me: Um, no.

She then gave me a heads up: Dad’s on his way with a piano (from my aunt and uncle).

Me (and hubs): What?!

We managed to find a place for it before he arrived. After that, I think my mom explained to him that the appropriate thing to do (especially when moving an upright piano) is call ahead. (A little backstory so you don’t think my dad is crazy-spontaneous: we had talked about getting the piano (which my aunt and uncle (Dad’s brother) wanted to get rid of), but moving an upright piano isn’t exactly an easy task. Calling moving companies was on the to-do list. I think my uncle complained (?) to Dad about what to do, and Dad took it upon himself to move it for us).

BTW, I’ve tried to pawn that same piano off on my brother (since we rarely use it anymore), but he got an electronic keyboard for the girls instead. Good plan. Way easier to move a keyboard than a whole piano.

Well, better get back to revising. And of course, I’m only halfway through thanks to real-life responsibilities, so yet another week before I turn it in. I promise. 😀

Write on!


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Not A-mused #amwriting #amrevising

I erase an entry on my writer’s to-do list, conveniently written on her wall-sized whiteboard. Hmm. I grab a marker of a different color when the outside door to her writing office swings open, sucking air past me.

I turn to see my writer, eyes wild, storming toward me.

“Hey …”

She cocks her fist and hits me.

She actually hits me. In the shoulder.

“Ow!” Damn, she’s got an arm. That’s gonna sting for a while. “What the bloody hell was that for?”

Hands in fists at her sides, she growls and stomps in a circle. “Damn it!” Another circle, another growl. “Why the fuck didn’t you suggest that earlier?” She hits me again. “Do you have any idea how much stuff I have to change now? I’m four revisions in, I’m supposed to submit the story in a week, and you pull this shit?” She draws her fist back for another go.

I catch her hand this time. “Whoa. Hey. Stop that. Why are you so wound up?”

She wrenches her hand out of mine and shoves me into the board. “You. Oh. My gawd. Arrgh!” She moves to shove me again.

I catch her. Again. This time I pin her arms to her sides. She’s close, and creative energy is pulsing around her. Very un-Muse-like thoughts begin to gather in my head, thoughts that toe an uncrossable line. Damn. I shake them away. “Stop that, love.”

She struggles. Apparently she forgot I’m a Muse; she won’t get loose until I let go.

“You …” She shoots me a glare that I suspect is intended to kill or maim me. “Damn it!” She struggles again. “Let me go.”

“Promise you won’t hit or shove me.”

Another growl. “Yes. Fine. I won’t hit or shove you.”

I release her. “Calm down, love.”

“Really?” She storms in another circle before stopping and stabbing a finger at me. “You.”

“What?”

She throws up her hands. “You know I’ve been struggling with this story for forever, and now–NOW–you suggest the plot item that brings everything together? After four revisions? I planned to turn this in next week. This piece means I’ll have to rewrite a quarter of the book.”

She shoves me into the whiteboard again before I can catch her. A marker falls off the sill. “You could have suggested this a month ago, before I started the fourth round of revision. I could have fixed everything during that go-round and had more time to tweak it before I turn it in.”

Time to redirect her into something productive. “Your writing teacher isn’t going to dock you points if you turn it in a week later.” I point to a recliner in the corner, where her laptop is waiting. “Get started.”

“Fine.” She aims herself at the recliner.

“Julie.”

“What?” she barks.

“You’re welcome.”


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Revision-it does a story good #amwriting #amrevising

As long as it takes to write the first draft of a book (I mean, normally, not the 8 first drafts I went through for my current WIP), I think it takes 10 times longer to revise it into something worthy of an agent or editor. Or writing teacher, because I want to prove I was paying attention in class 🙂 .

Fourth round of revision, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s stuff to adjust in the storyline. Go figure. I mean, of course each round of revision means refining the story, fine-tuning the plot, tweaking the characters. That’s the whole point. At this point in the process, part of me just wants to toss it aside and work on something that’s much, much closer to a worthy finished product (like that manuscript I queried for two years that I went back to read and now know how to improve).

I have two weeks before I turn the manuscript in to my writing teacher. It’s my “final”, the last task in my journey toward a writing certificate, which does nothing more than give me a bit of “street cred”, but has also been good for learning the craft.

