Friday, February 29, 2008

Musings on Muses

Maven Jacqueline Barbour As I've mentioned several times already, I've been sick this week. As in hacking, sneezing, feverish, achy, "first you're afraid you'll die and then you're afraid you won't" sick.

What does that have to do with the topic of this post? you ask.

Well, the funny thing is, as unwell as I've been, I cranked out the word count this week. I wrote on the order of 10,000 words between Monday and Thursday, and 7,000 of those came over the course of a mere 48 hours. Even though the subject matter of the story was something I thought would be outside my usual comfort zone, those were among the easiest 7,000 words I've ever written.

The experience got me thinking about the fickle nature of muses or--if you prefer--inspiration. I have no idea why that story came to me so easily and why the other one I'm writing has been, by comparison, so excruciatingly hard. There's just no rhyme or reason to it. Both are plotted and fully imagined--in my head, at least--so there shouldn't have been any difference between writing one and the other. Except that somehow, one was there, and the other was just...not.

Now, I'd like to believe that the reason the other story isn't there at the moment is that there's still some element of it that my subconscious knows I haven't quite worked out, and once I do, the words will just be there. It's a bigger story (22,500 words compared to 7,000), so more needs to fall into place. And it's possible that's the case.

On the other hand, I'm mostly a ploddingly slow writer. I enjoy the process of crafting the visions in my head, but it takes me a long time to do it. I have to consider each scene, each paragraph, each sentence, each word as I write. Does it convey what I want? Does it fit with the rest of the story? Properly advance the plot, build character, impart emotion? The upside of this is that I don't tend to do a lot of revision after a story is written because I've been revising it all along. The downside is, obviously, that it takes forever to write the first draft.

I don't think the last two days' creative spurt has changed the kind of writer I am, either. It was just...vivid and exciting and different to write so (for me) quickly. A kind of high, in fact.

And I look forward to the next time the muse strikes me out of the blue. I just hope I don't have to get another raging case of influenza for that to happen!

YOUR TURN: Do you have a "muse"? Do you write on a schedule with a daily page/word count goal, or do you write only when the inspiration strikes you? Have you had a time when a story just rolled off your fingers with blissful ease? Do share!


Jennifer Linforth said...

I make it a point to just write every day. Might be sentence, might be working on the edits, it might be pages.

I have one historical that flew off my fingers and was complete in 5 months. I have been with my series for three years...

I have an idea in my head for a story now--wrote the first chapter--and came to a crashing stop. For me I need that one golden nugget of an idea that really kick starts my writing. Usually I find that in research and I have not had the time to plow through German articles to find that hidden nugget for this book. When I do--the muse goes wild. But it takes awhile for me to get started.

Marnee Jo said...

I am not certain about the muse or not. When I was revising my idea for a plot, I definitely listened to whatever inside me was tellng me what should be included.

But, I try to write on a schedule, so I write whatever, even if it feels like utter dreck. Then I go back and revisit it the next day before moving on and adjust if need be.

Though some stuff comes easier than I think it will. I thought I'd have a hard time writing make out stuff, but so far, not a problem. And action sequences move pretty quick. But, those angsty moments when they just deal with awkwardness, that stuff doesn't come easy to me.

Carrie Ryan said...

I really admire the way Nora Roberts approaches writing -- that writers write -- and so I try to also adopt her "no muse" theory. Sure there are days when the writing isn't as easy and most of the time I write it's almost like I'm not even there -- the words just flow through my fingers.

I actually have a harder time writing when I think about it. If the image in my head of a scene becomes too clear I get frustrated that I can't get it down on paper. And so I try to only think about large ideas and maybe a line or two from a scene, but I try to stay away from imaging everything before I'm ready to write. Probably why I don't outline :)

Angie Fox said...

Wow. I bow to your prolific-ness. I've never written 10,000 words in a week, much less 4 days. And that 48-hour spurt? That's just amazing.

I try for 800 - 1K words a day. When I'm on a good schedule, and have my routine working, I can make it on most days. When life intervenes, or when I'm tweaking a chapter, then maybe not. But it's important to be at the keyboard for a good three hours a day, every day, or the story gets away from me.

Bill Clark said...

I wrote on the order of 10,000 words between Monday and Thursday, and 7,000 of those came over the course of a mere 48 hours.

Wow! I wasn't sick before reading this, but now I'm positively green around the gills with envy! :-)

Feel better soon!

Vicki said...

I try to write every day. For me, it's much easier to stay in the story that way. The words flow better.

That said, the editing process is slower and my muse gets bored (or maybe it's me).

Kelly Krysten said...

Yes I've got a muse and she likes to go on loooonnnggg vacations. So I write without her a lot. Which means when she shows up around revision time she's fairly,okay a lot,dissapointed.

Katherine C. said...

I too have been suffering from the creeping crud for the past few weeks -- culminating in the ear infection I'm currently suffering through (I'm the only person I know over the age of 5 who still gets at least one every year ...) so I can sympathize. Of course, when I'm sick, I always curl up in a ball and whimper that I want my mommy, no prolific writing for me. But then, I'm a baby, and I haven't really written much outside of stories for the paper in years. Just haven't felt "the urge" that I used to. My muse, the brat, seems to have left and I don't have the ideas running left and right. I've been content to simply read the work of others. I've decided that reading is what I do best after all :) However, from my writing days I do recall that I definitely seemed to have a muse. I was never one of those people who could just sit and write about nothing until something finally came to me. Either the ideas were there or they weren't. Which, come to think of it, is probably why I don't write anymore ...

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