Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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


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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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Tricks of the revision trade #amrevising #amediting #amreading

To answer your first question, yes, I did get my manuscript turned in to my writing teacher before our Zoom call this week. Woo-hoo! Happy dance!

Well, except I didn’t make it all the way through the manuscript on that last revision round before I sent it. I was working on it last night and realized there are still a few inline notes I haven’t taken out yet. Mostly because I still need them. 🙂

I’m one of those writers who likes to go through printed copy when revising, because for me it’s easier to make notes right on the page. I end up doing some brainstorming work as well, filling margins with my chicken scratch. The toughest thing is always catching silly flaws, like missing words or misspellings, because as the author, we’ve been through the words so many times. It’s like when you have kids and you see them every day; they change and you notice, but don’t. Then when a relative sees them for the first time in months, they are in awe at how much the kids have changed (which is another tip: leave your work alone for a couple weeks before diving in to the next round of revision).

I have a few go-to techniques I use when revising, but one I especially like. Here’s a peek into my revision technique (wow, that rhymes!):

Compile to Word and read on my iPad

My writing tool of choice is Scrivener, for many reasons. I know, I know, writers have a love/hate relationship with Scrivener: they either love it or hate it. I’m one of the love crowd. While I compose using Times New Roman, when I compile to read through it, I use a different font (actually, I change the font on the Word end). Seems that is enough to knock my brain out of writing mode so it can look at the book a little differently. Less “OMG, I’ve been staring at these words for how long? I know what they say”, and more “Hey, look, it’s different.” Yep, not much, but it’s the little things 🙂

Print it out

Once I’ve read through the book on my iPad (and yes, I still use paper to take notes of things to fix) and made a round of corrections/revisions, I print it out (again using something other than TNR), then go through the hard copy. It’s easier for mark it up. There’s something about paper that inspires me to brainstorm while I’m revising (which just complicates the next round 😐 ).

Back to front

Another thing to try: read the story from the end forward. Start with the very last sentence, then read each sentence that comes before. It’s enough to trick your brain into seeing the prose differently. Of course, by the time you’re halfway through, your brain has caught on to your sneaky tricks.

Read it out loud (my favorite!)

I love this one! Why? Because I think it is easier to hear problems with rhythm and stuff like echoes and missing words (which your brain tends to fill in automatically) when I hear them read aloud. Reading the prose out loud yourself is helpful, but I think hearing someone else read it to you is better. And wouldn’t you know, Word has a read-aloud feature. Sure, you can’t have Sam Elliott or Mae West read it to you, and it does sound like a computer reading (not as mechanical as it used to be), but it beats recording yourself reading it aloud then playing it back. I mentioned this in a post a couple years back, when I had an older version of Word. I have a newer version now, and it’s easier to turn on. Here are instructions if you are interested.

And there you have it. These suggestions are for the read-through-and-figure-out-what-needs-work stage. Every writer is different, and what works for me might not work for you at all, but I think any time we can offer suggestions to each other to make our tasks more effective, if not easier, we might pick up something new that works for us.

It seems we blew right past spring here in MN. Average daily temps this time of year are supposed to be around 70 F. This weekend (at least the next 4 days) are supposed to be tropical heat (80s +) and humidity (dewpoint in 60s+). Ugh. It’s garden planting time, and tropical heat and humidity just make the dirt stick easier to my sweaty skin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but c’mon, we get that weather in July.

I’ll try to take pics of each stage of my garden planting adventure, so stay tuned.

Have a great writing weekend!


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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.”