Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Decoding the Muse

The lake was spectacular yesterday.
I spent yesterday in Lake Tahoe with a friend who needed to make a couple of sales calls for her company and didn't want to make the round trip from the Bay Area by herself. While she took care of her appointments (which resulted in two new clients for her business Asta Glass), I spent the time outlining a new writing project (I don't know yet whether it's going to be a novella, novel or even (gasp) a series because I'm not sure how big it's going to get on me, so for now it's "the writing project" - though my instincts tell me it's at least a novel).

To be honest, I've been resisting this project for awhile mainly because it's fantasy. My intention when I finished Altar was to begin work on the novel I originally applied to grad school to write, but I've found that, as much as I would like to be, I'm not really "finished" with Altar. As I've conducted my agent search, writing and rewriting and revising the query letter, writing multiple versions of my synopsis depending on the requested length, maintaining the novel's Facebook page, etc, etc, etc - it has kept my brain very much preoccupied with that novel and its characters and the new project is too similar in intention (ie; contemporary/literary fiction) to receive much bandwidth. Plus, as much as I hate to say it, it spooked me. I started working on it, wrote one page, felt it start to go very, very deep and begin to acquire depth of layers in the images and, to put it bluntly, FREAKED OUT. I haven't been able to go near it for months.

Earlier this week, I had coffee with a friend of mine who was going through a similar problem with a novel of her own. It got too big too fast and scared her. So she started working on a children's book. It made me think about this fantasy project. The one that's been niggling at me lately. The one that's been patiently waiting its turn and always getting shunted to the back of the line. The one that has invaded my working notes lately, the one the muse has been sending me plot points and character details for lately.

So I went home and wrote the prologue for the project. And it went terrifically well, even adding a heretofore unknown plot point that was positively genius for the final reveal of the main character's identity - the thing on which the entire story rests. And I spent yesterday, while my friend was at her appointments putting together an outline of the project.

I don't usually do outlines - so this was new territory for me. Since this is a plot-driven work, I wanted to get my ducks in a row and figure out where my motley crew of characters is going to go and what they're going to do when they get there. It's proving to be a great exercise, giving me lots of new things in incorporate in the work. But above all: IT'S FUN. It's just what I needed. Something fun. Something that is designed to be entertaining for myself (and any readers, if I'm so lucky) and something in which I am not so terribly invested that if it doesn't work out, I will be devastated (at least not yet). And, above all, something which is writing very fast.

My "desk" at Tahoe.
Which brings me to the main point of this post. Sometimes it's really difficult to understand what the muse is trying to say simply because IT DOESN'T MATCH WHAT I THINK I SHOULD DO. In this case, my conscious brain was telling me the smart thing to do, the right thing to do, the serious thing to do would be to start the next literary novel since I consider myself to be a literary writer. But the writer part of my brain (the one where the muse resides) was telling me to go have fun. The harder I tried to make myself work on the serious thing, the less I wanted to write and the more time I spent inventing reasons to stay away from my writing desk. I am, working on a fantasy novel (okay, I said it) about a character named Mouse who is a LOT more than she seems, and having a blast. And, most importantly, my muse is curled up like a fat and happy cat in a patch of sunshine, quietly purring to herself. Onward...

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