Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


6 Comments

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!


9 Comments

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


5 Comments

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


10 Comments

Serendipity, sort of #amwriting #amlearning

someone reading a book

Serendipity (Merriam-Webster): the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for also : an instance of this

Serendipity (Dictionary.com): an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident; good fortune; luck:

It’s been one of those weeks. You know, the ones where nothing seems to go right, yet sometimes it does. I know, sounds weird. Let me try to make sense of it (because I know you have nothing better to do than read a rambling post 🙂 ).

There’s been a few things going on lately, besides the gawd-awful, waay-to-early-in-the-season heat wave we’ve been having. This is July weather, not June. Man, I miss mid-seventies in June. We’re almost at 10 straight days of 90+ degree (F) heat, with little to no rain. My tomatoes are loving it; everything else has yet to offer an opinion.

First and most anticipated is our Writing Sisters reunion–IN PERSON! Yippee! I miss those gals. We had a virtual reunion last year because, well, pandemic. We’re all fully vaxed now, but we still hit a few speed bumps I wasn’t sure we would manage. There is still anxiety about the pandemic, especially since so many in the general populace seem to have lost any sense of, well, critical thinking. I wonder how many know someone who had polio or died from it, which wasn’t all that long ago. And smallpox. Do they know why we don’t talk about smallpox anymore? Anyway, we smoothed out those speed bumps, and come the first weekend in August, I’ll be enjoying a weekend in WI with my favorite fellow writers.

Next, I mentioned a few weeks back that I’ll be a casualty of a corporate buyout at the end of July. When I found out my position was being eliminated, I decided to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement benefit before I go (something I should have been doing all along. Lesson learned.). The class I’m taking focuses on the user experience, which sorta has something to do with technical writing. I am learning a lot more than I thought I would, and I did discover the relevance: some of the job postings I’m considering mention the user experience (UX). Hey, if asked, I can speak like I know what I’m talking about now. Bonus!

The other thing about my position being eliminated and our company’s software dev process being adjusted: because the release schedule for our software seems to have slowed down, I’ve been taking advantage of the “down” time to do some online learning about the tools I use. Good thing, too, because I’ve learned some stuff that will help me with my job hunt. Again, I can speak intelligently (or make a good show of it 🙂 ) about things I wouldn’t be aware of if I hadn’t started doing online tutorials. On the down side? I’ve learned some things I should have been doing but didn’t. I’m toying with the idea of making some last-minute changes to some of the projects I work on. Then again, in a month and a half it won’t matter. But I’ll be learning something, right?

Speaking of job hunting, I’ve had a few interviews now. Most of them went well, but one I had this week went really well, so I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll get a call for a second interview. Again, I’m so glad I decided to look into those online tutorials and webinars, because those topics are now specified in job postings. Now to adjust my portfolio so it looks like I can do really cool stuff (which I should have been doing over the past half-dozen years, but didn’t have the time or need to do).

A casualty of all this school stuff and job-hunt stuff over the past few weeks has been my WIP and current revisions. Sigh. I half-expected one of my MCs to knock on the door of my writing office and scold me for leaving them in limbo. Now that the garden is in and seems to be holding its own, and my last class assignment has been turned in, I plan to get back to them. Promise!

So, overall, things seem to be, well, not falling into place so much as being part of a life-affirming realization in the sense that actions I chose to take (the class, online tutorials) in response to losing my job at the end of July were decisions that will help me find a new job sooner rather than later (crossing fingers!!). Serendipity sounded like the right word, at least for today.

Stay cool, everyone! We’re a week or so away from the solstice, so enjoy the long hours of daylight!

Keep on writing!

Wake me when it cools down


6 Comments

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