Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Whoops! #amediting #amrevising

So, not only does my memory seem more faulty these days, I find myself completely pre-occupied by my writing projects. I’m working through the “before the overhaul” and the “after the overhaul” plots for my police procedural, and I just heard from my agent that there’s still a pacing problem with Book 2.

Guess what else is taking up precious brain bandwidth?

Not to mention all that routine stuff, like “I really need to clean this weekend” and “I really need to reorganize my working area” and “I wonder if the professor will accept my submissions for my exam for credit because I really don’t want to pay $1400 for the class.”

Needless to say, the realization that yes, it IS Saturday, and I’m supposed to post on my blog this morning, just hit me.

And my Muse is Down Under enjoying sun and surf and Summer, so I can’t rope him into writing a post.

So, here’s my “I forgot I had to post” post. Words of wisdom from my writing teacher, Christine DeSmet, one of the Blackbird Writers (you can find them on FB):

Post #4 of 5, techniques for novelists

Two examples of how color lifts a manuscript

…Using color consciously can help a manuscript become a standout for agents, editors, readers.

…Color—used as a device—creates emotional reactions in readers and characters. Color’s symbolism helps with plotting.

…Example 1: Author Kent Haruf

…In an online course I taught, I asked about color in one exercise. Kent Haruf’s great novel, PLAINSONG, begins with a teenage girl in a rough situation. She and her mother are alone, poor, the abusive mother shows disdain for her pregnant teenage daughter retching over the toilet bowl before going to school. The scene is sad, dark (and short). It’s mostly dialogue (with several dialogue techniques illustrated, by the way). When we go to the next scene, the girl dresses for school in nothing special, but she has a shiny red purse. When I asked adult writers what the red purse signified, the answers split evenly between women and men. Women felt the red purse meant the girl was grabbing for a degree of confidence and hope. The men felt the red purse signified a tart, a loose woman.

…No matter the interpretation, readers noticed the red purse. The novel, by the way, turns into a lovely story about community and “unlikely family” with humor. (If you liked A MAN CALLED OVE, you may enjoy PLAINSONG.)

…Haruf used the “red purse” as a signal in his plot. This story is set in a plain, small town—imagine gray and brown tones. The red purse has its own plot: it appears three significant times in the story. This helps the author signal the story’s three acts and character’s changes or growth. Readers may also care about the red purse, too, because the girl loves it. If something happens to the red purse, our emotions may be tugged.

…The red purse is like a red cardinal appearing amid a snowy white landscape, flagging our attention.

…Example 2: Author Jo Nesbo

…Author Jo Nesbo used white snow and contrasting color to great advantage in his chilling murder suspense, THE SNOWMAN, set in Norway. Amid the bleak, black winter shadows the killer always leaves behind a white snowman at the murder location. Each snowman wears a brightly colored scarf. The purpose? The sleuth (and agent/editor/reader) has to read to find out. The color amid chilly white is a plot tool and makes this a memorable novel.

…What color enhances (or could enhance) your manuscript’s characterization and plot?

Anyway, now that the Vikings are out of the running for the rest of the playoffs (raise your hand if you’re surprised. What? Anyone? Yeah, me neither. There’s always next year), I can use that time to catch up on those annoying chores, like cleaning. Ugh.

Maybe when my Muse gets back, he’ll have some deep insight to share with me ….

Happy Writing!


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NaNoWriMo week 2 recap #nano2022

Well, in the span of one day, we went from September/October temps to December temps (68 F to 35 F). So, I equate this to the Old Man of Winter slapping us across the face. Yeesh. Luckily we haven’t had any winter storm stuff yet, unlike North Dakota, which got a FOOT or more of snow in the past day or two.

Yep, you guys can have it at this point in the season. I’m not ready for snow. Rain, yes. We did get a little rain, but not nearly enough to make a dent in the drought.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be recapping my progress in NaNo this past week. In a word, meh. For the actual writing on the story, that is. In lieu of adding words to the story, I’ve been finding myself writing a “stream of consciousness” to talk through the story and what to write. Which doesn’t add anything to the story itself, but I did work out a problem, and I’m still trying to work out another part of the story that I haven’t really figured out yet.

That’s what I get for jumping into NaNo without spending a few weeks ahead of time to really look at the story and where I want to take it. What I like to do before NaNo is take the month before and work out the plot. I don’t really outline as much as I use a timeline, which I suppose is a sort of outline.

The point though, that I keep reminding myself, is any words written, whether for the story or to work through the story, are more words than were written before. Keep moving forward. And actually, I think I need to do the “stream of consciousness” writing–it’s been a while since I worked on this project, and it’s a good way for me to reconnect and remind myself about the story, and most importantly, finish working through the plot.

