My muse is great, let me just say that. She (and yes, I’ve named her, she’s norse, beautiful and clever) has been with me for most of my life and she’s wonderful. But sometimes she goes away on little breaks, usually when I’m between writing projects and that’s when I’m sure she goes to her other job as an accountant. The reason I know this is because when she comes back, she won’t let me write without organising the heck out of everything. Post its, highlighters, coloured pens, spreadsheets and those little bookmark tabs that all bean-counters love, they all come out when my muse returns.
There’s a section of our living room wall that’s blank. By this I mean no pictures or furniture, just wall. And while I agree with my husband that a photograph or painting would look great in that corner, it’s not gonna happen. My muse LOVES that wall. It’s where I allow her free reign to plan to her heart’s content. It’s her version of the artist’s blank canvas, where all manner of story can be created. I used to fight these organisational leanings, choosing instead to just write, get the story down as it occurred to me. And my muse would stand back and laugh at me, a knowing look on her face. Sure enough, when the story was done, there’d be an almost overwhelming amount of editing to do. I don’t allow my muse to say ‘I told you so’ but I can’t control the raised eyebrow and sweet sarcastic smile she sports on those occasions.
So I tried it her way. Using different coloured post it notes, I outlined the main plot points of my next novel, one colour for each theme. Smaller notes filled in the details. As I saw the story come to life before me on that wall I also began to come up with more and more ideas for the book, things that should have been obvious but that somehow I’d missed. Starting the novel in that manner also helped me to see that one of the characters was unnecessary, and that the others needed more exposure. I could also easily move the sections around and in this way smooth out or remove the questionable scenes. And each time an idea fit into place my muse would smile and reward my effort.
It’s like being a kid again, playing with Lego blocks. Piece attaches to piece and soon a structure becomes obvious. That bit there sticks out too much so we’ll detach it and stick it over here. And oh, hey, wait, a longer block over there would make the entire thing look much better. And that piece? We’ll take it off completely, it just doesn’t work and detracts from the entire creation. It’s great fun, seeing the story grow and develop before your very eyes.
I’m not saying that this approach is for everyone, I know there are people who get an idea and then just write. But for me it works. I write historical fiction, both ‘normal’ and horror so the outline also helps me with the historical accuracy and the avoidance of anachronistic details (did you know that muses hate anachronisms?).
My muse may be a little OCD but in all honesty her help with the planning allows me to focus on the story when I DO start writing, gives me the freedom to just write, not worry about the plot points or flow. And without the plot worries I’m a stronger writer, less distracted and hesitant with my words and ideas, more focussed on the story and better able to get right into the adventure with my characters.
Listen to your muse, she’s trying to help you! Do what she’s suggesting. And if you have a muse like mine, she’ll also help with your taxes.
Thank you Frida!
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