The Muse (On Writing & Editing)

The 9 Muses dance with Apollo.

We take certain things for granted I think. Art especially, I guess. One reason I think Art is criticized is because children seem to be so good at it, predisposed to it in fact. The force of shame is a remnant of the Industrial Age, where men were supposed to do man’s work and woman were supposed to stay home. Thinking about it, this may only apply to the rich folks, poor people have to work all the time. Maybe it is this confused historical paradigm which has lead to Art being seen as such a base, sophomoric pursuit. All that is probably subject for another blog, what I want to writer about is the figure of the Muse.

In Homer and other ancient works the muse is invoked at the begging of the poem. This idea had carried into the present if you look close enough. Read a bit of the writers talking about their process and the Muse will come up.

What is the Muse? It is this strange sense one gets when doing Art, where you sort of turnover to this purely creative force, which can speak and act on its own. The writer can become possessed as it were, by the Muse, and stuff can sort of just bubble out?

Now as you play with this you begin to realize the Muse is a lot like you! Whouda thunk it? So this means, it likes what you like, chocolate, coffee, music, good smelling incense and candles. So you realize quickly that if you share some of your goodies with the Muse that the gift can kick it into high gear, in your own work.

Be cautious though. Don’t see the Muse as some hedonist that if you overdose on chocolate it’ll give you a Masterpiece. The Muse does not like to be fucked with. That means it appreciates a tight, closely followed schedule. If you really want it to show up for you, you’re best to show up everyday.

I also believe it is the Muse that requires as the extracurricular reading as well. For two points, one the pleasure principle we first discussed. Second though and more importantly it wants you to beware of certain works, so that you don’t go wasting its time trying to rehash the same old thing. The Music is a critic and rational. Sloppy business will begin to agitate it. This is connected to writer’s block I imagine, and it is the Muse which is doing the blocking.

The Muse is a free agent, and the business is good. It is best to recognize this and be very considerate of your Muse. When proper order is maintained a healthy relationship can occur. If its not found, things can be dangerous. A runaway Muse can be deadly, no more evidence of that is needed than the deadly history of Rock and Roll. Breaking up with the Muse, or worse fighting the Muse, all can have disastrous ends. Therefore it is helpful to recognize what you’re dealing with, and don’t be demanding. Offer the gifts to the gods and then write it as it comes!

Source for Nine Muses:

Snippets #24

The Author Isaac Babel

Francine Prose-Reading Like a Writer

In general, I would suggest, the paragraph could be understood as a sort of literary respiration, with each paragraph as an extended–in some cases, very extended–breath. Inhale at the beginning of the paragraph, exhale at the end. Inhale again at the start of the next. But by introducing some element of unease, Babel’s paragraphs makes us catch our breath in the final sentence, so that we are still a little breathless in the midst of that rhythmic change, that shift in perspective. (66)

Snippets #23

Young and Still Scary Tolstoy!

Francine Prose-Reading Like a Writer

I’ve heard the way a writer reads described as “reading carnivorously.” What I’ve always assumed that this means is not, as the expression might seem to imply, reading for what can be ingested, stolen or borrowed, but rather for what can be admired, absorbed, and learned. It involves reading for sheer pleasure but also with an eye and a memory for which author happens to do which thing particularly well. Let’s say you are facing the challenges of populating a room with a large cast of characters all talking at once. Having read the ballroom scene in Anna Karenina, or the wild party that winds through so many pages of William Gaddis’s The Recognitions, you have sources to which you can go not just for inspiration but for technical assistance. (31)

Snippets #22

The Author

Tom Reiss-The Black Count

At one point, his horse was shot out from under him. But Dumas rose, found another horse, mounted, and continued slashing away at the Austrians. A cannonball landed directly in front of him, his new horse fell, and he went down a second time, only to rise again. By the end of the morning Dumas was still cutting down enemy troops without having sustained a single serious wound. His combined forced succeeded in driving the Austrian columns back–not only out of San Antonio but down the lakeside, across the bridge, and back through the gates of the citadel they’d just escaped. (203)

5 Tips For Rewriting (On Writing & Editing)

You must become like Sisyphus! -Inner-Warrior Voice

I suffered from a misconception with writing. I thought that more or less you would write one thing and then carefully patch that one thing, until it worked, a paper mache concept perhaps. But writing, and rewriting, are more akin to building a massive mansion with Lincoln Logs and then kicking it all over the place and then building a new version of the place with Legos. I lost you, didn’t I?