That’s what it’s all about, right? Learning the craft. Practicing what we learn. Learn some more. Keep practicing. The key, though, is having someone review our progress and guide us on improving the craft. It doesn’t do any good to practice the golf swing if you never get that one piece of advice that could knock your handicap down a stroke or two.

We need critique partners to look at a story from the outside, point out weaknesses, and suggest ways to improve the story. We need beta readers to get a wider perspective of the story and ensure we keep the reader’s interest and enjoyment of the overall story.

I would add that we need writing teachers or coaches every so often to help us learn better ways or different ways to build the story with stronger material, better technique, and guide us to become a better writer than we were last month or last year. If you don’t know shifting your grip a quarter-inch will knock a stroke off that drive, you’ll never lower your handicap.

And no, I have no idea where all the golf comparisons came from. I don’t even play golf!

Practice will help us improve. Critique partners and editors will help us improve. Craft books help us learn things we can do to improve our craft. But there’s something to be said about taking a writing class, attending a writing webinar or seminar, or working directly with a coach.

When asked what the best thing I’ve done in my writing journey has been, I will always say choosing to attend a week-long, novel-writing master class and taking online creative writing courses. I have learned so many things (not all of them have stuck, however 🙂 ) over the past few years that I would do it all again just for the refresher.

Okay, so this ended up being an ode to writing teachers. Seriously, though, I feel fortunate to have found a writing teacher (and writing sisters!) who, to this day, continues to inspire and sit on my shoulder like the proverbial angel (devil?), whispering about scene goals, ticking time bombs, touchstones, and sidekicks.

If there’s a National Writing Teachers’ Day, let me know, because I need to send my writing teacher a bottle of wine and some chocolate 😀

Keep on writing!

Get back to writing, slacker. I’m stealing your chair.


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Muse-ing revisions #amwriting #amrevising

Image by JL G from Pixabay

LIghts are on in the writing office. The brainstorming wall hasn’t changed from when I left–wait, that yellow streak wasn’t there before.

It’s too quiet. Bloody hell. I leave for a few days, and my writer vanishes.

The outside door to the office opens. My writer toes her shoes off onto the mat beside the door as she closes it. She looks up. Her eyes widen.

“Nice of you to show up.” She hangs her coat on the rack and tosses her hat onto the shelf above it. “Wish I could take a break like that. Where’d you go? Sydney? Adelaide?”

“Muse conference.” I lean against her desk. “I missed you too, love. Where did you go? You are supposed to be working.”

She tucks her feet into slippers and shuffles around the partition wall to the mini-fridge. “I went for a walk now that it’s getting nice outside.” She pulls a water bottle from the fridge and drops into one of the recliners. “I had to do something to work out the snarl in the plot.” She narrows her eyes. “Since you disappeared in the middle of a brainstorming session.”

She said it like I ran off to plan some nefarious activity. “You’re doing fine, love.”

“Have you even read my revision?”

I gesture to the brainstorming wall, with its riot of colors. “We worked on it. You even added something new.” Now that I look at it, it’s a significant addition. “Isn’t this the idea you dropped earlier?”

“Yeah. And if you had told me to keep going with it, I might have figured out I needed to keep it sooner. I could’ve added it in the last revision.” She sets her half-empty bottle aside and pulls out her laptop. “Since you’re here, why don’t you make yourself useful and write my blog post so I can get back to work.”

Not in my job description. Which doesn’t mean I haven’t done it before. “You can do it, love.”

An eyebrow arches. “I don’t want to lose the idea I just came up with. If you do it, I can get back to finishing this scene before I forget it.”

“You don’t know what to write for your post, do you?”

She leans her head back and sighs. “Fine, you’re right. I have no idea what to write.” She looks me in the eye. “Please?”

A sense of satisfaction settles in me. There’s my writer. As aggravating as she can be, she’s progressing.

“Hell, write about your Muse conference or whatever you were doing. Is that code for a pub crawl?”

“No, love. I’ll throw together something for the blog. Then we work on that wall.”

