The muse is off today…

As stated before in my previous post, I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo. I agree with the premises that 99% of the time you need to be writing without editing (sorry I just can’t let go of that 1%…) But truth be told, I’m just not “that writer” and that’s O.K. So, for those of you that fall into the category of “I will spontaneously combust if I can’t do some editing while writing” and have foregone NaNoWriMo, this post is for you!

I’m a control freak. Everything in my life has rules that must be strictly adhered to. My husband still thinks I am absolutely crazy because I can’t eat a cupcake without a glass of milk. Well, I can but it damn near makes me break out in hives… Of course the crazy just bleeds into every aspect of my life including writing. The very thought of writing without editing is enough to raise my heart rate and send me into a panic attack. My control freakism (is that a word?)is a huge issue when I’m trying to actually finish a novel. I’ve written the beginning of my novel no less than fifty times and it’s still not where I want it to be BUT a few months back I made a promise to myself not to touch it until my draft is done. Of course, as I type that the room feels a little warmer and I’m pretty sure there’s less oxygen in here than when I started writing this post (breathe Shelley, breathe!) but I know now that it will not kill me to let the beginning sit undone for right now. Why? Because:

If I don’t finish my novel, the beginning doesn’t matter one iota.

I feel like such an adult typing that! It’s been tough to get to the point where I can let the beginning go for now and move on. I did a LOT of work and soul searching to reach this point (which by the way is still not comfortable but tolerable…). What helped me was realizing that everything I was feeling about what was wrong in my story was not only totally legit but EXPECTED.  I read quite a few books by successful authors that talk at length about the difficulties of trudging through mud to work through the hard parts of your story and keep moving forward. One of my very favorite books on the craft is Stephen King’s “On Writing”. The biggest take away for me was the acknowledgment that the muse often doesn’t show up for work and you have to do all the heavy lifting on your own. I think this quote sums it up best:


Yep. Don’t know about you but my shovel is more like one of those big earth movers you see used in highway construction… Point is, if we want to be writers we need to write, good or bad, and get that first draft done . It can be hard to move forward when you feel like so much is wrong in your story but we truly can’t know what’s working and what isn’t if we don’t have a finished manuscript. Let go of the word counts, let go of the issues in your stories beginning, allow your characters grow and to take you where they wish. If the plot changes let it– it won’t kill you I promise. Put your butt in your seat and write (and I promise to do the same).

How do you move forward when you feel like your story just isn’t working?


About Shelley Koon

Artist and author - visit me at my site listed below.
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6 Responses to The muse is off today…

  1. Karen Kane says:

    How do I move forward when my story isn’t working? I read this blog! Thanks for the terrific pick-me-up Shelley. I love your posts, along with Laura, Larissa and Susan’s. You all four inspire me and I am always cheered to see this blog in my inbox. Thank you wonderful women! Karen

  2. I needed to read this–I say that quite often when I read this post!
    Thank youj.

  3. Mike Crowl says:

    I often find that I will fiddle with the first couple of sentences for a while, rearranging, rewriting, and rethinking, and then I’ll just pour out a chapter or a short story. Sometimes at the end of that I’ll go back and edit. Most of the time though, I start editing when I’m trying to fall asleep. I’ll replay the story in my head, and by the next day, it all seems to come together. Then I can move on to another chapter and keep plodding along.

    As for moving forward when things aren’t working out, I know that my premise is usually sound, and I just haven’t figured out the right path to a logical outcome. I believe it is always there, and if I can’t find the solution in the moment, I will find another creative outlet (I build stuff out of wood, and I play guitar. Well, kind of.) and that usually frees up my brain to find the way to make my story work. Thanks for the excellent post Shelley!

    • Shelley Koon says:

      I’m jealous – I want to play guitar! I do swap over to my art every now and then. Sometimes it helps – others not so much. I had a friend who would make soup because when she was chopping veggies it was a mindless enough task that it allowed her to think about her story. of course the bonus to that is you get to eat soup regardless of whether you work the story out or not 😛

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