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

4-27-12: Turning a page | Flickr – Photo Sharing! Courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com

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.

Listen to the Muse (pt 1)

Tifa Lost in Thought by Dre-Joker on DeviantArt

The last several weeks we’ve been looking at writing from the stand point of taking an already established story line from one format into a narrative.  This week I’m starting a new series.  Now, I’m looking at how to come up with a story in the first place.  It’s not as if you can just hook your thumb into the collective conscience and be taken to the destination marked “stories for sale here.”  If it were, then everyone could do it, and writing would never have the fun and mystique of discovering just what exactly IS over that next big hill.

So, how do you come up with an idea?  Do you contemplate your navel for days at a time?  Wander around out in nature, or the big city, or through the family gatherings hoping and praying something will hop right out and scream “Write me, fool!”?  If that’s worked for you, go get ’em tiger!  But, don’t come crying when that spark fades over time as your memory of the event the idea sparked from fades.  Sooner or later, that will happen.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not THE expert when it comes to coaxing stories out of the woods of your imagination, you are.  I just have some tips and tricks that might help coax it out where you can see enough to decide if it’s worth pursuing or not.  In this I do have a bit of experience.  (If you haven’t tried to run a role-play game with 5 characters that really should NOT have been anywhere close to each other, keep the rowdy players interested instead of bickering, and so far out of scriptable material you almost don’t remember what it feels like to run a premade session, my qualifications wouldn’t make sense.)  I managed to run several games that met either every day or every other day with power players and rule’s lawyers in every session.  I had to stay creative, keep the story fresh, and keep things moving while accommodating the group.  For gamers, this is something similar to what writers do in November when we sign up for NaNoWriMo – lots of progress and very little time to prepare.

So, how does this work?  In a way, I wasn’t too far off about contemplating your navel.  A setting where you are relaxed, and fairly free of distractions helps wonders in coaxing your muse out of the hidden shadows.  Even if you have a story that is practically screaming to be written, having the muse on your side really helps.

Once you’ve relaxed, and let your mind wander around in your creative territory, you may feel a pull or even hear some whispers from deeper within.  More than likely, this is your muse trying to get through.  For all that the muse is a fickle creature, it really does like talking to you, but most of us are too busy to hear what it has to say.  So, now that you’ve got a hint of where it wants to take you, follow it.  Forgive me for pilfering from one of my childhood classics, but you are about to dive down the rabbit hole, and have the adventure of your life.

Your muse may or may not ever grow loud enough to give you the entire tale, or it may not be strong enough to lead you through all the twists and turns in your plot.  For those who enjoy mapping out the story for themselves, this is just fine.  If you remember to keep part of your mind tuned in and relaxed, your muse will show you where the story needs to go.

For the rest of us, this may be a bit more problematic.  But, that’s next week’s post – Working With your muse, once you’ve figured out how to hear it.

In the mean time, happy writing!

Connecting – How to make it meaningful

Connecting – How to make it meaningful

When you’ve finally got something to say, be it via a blog, a book, a tweet, or a Facebook post, how do you make a meaningful connection?  There are so many instances I see of someone throwing words out into cyberspace, and then letting them fade away.  Like a shout into a noisy room.  Those who hear it turn to look, but if you don’t follow up with more, they soon turn away and go back to what ever they were doing in the first place.

No, I do not advocate shouting everything.  That’s where the meaningful connections come in.  A few of the people who initially turned to look your direction when you first spoke actually are interested in what you have to say.  The rest?  Let them keep talking among themselves.  Sooner or later, something they say, or something you say can bridge the gap between you for a while.  For now, focus on the ones who turned to you first.

Talk to them, get to know them.  Find out who they are, let them find out who you are.  It is a give an take.  You don’t have to be come fast friends.  But you are walking paths that parallel the other for a while.  Help them to be comfortable around you, while you let them help you be comfortable around them.  Enjoy the cycle of getting to know someone.

In the specific, let’s break down the platforms I’ve started trudging up the learning curve on.  I am in NO way an expert, so if you have other suggestions, please feel free to leave them.  I’m always eager to learn more.