So yes, I’m keeping up, but the actual writing on the story isn’t progressing. I do count brainstorming and plotting as a win, though. If I can work out how the story moves to the end, it’ll be that much easier to write it. I always feel better when I know the whole story and just need to put it on paper.

Is anyone else working on NaNo? How is it going for you? Managing to hit the daily quota? Even if you aren’t, just remember that regardless of how far you get on the story, at least you are writing. Bonus points if you are writing every single day!

Well, I’ve got to get back to it. Have a great weekend and keep writing!

Throwback Kitten – Tibbers cozy napping


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Countdown to NaNo 2022! #NaNo2022 #amwriting

The countdown has begun for the annual writers’ challenge of cranking out 50k words in 30 days–yippee! Well, okay, maybe not “yippee”, more like … well, it’s time to reestablish my “write every day” habit.

Right now I’m working on another revision pass through Book 2, which is going pretty well so far. Will I finish in time for NaNo? I’m halfway through Book 2, and I’d like to get through it before NaNo starts, a good plan, all except for the part about letting it sit for another couple weeks before a final run-through and sending it off to my agent.

Then there’s the other question: what to work on? I have two projects that are candidates: my rural MN mystery, which I’m halfway through and need to finish, or Book 3, which doesn’t have a solid plot yet, but a good start (on a plot, that is, thanks to my Writing Sisters). It’d be nice to get the rural MN mystery drafted; it’s a reboot of a draft I wrote many years ago that lacked an actual major crime. Come to think of it, it’s probably more romantic suspense than straight-up mystery. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this reboot has dual timelines and a 50-yr-old unsolved murder.

Book 3 has my intrepid characters from my published book and Book 2. I’ve been spending a lot of time with them, so on one hand, I’d spend more time with them. On the other, it’s like that couple you’re really good friends with, and you hang out with, but it’s nice to take a break from them.

Then again, if I wanted to write something completely different, there’s always that urban fantasy my Muse keeps dangling in front of me.

Okay, I have no shortage of projects, just a shortage of focus and an abundance of opportunities to procrastinate. It’s time to take down the garden fence; this weekend is supposed to be really nice and really mild (like, in the 60s and sunny mild), and I got all the fabric mulch and soaker hoses out already. And there’s always my least-favorite chore: cleaning. Which I have been neglecting (PSA: if you plan on visiting, y’all probably should let me know, like, weeks in advance).

Anyway, I think the rural MN mystery will win out. If I can get that finished, then I can start revising it. After my police procedural. And maybe before I start Book 3.

Do you have numerous projects going at once? How do you choose what to work on at any particular time?

In any case, if you’re one of those people who loves Halloween, have a great holiday weekend!

Keep on writing!

Image by Lory from Pixabay


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Musing some help? #amrevising

Out my window my first morning at the Shire

When I open the curtains, I swear. I knew the weather wonks had mentioned snow showers up north, but I’d hoped they were wrong.

Nope, they were right. My first morning at my long-awaited writing retreat, and it snowed. At least I’m not planning to go anywhere today. Tomorrow is another story; I’ve got a panel tomorrow morning about 1 1/2 hrs away. An interruption in my gloriously quiet four days of solitude.

Oh well. I fire up the coffee maker and brew up a pot of Caribou Coffee, a nice change from the store-brand coffee we have at home (yes, store-brand–no coffee snobs in our house, just frugal). Then I settle in with my laptop for a day of revision.

*Knock, knock*

What the hell? I did not just hear that knock.

*Knock, knock*

“G’morning, love. Oi, open the door.”

Ahem, that’s weird. He only uses doors because I told him that whole popping in thing is just showing off.

Not like that’s ever stopped him.

“This better be good,” I shout back at him as I head to the door.

And stop.

Seriously?

My Muse is standing on the other side of the door, MN Vikings stocking cap on his head and hands tucked into the pockets of his leather bomber jacket. Beside him are two women, one blond and about my height and age, the other a taller brunette a little older than my son, her coat stretched over her abdomen.

You have got to be kidding. I unlock the door and glare at my Muse. “You were supposed to be here last night when I got in. What the hell are you doing?”

“You’ve heard of having lunch with your characters, right? Here they are. You can have coffee, since it smells like you just made a fresh pot.” He pushes past me. “Come on in, ladies.”

“Dude, there’s no room here.” Heck, there aren’t even enough chairs to go around. The table might seat four with enough chairs, but it’d be tight. Besides, I’m using one of the two existing chairs as a luggage stand.

“No worries, love.” My Muse waves a hand and two more chairs appear at the tiny table. He pulls the stool from under the teeny counter overhang in the kichenette and plants himself on it. “Have a seat, ladies.”

