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Sobering up Your Muse

Ever notice that being a writer is hell some days? Of course there is the daily doubt contest between your imagination, your internal critic, the internal editor and that bastard up in the seats. You get use to that -- learn to tune them out. But, then there are those special moments when you've been pushing a two ton rock up hill -- only to find that it is the wrong hill, and that's not the right rock.

So, I had this story in my head for a few years, and it would flash scenes at me, and then connect scenes and add playful bits and description. I finally get the time to sit down and write it. At around chapter 10, I happen to read a new book... which is fantastic. When I get back to writing my book the next day... it looks very ... shallow and flat. The words are just lying there like slugs. Paging back, I reach chapter one, feeling the same way about the whole thing.

I jump into FWG, and there is Earl, and Tokyo and Nicky, Pinar, Ashlee, Desiree and that weird guy that is always harping on emotional connections -- and they are discussing background, character, Arcs... what the hell is an arc? ... and everything I learned about writing comes flooding into my head and I look back at my book -- "what the hell? this thing sucks. I'm way better than this."

So, I write, and then re-write the first three... then two....then I'm spinning on the first page of the first chapter -- and then First Line Friday comes up... and now I'm on the first three sentences, which I just Can't Get Right!

Know this one? It's an old story. A story of drama and pain, but never seems to grow to seed. Always fresh and engulfing. Someone -- usually a non-writer -- always says something like "Stop trying so hard" -- which has that pseudo-fact feel to it, but doesn't help worth the shyt...

I had this trouble, as I am sure most writers have, and a man named Don gave me some good advice. He told me that first of all, my mind was wrapped up in how amazing someone else’s writing was, and that in comparison, mine didn't measure up -- which would suggest one answer -- but what I didn't realize was that my writer's mind was tricking me.

Writers are amazingly visual. Readers visualize, but we internalize so well we are not a reliable witness for what is really on the page we are reading. We can feel the dense heated air, smell the rot and new growth, hear the bugs near our ears and recite a list of colors and hues ... when all the writer actually wrote was, "he brushed back the vines. Light fell in pillars through the thick canopy, lighting the clearing. Bugs darted through the shafts of light."

Our muse is drunk. She’s kissing everyone in the room, and babbling about how drops of water look like prisms, and could be metaphors for MC's tears when her boy friend left her at the airport, and how the depressing thick heated air could be symbolic of her purgatory...

We are never going to measure up to the visualization of a our mind -- which can immerse itself so deeply, with so little to work with -- and the more we add, the less it gives us that full immersion. (?) Right? We add in a stronger description, and it doesn't work. We add in colors and bugs, which we take back out because they are irrelevant and aren't working. We add hues to the light... which turns all the prose to purple and so we scratch that out and ...

... we're going the wrong way. Put your muse to bed.

Don gave me this advice and now I pass it to you.


Open a new document and write the first four chapters as a screen play. Zero description, only enough stage direction to place setting and position.

Once finished with the first four chapters as a screenplay, come back and add in A LIST of essential details required by each scene.
 Does the Detail you want to add  have to be known? 
Do we need to know right now in this chapter that she's a redhead? Does it keep the plane in the air or something? No? then skip it. Do we need to know that he takes two sugars and never milk? No?.. on to the next detail.

Then, with only your  list of essential details and the dialog you wrote -- rewrite the four chapters, again, keeping it as clean as you can.

Go back to chapter 10, finish your novel.

A lot of people will tell you not to bother with this, just ignore it and finish your novel -- who are they kidding? If you are this far down the rabbit hole, this novel is never getting finished. Probably not the next one either.

There are a lot of reasons this works, and it does work. Not going to go into them. I promise you that it's not a waste of your time.


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