If you are serious about your writing, you want to not suck, so you are going to have to rewrite. The first draft is like the crumbs you leave on the ground to find your way home, or if your’e are more prudent the twine you would wrap around a branch to not lose your way. The first draft is a stake in the ground of your artistic creation, but everything that pops up around that stake will require just as much effort as placing that stake.

Okay enough with the metaphors and analogies. Here are some real tips for rewriting.

Don’t Rewrite in Begging to End Chronology. Mix it up. Maybe rewrite the climax portion first, then go back to the first chapter and then hop to the end chapter. Rethinking critical stages in the work will make the in-between portions much easier to write too. Also, these big exciting scenes are really what you need to get your head around to have the basic structure of your story.

Don’t Get Bogged Down in Your Suckiness- Rewriting will show you how much you suck, because you will probably have to rewrite a lot, but this is actually awesome once you embrace it. It sort of like any great passion, you have to take pleasure in the practice of the craft/skills. Writing ends up being less about having a good time and more like work once you really start trying, so embrace and develop your own Warrior Code to deal with your INFERNAL WEAKNESS! Oh sorry my inner Warrior Master came out there, I apologize.

Prime the Pump with New Creative Activity. Write scenes and backstory material that won’t even make it into this book, but will give you greater insight and let you have a little bit of fun. And don’t be scared to write something totally new too, or journal or hell don’t write, practice that guitar or paint, but once you have had your fun, go back to rewriting!

Read to Rewrite. Any time you lose enthusiasm in rewriting, it is time to jump back in the reading pool. No matter what genre you write in I highly doubt you have read as much of that genre as you should have and there are always new books coming out and new genres to explore. So get reading and pay attention to the mechanics of the writing as you do.

Seriously, Scrap It and Start Again. This is the hardest thing to get I think. All that effort you just put into that monstrous first draft, take it and shove it in the recycling bin, because that’s probably where it belongs! Wait, don’t do that, that was the Inner-Warrior Voice again, I apologize. Take that manuscript out. Find the delicious pieces, carefully excise and remove them, and smash them to a pulp and rebuild your story! It will get better in the rewrite but you better be ready to cut, and you better be ready to work, get going!

Ebooks and self-publishing trends may not encourage an emphasis on the rewriting phase and I think that would be a disservice to all. The rewrite is the most important tool for the independent writer because it is the stage when we will build our writing abilities. Your skill are the part of your success which is within your control, so take it seriously. Good luck!

Snippets #21

The Father of the Author of the Count of Monte Cristo. The muscle and power of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Tom Reiss- The Black Count

The detective also brought the interesting news that Antoine’s fourth child, a boy who was said to be his favorite, had not been sold along with the others. This boy was “a young mulatto who, it is said, was sold at Port au Prince,” Chauvinault wrote, “conditionally, with the right of redemption, to Captain Langlois, for 800 livres, which served as the passage of Sir Delisle to France.” (55)

10 Rules For Writers (Via Jonathan Franzen, via Wikipedia, via a blog by Susan Lerner)

Old Surehand-Book Cover

So I was reading this blog, Booth, about Jonathan Franzen, who according to the author of the blog, is “arguably the best living American writer”, and I believe I had read a book by him called Everything Is Illuminated, that is incorrect, that is written by Jonathan Safran Foer, and wait a minute…I apologize for the atrocious grammar here, but those names are oddly familiar! Anyways in searching Franzen’s bibliography, I had never in fact read anything by the author (unfortunate indeed),  I found this great list of his rules which I thought I would share with you writers out there. Here they are copied and pasted for your pleasure. (Again sincere apologies for the bad grammar. I was feeling ornery, I guess.)

