Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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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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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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!


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Muse-ing revisions #amwriting #amediting #amrevising

Mr. Snow Miser

I open the door to warm air hitting my face like the breath of a sauna. Just my luck my writer lives in Minnesota, the land of ten thousand lakes and fecking cold winters. Ice crystals melt from my eyelashes.

“Shut the fricking door!”

The door swings shut with a thud. I might be a Muse, but when it’s so cold it hurts to breathe, I start thinking about tropical getaways and surfing. My writer is not at her desk, so she must be in one of the recliners. I peel off layers, slip my feet into toasty slippers, and make my way around to the alcove.

“Cold enough for you?” My writer looks up from her laptop. She has the footrest extended, a crocheted afghan on her legs, and who knows how many layers of socks she’s wearing inside those bootie slippers. A fuzzy gray hoodie give me the distinct impression she’s cold. That, and the afghan. Oh, hell, she’s always cold. A steaming mug of something sits on the small table between the recliners. Smells like apple cider, but not quite. Tea?

“Why don’t you live someplace warmer, like Hawaii?”

“Do you have any idea how many times my hubs and I have said that?” She sips her tea. “And then we remember how expensive it is to live there.” A strand of too-long bangs slips from her barrette into her face. She brushes it back. “Why do you bother going out? It’s not like you have to actually walk anywhere. Can’t you just teleport or whatever?”

Or whatever. “It’s for the experience, love.” I check out the wall-sized whiteboard before snagging a lager from the mini-fridge and dropping into the other recliner. “I thought you were trying to cross stuff off the list. I see more notes.”

She leans her head back and sighs. “Reminders. I’ve sat in on some good webinars lately. I’m going to have to do another round of revision after this one.”

I could have told her that a long time ago, but it’s better for her to figure it out for herself. “You were still fine-tuning the plot on this round.”

“Well, right, but I sat in on a revising webinar that made me realize I need a round of revision just for that.”

“That’s good, love.” I flip up the footrest. “Care to share?” I know what she wants to focus on, but if she says it, she’ll remember better.

“Scenes. I have to think in scenes.”

“Isn’t that what you do?”

“I mean, I need to look at each scene again and ask what the character wants, why they want it, and what’s stopping them. The scene goal. Oh, man, I can hear my writing teacher’s voice.”

“That’s a good thing, right?”

“Yes, always. Definitely better than hearing someone with a Mickey Mouse voice say it.” She turns her head toward me. “You could say it. I could listen to that baritone Aussie voice of yours anytime.”

I chuckle. “You don’t get tired of listening to me badger you about all those things you need to do and don’t?”

She sighs. “No. Well, yes … it’s like listening to Sam Elliott, but better. ”

I can’t help grinning. “Not Barry White?” I tease, doing my best impression.

Her breath whooshes out. She clears her throat, tugs the afghan off her legs, and shoves her sleeves to her elbows. “Stop that. The point is, I thought this round was my ‘check the scene goal’ round. I had to fix some plot stuff, so I didn’t pay as close attention to that. I’ve got to go through it again, and look for the stuff I learned from the webinar. That’s what the new notes on the board are for.”

Some days I’m really proud of my writer. “What’s your plan?”

“Look at each scene, make sure there is a scene goal, and check for action, relationship, information, suspense, and emotion–reader emotion.” She bounces her head against the recliner back. “So much to learn! So much to remember. I feel like I’ll never finish it.”

“You will, love. Then you get to move on to the next project.”

She gives me a sideways glance. “You’re sticking around, right? No pub crawls with E.”

“I’ll be here. I think E is busy with Mae after that nor’easter went through.”

shivering smiley

Nothing like a week of double-digit, sub-zero windchills to give a writer an excuse to stay inside. Hope everyone is staying warm and safe!

Happy Writing!