Listen to the Muse (Pt 2): Guiding the Muse

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You’ve done it.  You’ve finally heard the muse, and words are starting to pour into your head and out of your fingers.  The story is shaping up, and you really like where things are going.  Then disaster hits.

Oh, not the disaster of the words stopping and the feeling of being unable to move forward, but the disaster of the muse taking you off into regions you really do not want to get into.  You are writing a science fiction tale, and the muse is dragging you off into fantasy land.  Or, even better, you are writing a horror thriller, and the muse suddenly takes that hard left turn into comicville.  That disaster.  Don’t tell me it hasn’t happened to you.  I think everyone has faced that at one point or another in their writing career.

So, today we are going to look at what you can do about this.  There are ways and WAYS of handling these unwanted hard turns.  Much of it depends on how much work you want to do in editing and revising after you are done filling all of those pages with words, words, and more unwanted words.

Bull Through

Personally, I have tried this one, and it didn’t go so well.  This is where you take the story, and you keep going the way you want to go despite the muse trying to drag you off into some tangent that you think you’ll have to edit out later.  For those who are plotters and have a solid feel for the story, this might work.

This method is more a case of driving your muse, than guiding it, but there might be times when you have to use it.

Whine and Beg

Another attempt at making the muse go where it doesn’t really want to… right now.  Another method I have tried, and had blow up in my face.  Not nearly as spectacularly as the Bull through, but still pretty bad.  The story wound up unsalvageable for me, so I recommend caution if you decide to try this one with your uncooperative muse.

Bargain with it

“If you go this way, I’ll incorporate that bit.”  This one works fairly well for the loosely plotted and organically written stories.  In this method you listen to where the muse really wants to go, and you compromise.  You nudge the story in the direction you really want to go, yet you also incorporate pieces of the path the muse wants you to take.

This one can be a good way to get a completely stalled out story moving again.  Especially if the reason you’ve stalled out is because you and the muse are in a death match staring contest.  I’ve used it in the past with good results.  And, I’ve also usually wound up going back and editing in the rest of the path the muse wanted me to take.  So, be ware if you decide not to follow your muse lockstep.  (Although crossing genre lines is a good time to demand a compromise situation.)

Nudge things along

This is the mildest arrangement you can have, and is often best used with purely organically written stories.  In this scenario, you let the muse lead you down the path to wherever it wants to go.  However, along the way, you keep putting up little bread crumbs for possible branch points that will take you back to the destination you want to get to.  If used properly, it can enrich your story by adding unexpected elements, and scenes you would not have dreamed were relevant, yet you find out just how relevant they are later in the work.  If it is used improperly, it can derail a story by adding massive amounts of padding that have to be revised out later.

Use with caution, but this one is one I would strongly recommend to be your first go to method.  Just because the muse leads you to a spring of ideas does not mean you have to drink from the pool.  You are always free to drink from your own water bottle, and save the new ideas for another time.

There is one last method to guide your muse, and I have yet to figure out how to make it work.  That is when you distract it.  Things have ground almost to a halt, and you start up another story.  With two going, you hop over to the one you really want to finish first, the one you are having the most difficulty getting the muse to cooperate on.  With the second story underway, you sneak in some time to work on this project in the middle of your new one.  Supposedly, because the muse is turning out inspiration for the second project, you can harness that for the difficult one.  I know several writers who can do this – they have no difficulty keeping multiple projects running simultaneously.  However, when I try, I wind up tangling the projects together so bad I cannot separate the two afterwards.

And, if all else fails with moving forward, there is always the option to just sit back and not write anything at all.  Wait out the muse’s absence or temper tantrum.  I’ve been faced with this three times now in my current project.  I could have bulled on, and if I were closer to the end of the work, I might have tried to.  However, being in the middle of the story, I did not want the narrative to unravel on me, so I put it down, and walked away for a few days.  When I came back, I tried writing more on it.  Still didn’t have that “spark”, and so I left it to sit and mature some more.  When the muse returned, I can say they were not amused.  Now, I’m dealing with a sulking muse.  Oh, well.  I’m back to getting a little progress each day.  I can live with that.

What do you do when your muse tries to take you in unwanted/unexpected directions?  I’d like to hear about it in the comments below.


2 thoughts on “Listen to the Muse (Pt 2): Guiding the Muse

  1. I usually like to plan out my novel using note cards. If my muse takes me somewhere else, maybe I’ll use the idea in a short story or a poem – or even just briefly write down the idea so I can use it later. I definitely can’t have two stories going at once!

    One thing that helps is that I set a daily writing goal. I write at least 1000 words every day. I think its become such a habit that I don’t necessarily struggle with writer’s block or ‘finding my muse’ anymore. My mind is used to writing at about the same time daily – and that has been one of the most helpful writing changes I’ve made in the past few months!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll agree about making writing a habit – I’ve seen that said by so many other authors. Not only making it a habit, but maintaining it. (Life keeps trying to pull the rug out from under my feet, so I’m having trouble getting back in the habit-again.)

      I take my hat off to those who can plan out their work(s). I’ve tried, and every time I do, I wind up with a grenade blowing up in my face about half way through. The muse/story wants to take a hard left, the outline says go straight, and the fight is on as everything unravels.


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