1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
2. Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.
3. Never use the word “then” as a conjunction – we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page.
4. Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.
5. When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
6. The most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more autobiographical story than “The Metamorphosis”.
7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.
8. It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction [the TIME magazine cover story detailed how Franzen physically disables the Net portal on his writing laptop].
9. Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
10. You have to love before you can be relentless. (Goddamn is this one a home run!!!!!!!)

Source for List:

Source For Ranty Introduction: Jane McNamara, John McMulin, Fish Oil, Ginseng, 8 cups of Coffee, French Toast, a Turkey Sandwich, Yogurt, Free Time, Austin McMulin

The Wedding Bells; Part 9 (Flash Fiction Chain #6)


All right Artists & Audience, I am trembling with excitement, that may be the coffee or the romantic story I just got done writing. I think its the coffee, but yes still, here is an installment in a Chain Fiction enterprise that is being facilitated by the wonderful genius of Jithin over at PhoTraBlogger. Check him out, get on the chain gang (that doesn’t sound right) and let’s have some fun with writing!

The exercise…

Be inspired by the above image.

Read these previous Links of the Story:

Part 1. Sona

Part 2. Yinglan

Part 3. Priceless Joy

Part  4. Frenesthetist

Part 5. Dr. KO

Part  6. Sweety

Part 7. Quill

Part 8. I-Read

Now enjoy this Author’s contribution to, The Wedding Bells:

“Anna? Toby? What are you doing here? Besides the obvious,” Alex asked.

“Running from a felony assault I think,” Tobias said.

“Shut up,” Anna said, hitting him with an elbow. “Things have gone off the deep end Alex. Freaking Mel forgot her ring, then it got stolen, then that expensive and shiny hunk of junk Toby had broke down and then we were running–”

“Oh that is just perfect. They are meant for each other,” Alex said. “Harris forgot to bring the check for his ring at the scheduled meeting with Ms. Beaumont. Expensive as it was, there was no way she was releasing it on a promise. Harris had so much going on that he sent me down to get it.”

“Ms. Beaumont?” Tobias asked.

“Tell me she’s not a blond,” Anna said.

“Yes she is. Beautiful too, Harris informed me,” Alex said.

Apologies were poured upon Ms. Beaumont, who agreed to settle the whole matter privately. Anna dreaded if the story got out. She had fought the “bitch reputation,” her whole career. She didn’t need to inflame the rumor mill, with dreadful assault charges.

Though it was a miracle Alex was there with his car, it was going to be an awkward ride to the venue. Anna and Toby had done a weird shuffle about who ended up in shotgun. Anna gave up to his insistent offers and hopped in.

She regretted it instantly, but she whispered an apology to Alex. He ignored it. Toby hopped in the back and started rambling. This seemed to distract Alex in his driving and it was obvious he was frustrated by the whole situation. After a short pause in his monologging Toby tried to get the conversation going again. “This just goes to show you, all that glitter is not gold, and all that.”

“You got to say the whole thing,” Anna said. “All that glisters is not gold; Often have you heard that told; many a man his life hath sold But my outside to behold; Gilded tombs do worms enfold,”

“Ah a thespian,” Toby said. “you grow more intriguing every moment Anna. Could I be your Romeo?”

“She did her Master’s thesis on Shakespeare.” Alex said.

“I’m no pleb myself you know,” Toby said. “Love is a smoke and is made with the fume of sighs, oh or how about She’s beautiful, and therefore to be wooed; She is woman, and therefore to be won.”

“Or,” Alex said, “how about, Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”

The course of true love never did run smooth,” Anna said. That seemed to shut down the car for a second. She needed the breather.

