Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Finicky Muse Syndrome: Wasting Time While You Write

Wasting time comes naturally with being a writer, I think. A lot of would-be writers think they can't create unless conditions are ideal. You know. The Finicky Muse Syndrome. You fail to get your word quota done, and it's because something disturbed your concentration. It's the Muse's fault. Which is a little silly because you can always write down the ideas you want to use in a scene and go back and revise. -- I think it's called outlining, actually.

While my "muse" isn't particularly finicky, I do waste a lot of time when I should be writing. Like today. I just spent a good 90 minutes trying to find some blog links that tied into the "book review" below. Read some interesting things. Like how some blogger was plagiarizing others' blogs from E. J. Wesley. How a low carb diet has helped Yasmine Galenorn's health. Plus, the Passive Guy offered loads of different interesting stuff. But, none was pertinent to what I thought I wanted to say ... or I couldn't think of a way to switch gears and write something else. So -- No links.

That leaves me with a confession. I "plagiarized" all the time -- only it's craft techniques. One of my favorites lately: Richard Castle's book Heat Rises. Went through the book looking for solutions to different writing "problems" to help me get my "Pig" story on track [like 250 words a day. Actually, I've been writing more.] I've been trying to get pertinent background details into the opening without an info dump. Whomever the Castle author is does a brilliant job of this.

I just loved the opening of Heat Rises:
"The thing about New York City is you never know what's behind a door. Homicide Detective Nikki Heat ponder that, as she had so many times, while she parked her Crown Victoria and watched police cruiser and ambulance lights lick the storefronts on 74th off Amsterdam." After creating that atmosphere, the writer describes the writer goes on to describe the setting for the rest of the paragraph.

The next two paragraphs switch to people. First, the uniform fighting the cold. Then, the 3rd paragraph switches to Heat herself. "She got out, and even though the air bit her nostrils and made her eyes teary, Nikki didn't button her coat against it. Instead she fanned it open with the back of her hand by rote, making sure that she had clean access to the Sig Sauer holstered underneath."

Result: in less than two pages you get the sense that Heat is both a no-nonsense cop and sensitive at the same time. Others may disagree with me, but I think the writing's masterful.

Another piece of craftsmanship in the book that awed me was the way description is interlaced with the action. Maybe that's why I "waste" so much time rewriting. My stuff just doesn't seem to be measuring up. Is my muse faulty? No, I just think my skills are half-baked.

Oh, what's the book about? The storyline mirrors the plot points featured in a previous season of the TV show where Heat dug into past investigations to solve a cover up of a crime committed crooked cops -- not the same crime. The plot opens with the discover the body of a Catholic priest at a BDSM role-playing parlor. The plot fans out from there with Heat's seeking a promotion to lieutenant and the bad guys trying to convince her to let "sleeping dogs lie" with guns. Oh, yeah. There the romance line between Heat and her tag-a-long too.

All together it's a book that kept me reading until after 2 AM. Which get me to another reason why nouveau writers waste time or give up. Envy. Despair. A host of other sins. The only thing to do is to keep writing and trying to improve your craft skills.

If your muse is too finicky, maybe you should tell it/him/her to get a tougher skin.

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