I close the door and plant my hands on the counter in front of my Muse. “What are you …”

“You said your agent told you their characters were still a little flat, so I brought them over.”

I don’t even try to stop my eyeroll. “Not when I’m on my writing retreat. You are supposed to be helping me revise Book 2.”

He shoots me a grin, the divot in his chin deepening. “I am. I think the coffee’s ready.”

Arrrgh. I pour coffee for my characters, and think about making my Muse pour his own damn coffee.

When I set the coffee mug in front of the younger woman, she leans to me and whispers, “He’s your muse?”

“Muse, with a capital ‘M’. Yeah, since high school.”

Her eyes widen. “He is so hot!”

“Connie,” her mother scolds, then grins. “She’s right.”

“Don’t tell him. He’s got enough of an ego the way it is.”

“I believe it. Now, he said you needed to get to know us a little better.”

“Look, Anna, he sometimes does things …”

She pats my hand. “He told us what you need, and we’re here to help. Now, do you want to talk about my Ed? My Ed would have liked you, too.”

Well, since they’re here, I might as well “have coffee” with them. “Actually, tell me how you really would have handled the whole thing.”

Well, a nice change from my last visit to the Shire in the Woods is that they changed internet providers. It’s still a little flaky, but waaay better than it was this spring, hence the blog post 🙂 It’s a little break from my revisions, which I’m determined to finish before I head home on Monday.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


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Musing craft #amrevising

I open the back door to my writing office, fresh off a walk. I find walking and thinking about whatever I’m writing, whether brainstorming a new story or plotline or pondering revisions, go together well. Even if I might look a little loony if someone decided to watch me walk and talk things through.

“Well, it’s about time you came back, love.” My Muse leans on my desk, sweating bottle of water in hand.

I finish toeing off my shoes before I look up. Oh. My. His tank top–wait, muscle shirt–shows off his sculpted shoulders and biceps. The cargo shorts don’t detract at all–trust me. And he’s got that five o’clock shadow thing going, just at that rougish stage.

He raises a brow.

Oh, yeah. “You know where I was. And I didn’t see you anywhere helping figure out how to strengthen my supporting characters in Book 2.”

“And why do you suppose they aren’t quite ‘there’ yet?”

I make my way past him to the mini-fridge to grab my own water. “I don’t know. That’s the problem. It’s like I want them to be in the background, but they can’t be. Shouldn’t be. They should seem just as real as my MCs.”

“Okay, so why aren’t they?”

I drop into one of the recliners in the alcove and swallow some cool water. It’s the question I’ve been trying to answer since I got feedback from my agent on Book 2. I thought I rounded them out a bit, but apparently not enough. She made good points, and I can see how their characters are lacking. I’m just not entirely sure how to beef them up.

“Julie?”

“I’m thinking.”

He settles into the other recliner. “You’re thinking too hard.”

I can feel him staring at me. “Stop that.”

“You know how to fix it. You agent made good suggestions.”

“Yes, she did.”

“So? What’s the problem?”

I take another sip of water to stall. What is the problem?

“You know what it is, love. Say it.”

Damn it. “I don’t want them to be the focus of the story.”

“Not quite. Try again.”

Fine. “I don’t want them to take attention away from my MC.”

He smiles, the divot in his chin deepening. “She has to share the stage, love. It’s okay for other characters to figure out the mystery.”

“Not if the story belongs to my MC.”

A momentary frown crosses his face. “You’re right, not figure it out, but they have a stake in solving the mystery.”

“They do, but their actions are limited to pushing for answers, not digging around for them. That’s the job of my MCs.”

“Okay, so how can they do more pushing for answers? And remember, they have insights, too.” He finishes his water and tosses the bottle into the “Recycle” bin. “I can bring them over for a chat.”

“Not necessary.” I consider what he’s saying. They have insights …

My Muse grins. “There you go, love. I knew you’d figure it out.”

“Maybe, but will that be enough to fix the character issues? If they push to poke around for themselves, but my MC discourages them–to keep them safe?”

“You won’t know until you try.”

That’s the struggle, isn’t it? This is my first “book 2” (I do have a sequel drafted for my police procedural, but that’s a different formula because the MCs jobs are to solve the crime). I think part of the challenge is keeping in mind that readers may not have read the first book, so as the author you have to introduce the MCs again, and let the reader know the MCs nuances and stuff. I think that’s part of the reason I resist giving the secondary characters more of the story. I want the story to be about my MCs, but they aren’t in the story by themselves; the other characters need to be just as real to the readers, not just character actors from General Casting.

So, back to the revision board. And maybe my Muse has the right idea about bringing the characters over for a chat. We’ll see. I’ve got to look through my agent’s feedback in depth this weekend (I’ve already skimmed it) and keep this convo with my Muse in mind.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!