This was all too much, riding in a car with both of these men. She felt so strongly for both of them, but it was so stupid, so god awfully Petrarchan. One hadn’t worked out and the other wasn’t interested in anything serious; Anna was getting to old for games.

“So Alex my boy,” Toby said. “Looks like Blackwell estate should be host to yet another thrilling and tumultuous matrimonial ceremony. Think we will see anything the likes of the Rumble of the Mother In-Laws of 92 or even better the Wine Apocalypse of 09”

“Stop it Toby,” Alex said.

“Wine Apocalypse?” Anna asked. “I got to hear this.”

“No, you don’t,” Alex said.

“Sure she does Alex ol’ boy,” Toby said. “So imagine our dear little Alexy boy here, just a ripe young man of seventeen. It was a very special occasion. Family from over seas, cousins or something. It was supposed to be the biggest affair ever. And it was! Preparations lasted for weeks, the whole place was cleaned and cleaned and cleaned again, until it was sparkling. It had to be. There were just so many important guests, senators, governors, artists, famous people, just everything you could want. Well, little Alex boy here decided he was in love, what was that lassie’s name?”

“Jennifer,” Alex said, through gritted teeth.

“Ol’ Jenny girl, that’s right,” Toby said. “Parents owned a strip mall or something, if I’m not mistaken. So sweet, Jennifer sneaks two bottles of wine, one for each of them. A very courteous and ambitious lover, no doubt. Would you like to finish the tale Alexi?”

“No,” Alex said, griping the wheel tighter.

“Well anyway, the party is just a ripping and a roaring, when out of nowhere–” Toby exploded with uncontrollable laughter.

“Dammit Toby,” Alex said, “its not that funny. I had never been drunk befo–”

“When out of nowhere,” Toby interjected, “there is just this awful scream, that started coming from somewhere deep inside the mansion. Everyone and I mean everyone stopped. The music stopped, the waiters stopped, the dancing stopped, everything stopped. And this scream just keeps getting closer and closer and then these side doors are thrown open” Toby again busted out in laughter, “the doors are thrown open and there was Jennifer just covered in a purple slime of red wine. All down the front of her dress! AHAHAHAHA”

Anna tried and failed to suppress her laughter, but Toby was just rolling around the back seat, cracking up. Alex’s face didn’t help things. He was so embarrassed and angry about the situation. “I tried to stop her,” he said.

“Oh you bet you did,” Toby said, still dying. “Alex ran up right as she opened the door, face still purple and drunk. Ah it was the best AHAHAHAHA.”

“God I hate you,” Alex said.

“Oh stop,” Toby said. “It was absolute madness. You’re a freaking mad man, that’s all. Ah Anna, you should have seen this poor girl as her parents led her away from the party. It was just the sorriest sight ever!”

“Let’s talk about your love affairs Toby,” Alex said.

“Go right ahead,” Toby said, wiping the tears from eyes. “I have nothing to hide.”

“What about Lisa?” Alex asked.

“Lisa, yes, what about her? She’s a lovely girl.” Toby said.

“She left you by post-it note, cleaned out your apartment, and stole five thousand dollars from you,” Alex said.

“Spirited girl, that’s all,” Toby said.

“She accused you of sleeping with two of her friends,” Alex said.

“You mum’s been gossiping hasn’t she?” Toby asked.

“Unbelievable,” Alex said.

“You know that’s your problem Alex? You are just too needy. That doesn’t work, not in today’s world,” Toby said. He straightened his tie and smoothed his jacket. “I understand the perils and traps of monogamy. The world is a beautiful amazing place. We shouldn’t put a chain around our hearts and demand that our emotions behave. I won’t live like that; you agree, don’t you Anna?” He placed his hand on her shoulder.

Anna watched Alex, as his focus jumped from the rode, to her, to Toby’s hand. “I think,” Anna said, “I think. Hmm, I think that…shoot, I don’t know.”

