Listening to the Muse (pt. 3) Working with the Muse

Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak Image courtesy of:

Welcome back to my series about getting your story onto paper series.  So far, we’ve looked at how to actually hear your muse (here), hopefully how to meet your muse half way on where the story is going (here).  Today, we’ll be looking at how to keep yourself and your muse on the same page.  This is not a foolproof method, but it is one I have found to be effective many times when the muse and I hit a pinch point.  The muse wants to take that hard left turn, and I think the story needs to keep going straight through.  It is a little like guiding, but this has more of a give and take relationship than that.

  • Compromise
    • Yes, I know, that sounds like one of the worst things you could do.  However, if the muse is trying to lead you astray, there are many times when giving it a longer leash will bring in some new plot points that can revitalize a work that has grown stale in your own head.  Just because you know how things end, does not mean that the muse agrees.  Instead of taking the hard left turn the muse wants, you are making the turn a gentle bend.
  • Negotiate
    • How many times have you hit the pinch point right at the end of your book?  You know exactly how this one is going to end, and you cannot wait to get there.  Then the muse throws you a curve ball, and everything goes right out the window.  Sitting down and negotiating in good faith often will yield fairly good results.  For those who like to plot out their story, this will often mean huge lists of pros and cons for the change.  For those who write organically, this may mean letting one or two of your characters who you thought needed to permanently remain in the background come out of the shadows to shine for a bit.  In either case, following the muse to a degree with the firm commitment that you are going to get to that ending you wanted often means one of those last minute plot twists that bring readers back time and again to other works just to see if you throw them another unexpected twist.
  • Give in
    • This one only really works for series works.  And, within that, it’s only a viable option for early to middle books of a series, rather than the last book.  With this tactic, you gracefully let the muse go wandering off into its own brambles, trailing along a trail of breadcrumbs, so you can work your way back out later.  It can be scary.  It can be painful.  It can also lead you to a treasure trove of material added to the body of your work.  When the muse relinquishes control back to you, now you have a trail to follow in order to get back out of the mess it led you into.  I ought to know, I use this tactic quite a bit.  And, so far, my muse has known better than my head.  I just wish it hadn’t made my characters keep slipping out of the traps that were carefully built to catch them.
  • Take a break
    • If you have tried everything you can think of to show your willingness to cooperate with your muse, and it refuses to do anything but jump into the impenetrable brambles on the side of the path, then take a short break – a day or two – from writing anything.  This is a strong arm tactic, and may result in your muse sulking for several weeks to months after, but if you know that the only place for the story to go except for the path you’ve got set out right now will see your story destroyed, then it may be necessary.

The muse may be a part of you, or it may be the story itself, different writers have different expressions for this.  However, working in cooperation, not competition.  Working cooperatively will enhance your story, where working competitively has the potential to bring about disaster.

Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll be looking at what to do when the muse decides to abandon you and go sulk.

In the mean time, happy writing everyone!


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