On Muses and Musing

Originally posted January 15, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

 

My muse seems to have abandoned me.

 

It’s hard for me to admit, and yet it’s true.  I haven’t had many “good” story ideas in quite some time, and now that I’m actively looking for new content to write (both for short stories/novels and for this blog) it seems to be even more difficult to come up with something that feels worthy of my time.

 

I’m trying not to let it worry me… not to force it… but the clock is ticking and the pressure is starting to mount.  I need to come up with something soon if I want to have it ready in time to meet some end of February submission deadlines.

 

*takes a deep breath*

 

This has happened to me before.  I think it happens to all writers at some point or another, probably more than once.  I just need to be patient, to stay alert, and to keep trying to work through what ideas I do find.

 

In the meantime, I received some valuable advice from Twitter (thank you my followers: you were very helpful!):

  • Look at pretty pictures
  • Listen to inspiring music
  • Freewriting
  • People watching
  • Local news stories
  • Working out
  • Read things like what I am trying to write
  • Mindless housework (dishes, laundry)

 

A few of these have already proven useful, and I’ll be trying a few more in the coming weeks (and hopefully reporting back in!).  What’s your favourite way to get inspired?

 

When Bad Novels Turn Good

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo from Dreamstime 

 

My apologies for the horrific grammar of the title.  This post is a follow-up to “When Good Novels Go Bad“, where I wrote about a novel I was none to pleased with.  The writing schedule was going well, but the more that I worked, the less I liked the story: the plot was thin and the driving actions weren’t believable enough.  The beginning dragged on and on (and on…) and nothing seemed to be coming together after 30,000 words.  I didn’t like how the story was going, my critique group didn’t really care for it, and if I don’t like the story, I can’t very well expect my readers to like it!

 

So I put the writing on hold and spent my efforts overhauling the plot.  It took longer than I would have liked (only about 25 hours of actual work over two months) but Script Frenzy got in my way.  Besides, the hardest part was thinking up what to do next, which for me is the opposite of staring at the screen trying to write.

 

About three weeks ago, I started writing again.  I’m only two chapters (6,800 words) in, but it’s already feeling much more exciting and engaging to me.  My critique group even seemed to think so too!  Now, of course, there are still problems with the opening scene(s) to fix, but those will be relatively easy now that the basic plot is a little more workable (I hope!)

 

I guess only time will tell, won’t it?

 

What project has returned to life in your writing lately?

Solitary

Written for Chuck Wendig’s Friday Flash Fiction Challenge “A Terrible Lie“.  This week, Chuck challenged us to write a short story where the conflict revolves around a terrible lie.

 

Here’s my humble submission:

 

“Red five to black six.”  The stranger’s blue eyes twinkled as she slid into the empty seat across from Emma.

 

The train tilted softly around a corner as Emma looked down at the cards in front of her.  Of course.  There it was.  She moved the cards around swiftly, pleased with herself.

 

“Thanks.”  She told the stranger, who smiled secretively and tucked a stray lock of dark hair behind one ear.  Her hands were beautifully manicured, Emma noticed, and she wore a single thick metal ring on her right hand.  “I’m Emma.”

 

“Paulette.”  Paulette’s hand was as soft as it looked, Emma realized as they shook.  “Are you traveling alone?”

 

With hardly a pause, Emma nodded.  “Just for a few hours.  I’m heading back home for Easter.”  The practiced words tumbled easily from her lips.  There was no home for her anymore.  Not really.

 

“I kind of figured that.  The cards, after all.”

 

Emma looked down at her game and smiled.  “Years ago, my mother told me that a game of solitaire was a surefire way to meet strangers.  Everyone has an opinion.”

 

“So they do.”

 

Silence fell between the seats as the train rocked again.  “How about you?”  Emma asked.  “Are you traveling with anyone?”

 

“No, I’m traveling on business.”

 

“What do you do?”  Emma admired Paulette’s crisp shirt and tailored pantsuit.

 

“Sales.”

 

“That sounds exciting.”

 

“It’s not really.  Honestly, it’s boring.  I thought I would be able to see the world and meet exciting new people, but for the most part all I see is the inside of trains and planes and hotel rooms.”

 

“Well, maybe this trip will offer you some excitement.”

 

Paulette smiled.  “I hope so.”

 

###

 

When Emma collected her things as the train slowed to a stop, it was with a strange feeling of reluctance.

 

“Well, it was nice meeting you.”  Paulette said softly, holding out one hand.  Without really thinking about it, Emma shook it, realizing that this was goodbye.

 

“Good luck with the job.  I hope things pick up.”

 

“Oh, I’m pretty sure they will.”

 

Before Emma could reply, Paulette had turned to leave, pulling a black, wheeled suitcase behind her.  Emma shook her head as she picked up her heavy duffel bag and carried it towards the exit.

 

A swift cab ride followed – not to her family home, but to a mid-range hotel not far from the train station.  As the car zipped along the dark streets, Emma silently berated herself.  She knew better than to get too chummy with strangers, even if the trip was boring.

 

What if she’d given herself away?

 

Her boss wouldn’t stand for that, she knew.  Moreover, she wouldn’t last long if she kept chatting away with strangers, spilling the beans.  Not when there were others like her out there, with similar agendas who wouldn’t mind one bit if some of the competition mysteriously disappeared.

 

At least the cover story about Easter had gone over well.  Besides, ignoring the risk, it had been a useful conversation: she knew where her target was staying.  She flipped open a small leather book she’d stashed in her purse, to reveal a small photograph of a dark haired woman with blue eyes.

 

###

 

When Emma arrived at her hotel room door, she felt strangely like she was being watched.  There was nobody around, though, and she slid the key card into the electronic lock carefully, trying to appear as though her heart wasn’t about to jump out of her chest.

 

She’d been jumpy like this ever since her boss had warned her that there might be a hit out on her.  Of course, that was ridiculous.  She was still new to the agency, out on her first solo assignment.  She wouldn’t be on anyone’s radar yet.

 

But when Emma pushed the door open the first thing that she saw was Paulette, harshly lit by a single lamp by the bed, standing in the middle of the hotel room.

Emma gasped.  “You…?”

 

Paulette’s hand raised until the gun was pointed squarely at Emma.  “I told you my work was about to become more exciting.”

When Good Novels Go Bad

SONY DSC

Image from Dreamstime

 

As you may have noticed from the sidebar, I’ve put my current novel on hold for now.  I did this after a lot of very careful thought, and it certainly wasn’t because the writing wasn’t going well.  Actually, the writing for this project was going extremely well – I knew exactly what I was writing and I was even ahead of my schedule.

 

Unfortunately, the more I wrote, the less I liked the story.  I still loved the characters and the setting (partly because I’ve been working on this series for over a decade) but the plot seemed a little… thin.  The driving actions of the plot weren’t believable enough and the beginning dragged on and on (and on…).  I forged ahead because I wasn’t quite willing to admit that the story I’ve been working on for so very long was so very broken.  But the more I thought about it and the more people I talked to the more I realized that the story needed work.

 

A lot of it.

 

So I’ve decided on a complete overhaul!  I’m still re-working the details, but I’ve moved the entirety of the plot line “back” in time (earlier in the timeline of my world).  Unfortunately, it means basically throwing out everything that I’ve written to date, but it gives a lot more opportunity for action and conflict and tension and all those good things.  It can now involve fights and political intrigue and conspiracy and treason.  I think it will not only be a more exciting read, but a lot more fun to write.

 

Now I just have to get to that point (again)!

 

What do you do when a project stalls out?