“Ah don’t believe her Alex ol’ boy,” Toby said. “She cares too much for you to side with me in this discussion. But trust me, sweet Anna knows very well what I mean. She is much too fierce to be tamed, especially by any suffering sense of duty.”

Anna was more than happy to see their exit. “Honestly,” she said. “I think that, lovers ever run before the clock, so we better pick up the hustle here; we got a wedding to get to.” With that encouragement, Alex hit the gas and tore down the road, headed for the Blackwell estate…

Will the trio make it to the wedding? Will the wedding take place as planned? Will Anna find her love connection? Will Alex hold his liquor? Will Toby turn the whole wedding into a freak fest? Stay tuned for the next link in the chain!

So now go wait for the next link and while you wait, go bug Jithin and join the greatest literary movement on planet Earth!!!!!

P.S. Source for Shakespeare Quotes (I am not that good!)

Snippets #20


Paris Review-The Art of Fiction No. 200, John Banville

I especially love Emerson. Each of his essays is a collection of impassioned sentences. It seems as if there’s a sense of order in the usual sense, but in fact there are just wonderfully rich congeries of sentences. I am inclined to think that the value of a philosopher’s thought is always reflected in his style—mind you, where does that leave Kant and Hegel?


Snippets #19


Burning the Page-Jason Merkoski

Of course, in all likelihood, the minds of wealthy entertainers or technology early adopters will be digitized first. Theirs will be the minds available a hundred years from now as public domain recordings for people to download for free. And while theirs will be the first minds to be digitized, the quality will be poor, like that of wax cylinders or early ebooks. (228)

5 Tips For Reading Like a Writer


1. Understand What You Get From Different Genres.

If I am really into a piece of Fiction there is no way I would skip around the story, just reading the juicy bits I am interested in. In contrast to a nonfiction book, where I may hunt the few key chapters that I am interested. I think having this awareness in reading makes it much more enjoyable.

Getting stuck on a book, can hamper your developing reading skills so its important to remember what you are reading for. Are you trying enjoy a whole book, or are you trying get a specific answer to a specific issue? Even pleasure reading needs to be taken a bit more seriously if you are a writer. Don’t read only genre and writers you immediately enjoy. Go to the Classics and other challenging works and dig in and see what is so great about them. This type of reading serves so many worthwhile end, it deserves its own post really.

2.Use a Palate Cleanser

By palate cleanser I meant don’t read the whole Game of Thrones series in a year. Break up themes and genres. Comics and Graphic Novels are my favorite palate cleansers. Also be careful what you read. Books are powerful things and some stories are so dark and scary I think planning antidote books is crucial to your sanity. Oh and never keep a copy of The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson, anywhere in your house, way bad mojo.

3.Make Sure To Emphasize Your Genre

I like to read across all genres, I really do, but the genre I want to write in is Science-Fiction/Speculative Fiction, so i try to sort of always keep one leg in those waters. I think that’s important as a writer so that we can be fully tuned into our genre, especially our contemporaries. Also this should be a natural inclination too, as you should intuitively love the genre you plan to write in.

4.Read With a Writing Utensil and Journal.

I think a pencil in the hand is sort of like a swimmer floaty for readers. It tells the mind you are engaged in work and effort. Also it reminds you to pay attention to the interesting bits. The pen and journal combination is crucial too, as it allows you to speak back to the text and is a back up memory system. Also, quick notes allow you to refocus on the thing you are reading.

I find the exception to this be Fiction, but that may be a personal thing. Even then, reading with a pencil to mark great passages for later reflection would be very valuable. And just generally, the pencil can be used much like the blind man’s walking stick with books.

5.Read in a Room with No Electronic Distractions

This might be the most important tip of all. We are overwhelmed and distracted with our phones and tablets to get down to the serious work of reading and writing well. So set the phone down, run to the basement, and just sit with you current book and enjoy yourself! Build you brain muscles and do some active dedicated reading.