At least he was gracious about it. Usually he grumbles. I’m trying to stay focused, and feel like I’ve lost touch with so much blogging stuff. I apologize that I haven’t been visiting lately. It’s like I’m so far behind I just want to hide. Once I turn in my manuscript to my writing teacher (by the end of April–yes, I’m sure), I’ll feel better about trying to catch up. Miss you all!

Happy Writing!

Don’t bug me. I’m busy.


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All I got was a lousy draft #amrevising #amwriting #amediting

Have you ever seen T-shirts with the saying: My (sister/brother/best friend’s uncle’s cousin) went to (fill in name of awesome tourist destination here) and all I got was this lousy T-shirt?

Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

The door of my writing office that leads to outside clicks shut. “What is so important it couldn’t wait until after coffee, love?”

I look up as my Muse steps into view. “What took you so long?”

He leans against the partial wall that separates the recliner nook from the outside door, to-go coffee cup in hand. His T-shirt, a faded green with a wash-worn decal of a surfing kangaroo over an outline of Australia, is a fitting accessory to his gray sweatpants. Scruff covers his face, and he neglected to do any sort of hair-taming. He lifts the coffee cup. “Caribou. If I’d known I’d have to wait in line for fifteen minutes, I would’ve made my own.” He takes a sip. “What’s the emergency?”

Wow, he managed to say that without a smirk. “It sucks.” There. Simple. Succinct.

He raises an eyebrow. “It’s a draft. It’s supposed to suck.”

“It’s my third revision, and it still sucks.” Yes, I know I sound like I’m whining, but damn it. Just, damn it.

He takes another sip. “I’m not doing your ‘homework’ for you, love. My job is to inspire you.”

“I knew it was bad, and I made some changes that were supposed to take care of most of the issues, but shit.” I toss the stack of index cards (rubber-banded together, of course) at him. It hits that fine chest of his and drops to the floor. “How could you let me write this? There is no tension. Plenty of conflict–in about six scenes.” I fail to suppress a sigh. “I was planning to turn this in by the end of the month. There’s no way I can turn this in to anyone, least of all my writing teacher.”

He picks the stack of cards off the floor and settles into the recliner beside me. “Isn’t that why you decided to try this method to begin with?” he asks, waving the stack at me before tossing it into my lap. “To look at each scene and make sure each one had enough action, relationship, information, suspense, and emotion? You haven’t even done that yet, have you?”

“I don’t need to do that. I already know it sucks.” And looking at each scene illustrated just how much suspense and tension the story lacks.

“You need to do that, love.” My Muse finishes his coffee and tosses the cup into the trash bin beside the mini-fridge. “That’s how you determine what each scene is lacking.”

“Scene? Hell, the whole damn story is boring.” I bounce my head against the back of the recliner. Yes, childish, I know, but I don’t care. “I’ve been hearing how much people like my book, the amount of tension and suspense, how they couldn’t put it down. The pacing.” Bounce. “This book doesn’t have that.”

“It’s a different book, love.”

“With the same main characters.” Pretty sure this is what they call “imposter syndrome”. “It needs to be at least as good as the first one.”

He looks at me with his gorgeous blue eyes. “How many second movies in a series are as good as the first one?”

“Really?” I roll my eyes. “Shouldn’t it be, how many second books in a series are as good as the first one? Lots. I’ve read lots of series, and nine times out of ten, the second book is as good as the first, if not better.”

He narrows his eyes at me. “So, how are you going to fix it?”

I sigh. A big. Long. Sigh. “That’s why I called you. I’ll have to tell my writing teacher I won’t make the end-of-March deadline, but I don’t want to push the deadline back too much. I have to fix this before I let her look at it.”

His turn to sigh. “Okay, love.” He cracks his knuckles. “Let’s get to it, then. Where’s the brainstorming bucket?”

And that’s pretty much how my week went. Do you ever struggle with suspense and tension in a book? Any suggestions? I’m reverting to my “what if” and “what is her greatest fear” tools. As in, “what if this happens, then what?” and “what is she afraid of losing?” (see, I did pay attention in writing class 😀 ) It helps. It helps even more that everything has dried up enough so it isn’t muddy; it means I can walk without wearing my snow boots (which make my feet hurt after the first mile), which helps my brainstorming process.

Back to the drawing/writing board.

Happy Writing!