  • Twitter – The main feed can be a bit intimidating.  So, use it to skim for anything interesting, but don’t plan on spending a whole bunch of time here.  Set up lists, and use those to keep track of people you are interested in.  If the lists get to be unwieldy because there is too much going on at the same time, then make another list to help filter the content.
    • Once you have the lists, add people to them.  Then, interact.  That’s all it takes.  If you see something that you want to comment on – comment.  If you get a reply, then converse.  Frighteningly simple right?  Yeah, I thought so too.
    • Keep an eye on your notice tab.  Right now, because I am growing a follower platform, that’ where I see the most useful information.  For now.  Others state that the lists will take over as they grow.  But, to find new interactions, new connections, the notice tab will remain important.
  • Facebook – Personal or business?  I have seen a huge growth of Author’s pages and business pages.  Sadly, so has Facebook.  In reply to this, what used to be considered a “fan page” has fallen under close scrutiny.  While it is still a good idea – from what I have read – the likely hood of the fan page being a big draw is rapidly dwindling.  I know with my own page, and the few folks who follow it, I rarely see my own posts.  Yes, I post something to the page, and I never see it show up on my own news feed.  So, how to build a good, meaningful network on Facebook?  At this point, the best I can suggest is to set up a fresh page for your work.  Not an Author’s page appended to your own personal page, but something that will live or die on its own.
    • Once you have the page set up, then follow the suggestions for twitter.  Get your interest lists set up, and start talking.  Be yourself above all else.  Facebook does not have a limited number of characters, so if you like to write long posts – write long posts.  If you like to keep things brief, keep them brief.
    • One thing with Facebook – use complete sentences!  Nothing drives away followers faster than using txt sp w/ a pltfm that lts u wrt ppr wds.
      Yeah, irritating isn’t it?  Do your self a favor, and don’t write like that.  Not everyone wants to puzzle out what you are trying to say.
  • Blogs – I am still such a newcomer to the blogosphere, I don’t dare say much about that.  The audience is slowly growing.  In all honesty, I am beginning to feel that the blog is a good repository for story ideas, and the big stuff that would be buried on Facebook for me.  (working chapters, character back stories, and tools I want to go back to.)  The blog does not get flooded as fast as Facebook, and is a still pond compared to twitter.  So, if you have something you want others to see, read, or think about, then the blog is a good place to put it.
    • If you get comments (which are always appreciated) try to make sure to reply to them.  Just because you visit your site once or twice a week does not excuse you for ignoring replies.  Answering your comments, even if it is a simple “Thank you for the visit” lets your readers know you are a human.  And, it helps them feel appreciated.  Ignore that interaction at your own risk.

So, what is the final take away?  Twitter is a live environment- it moves fast, and offers the most interaction for the shortest amount of time.  This is a great place for first contact, and can be used to help point people to your Facebook page and/or blog.  Facebook does not move as quickly, which lets you express yourself in greater depth.  It also allows your followers to interact with you in a more lasting way.  Use Facebook to point people to your blog and to your twitter connections.  The blog is the slowest point of contact.  But, it allows you to express yourself to your fullest.  While the blog may not do much to point people at your Facebook or twitter connections, the information can be fed through to these accounts, which will help draw people from those platforms into your blog.  Yeah, the blog is the focal point, the big draw if you do things right.  However, unless you have those meaningful connections, attracting people to it doesn’t do you much good.  At least, that’s what I’ve experienced so far.

What has your experience been about your social platforms?  I look forward to hearing back from you.

Platform Building Tool One

Platform Building Tool One

 

Just about anyone who puts a product up for sale now days needs to have a social media presence, or “Platform”, if they expect to make any sales.  Almost all the literature agrees that while you can succeed with the shotgun approach, scattering your marketing efforts across all the platforms available, it is usually wisest to limit what platforms you are using to the best two or three for you.

For those here in the blogosphere of WordPress, you’ve already established (or are in the process of establishing) one area of your platform.  The other two common sense, quick start areas are Facebook and Twitter.  I’ll get into why in a later post.  This one, I wanted to dedicate to the gentleman who helped break Twitter down enough I could wrap my head around it:  Nat Russo.

Twitter Icon - a frienemie worth getting to know better.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the Twitter icon. Something some loath, others fear, and the rest love.

 

When I saw his article title Here about this subject with the hint of a thorough walk through in how to make twitter more understandable, I jumped on it.  Several years later, I’m still gnawing on the information, and trying to digest all of it.  Since I found this article so helpful, I thought it would be wonderful to share with everyone else who may be in the same boat I was initially in.

Once again, this is not my information.  Nat Russo is the one behind this particular brand of magic.  If you are struggling to understand twitter, then I cannot recommend his sight enough.  Seriously, go check out his Series Articles page, and settle in with something to take notes with, and some time.  Really, really good information!  There’s some other series that are well worth reading as well.  Why not go take a peek while you’re there?