Stuck, stuck, stuck in a rut


Have you ever had an image in your head, an idea so strong you can see it, you can taste it, you can smell it…your fingers are poised over the keyboard, you’re ready to type…and your muse laughs, walks over to an overstuffed chair, sits down and says, “I’m not writing it and you can’t make me”?

Argh, I want to strangle my muse!  I want to turn him upside down and shake him until his eyeballs fall out.  For those of you who don’t know, my muse is a cheeky little meadow gnome who talks incessantly and at the moment he’s driving me insane.  There is this scene that I want to go a certain way and no matter what I do, he keeps steering me down another path.  His path.  I balk.  He balks.  We fight and struggle.  The scene goes  nowhere.  It’s stuck.

If the scene goes the way my brain tells me to take it, I can wrap it up in a nice little package.  Bing, bam, boom, it’s done.  It’s tidy.  It’s clean.  If I follow my muse, the scene will get complicated, deepening the story line.  I’ll have to edit several scenes towards the end of the novel, but they’ll be more intense.  A minor plot hole will be filled.  Still, all the scenes combined will up my word count, something I’m trying to avoid.  If I take my path, I’ll stay within my word count.  The minor plot hole will be still be there but I can fill it in in the next book. Still, I don’t like leaving plot holes, and I do want my story to be as rich and intense and as mind-blowing as possible.

“But I don’t want the added word count.”  I whine and stomp my foot

“Add the words,” my muse says.  “You can thank me later.”

‘No.”

“Yes.”

“Ahh, stop it!”  I pull hair out of my head.

Which path should I take?  Should I play it safe and take the path of least resistance…keep the story tight, or should I follow my muse and disrupt my character’s lives by throwing in another twist that wasn’t there before?  Word count or plot?  This tired, battle-worn author wants to know.

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24 thoughts on “Stuck, stuck, stuck in a rut

  1. Tough decision! It sounds like what your muse is telling you will enhance the story. Are there any other scenes you’ve written that could be postponed until the next book, scenes that may be interesting but not plot-enhancing? If you took them out, then you’d have room for the new stuff. Just a suggestion…whether it’s feasible, you’ll have to decide. Sorry, that’s probably not too helpful.

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    1. I’m looking for exits. You know, I should quit editing when I’m ahead. It will never be ‘perfect’, but I’m always finding things that could be better, words that can be eliminated. I never thought I’d end up with this problem, silly little muse.

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  2. Maybe look at it this way: Will the added twist further the story or is it mostly interesting storytelling? As Larry Brooks says in “Story Engineering” (and I’m paraphrasing here), it doesn’t matter if it’s interesting; what matters is if it furthers the story. If it doesn’t, then take it out. If it does, then put it in.

    Good luck!

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    1. Oh, it will definitely move the story forward. I’m trying very hard to put it off to book 2 but my muse won’t let it go. I have a sneaky suspicion I’m going to have to acquiesce. I just hate it when ‘he’s’ right.

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  3. Try both. Make a copy of your WIP and do it your way. Make another copy and do it your muse’s way. Extra work to be sure, but one should feel right when you’re done. And the other might give you deeper insights into your characters and plot elements that you can work into the next book.

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  4. Put out a help wanted sign. Nothing gets a muse riled up like competition. 🙂 Seriously, let it go and try something fun for an half hour. In a relaxed state the muse may raise its beautiful head.

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  5. I’ve learned to never fight my muse. He’s usually right. The only time I win is if I have a deadline looming. Other than that? Yeah, he’s my master.

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    1. Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of. It’s just I’ve been working on this novel for soooooooo long. I can recite it word for word, scene for scene. I’m almost sick of it. I guess that means I’m close to done????

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      1. That was me for Ghost in the Mirror. Now that it’s ‘finished’ my muse is going …”I think we need to do this. The beta monsters are going to tear it to pieces if you don’t”. GAH!

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  6. Follow the muse, Jen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: most times when I ‘can’t write’ it’s because my head’s trying to tell me the story’s going awry and my characters are heading to places they shouldn’t. All I have to do is backtrack, figure out where I started steering it wrong, delete it (yes, I know it hurts, but it’s for the best–save the scene in a separate doc if it’s particularly awesome), and then write it the new way. Happened with Darkness & Light. Happened with Blue Moon. Happened with Escort to Insanity. Your muse is trying to give you sound advice. You should listen to it. Seriously.

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    1. Oh, I know you’re right. (don’t tell that little creepy dude I said that). It’s just I had it all nice and tidy and he has to go throw a wrench into things. Damn him! 🙂

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  7. Follow the muse. I had the same fight with mine (my muse is this young overly romantic girl who believes in fairies snd happy ever afters) my word count shot up then found two chapters that werent making sense after the changes. The changes made the story better. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks. Maybe I should send my muse over to meet your muse. She’s a romantic; mine needs to find some romance. It might be a good fit. What do you say? I can send him over let’s say…now? 🙂

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  8. Follow your muse, especially as you know it will make your story richer. You might find somewhere else you can shave the words. I followed my muse and changed the ENTIRE second half of ‘Trinity’. It was the best decision I made when editing that book! Good luck, whichever path you decide to take.

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    1. I hear you but I don’t wanna. 🙂 I’ve edited for so long. At this rate it will never get published because my muse keeps intervening. He needs a vacation. He needs a female muse to whip him into shape. Know anyone? 🙂

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