I don’t know about your muse, but mine arrives at the damnedest times.

Sometimes, he gives me brain-bursting ideas while I’m hurtling down I-25. I have been known to pull over to record these ideas on my iPod as people blaze past me at 90 miles per hour. What I do for love.

Or, he visits me as I’m falling asleep. He teases me with a lyrical idea guaranteed to make my novel a best seller. I frantically memorize it before I fall asleep but, in the morning, I only remember it if I’m lucky. Most times, I wake knowing there is a great concept in my brain-somewhere.

And, he interrupts me during important projects at work. At least, at work I usually have a paper and pencil nearby.

Signaling my muse is a last resort, because he likes to toy with me. Like my cat, he refuses to appear just because I called. When he does show up he always looks slightly annoyed. Oh, come on, stop whining, he tells me. I have a billion stops to make today, so use what I’m giving you and write it like you love it.

I visualize my muse clearly, as easily as I see the folks in my novel. Arrogant and articulate, my muse is an ageless smart-ass.  (OK, he is one of my characters.) He fills my head with exit strategies from the tangled word messes I make. When he leaves, it’s ok. I never have to worry because, the next time I need him, he’ll have my back. I can count on my muse, as long as I’m patient.

Is your muse a whisper in your mind’s ear or a brush of inspiration from a well-loved outside source? Does your muse take a recognizable form? What does the cosmic aha feel like for you?


In Holly Liesl’s wonderful How to Revise Your Novel forum, someone posted a question for discussion that I’ve haven’t been able to get out of my mind.

What recurring themes show up in your writing?

As you can imagine, the answers ran the gamut from beautiful to beastly, from twinkling to twisted.

My particular theme is moral ambiguity, and it affects all of  my characters. I make them deal with those inevitable times when dark vs light = grey, when they find themselves on the left side of right. Are they bad people if they make a morally ambiguous decisions?

What does it take to make a person step into the light — or not. I’m talking about more complicated issues than black and white “Come over to the dark side, Luke” tales. I’m speculating on how people grapple with the conscious choice to pursue a path that is not ethically correct but is expedient at the moment.

I love this theme. I use it with humor in some stories and with horror in others.  I see it everywhere in life, and it adds a layer of conflict to my fiction I couldn’t get any other way. It fascinates readers because we’ve all been there.

Another theme I use is the semi-happy ending. To me, a happy ending isn’t always necessary. Certain genres depend on happy endings but my genre, whatever it is, does fine without hand-in-hand, off into the sunset stuff. Even though I’m writing fiction and science-fiction at that, I want to push my characters to their limit. Readers want to see what characters will do and wonder if, in the hero’s shoes, if they would do the same.

Rewrite update: Chapter Ten in the hopper.

Revision means REVISION

I like Chapter Four. It has an exciting fight scene, a tense medical situation, mystery and mayhem. However, I’ve struggled with the first page, the first two paragraphs, for a couple of nights. Last night, when I read through my third attempt, I decided a break was in order.

So, what is matter with this first page?

It’s boooooring.

Maybe I don’t understand the meaning of revision after all.

Maybe I don’t want to admit that, after all the struggle of two drafts, there are still parts of the novel that, for lack of a better word, stink.  Part of me wants to keep what I’ve written, add a few choice words, a juicy sentence here and there and call it done. But, revision can be and, I’m finding, usually is much more than just a quick brush with the pen.

The English as a Second Language Dictionary defines revision as: to prepare a new version, to reconsider and change or modify.


could completely rewrite those paragraphs. As long as I stick with the scene’s objective, I’m free to tear apart anything I’ve created and reassemble it in a new and unique way. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Maybe.

Apparently, some authors rewrite 50% + of their first draft. I sure as hell don’t want to do that.  But, I have a self-imposed deadline of May 1st, 2012 for sending out my first query letters on the novel. So, I’ll do what it takes even if it means rewriting.

Why I haven’t thought of revision as freedom to leave the old draft behind until now, I don’t know. Some sort of misplaced writer’s arrogance, fear, or laziness? Whatever. Time to shake if off.

I‘ve come too far now to flounder  and, if I need a reminder of my goal, I have my trusty dictionary by my side.

Stay tuned.

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