My muse has been kind to me just lately. I’m working on developing a fantasy novel that will be published as a serial, exclusively on Amazon.
My heroine, Ranya, is fifteen and has lived as a captured servant to a cruel and ambitious princess since she was five. Thanks to some serious communication with my muse, Ranya’s people (elusive and aloof, from an alternative dimension) have dropped their guard somewhat and let me sit in on a few of their secret meetings.
Working with the muse is like going on a mystery tour. You have to trust the tour director knows their business, and follow where they lead. Here are a few ways I’ve learned how to get the best from my muse.
1. Don’t Censor
Nothing will send the muse back into hiding quicker than my mental retort that an idea is stupid, irrelevant or worthless. The muse knows far more about my story than I do, so I’m wise to listen carefully and make a note of what she says, using the words she gives me. I don’t correct her grammar or spelling, and I don’t reword sentences to make them fit my internal editor’s idea of what looks best.
Sometimes, hidden in poorly worded or grammatically incorrect sentences are gems of ideas that wouldn’t be apparent if I altered the word order or even the spelling. Like the difference between ice cream and I scream, the same sounds can arise from the different words, and only by listening to and looking at both can I detect deeper meanings or more cunning ideas.
2. Invite Your Muse Out To Play
Muses are shy creatures, easily frightening away or offended. Mine won’t play on demand, but she’ll willingly contribute to works in progress. If I sit doing nothing and ask for ideas, I might as well whisper down a well. Ideas from the muse come most often when I’m working.
This is why freewriting is so good at shaking loose ideas. Muses don’t like working in isolation, it seems. They’d much rather join in when something has already been started.
3. Discard Nothing The Muse Says
I get the most random ideas sometimes. Recently, I wanted some centred on ‘gold’, because gold plays an important part in my upcoming novel serialisation. Brainstorming on my whiteboard is a sure-fire way of persuading my muse that it’s playtime. So I wrote gold in big letters on the board, and then started frantically scribbling and circling all the ideas the muse threw at me, including the obvious ones like ‘precious’ and ‘twinkly’. It’s as though when I write down the obvious ones, the muse looks at me and says, ‘Okay. I see you’re listening. Let’s see what you make of these ideas.” And then comes absorption, reflection and intrigue. Fabulous. Just what I was looking for but couldn’t get on my own.
4. Take Your Muse Seriously
If you don’t act on what the muse is telling you, she’ll pick up her bat and ball and go home, leaving you looking lonely on an empty playing field. Once I realised my muse had a serious intent to give me solid ideas, and I took action by writing them down, she was far more willing to share more of the good stuff.
5. Allow The Muse Full Rein
You have to give the muse power to direct and suggest. In the same way you don’t censor or discard anything she says, you must be willing to follow where she leads. That’s not to say that everything the muse suggests will find its way into a story, but while the creative flow is ongoing, stopping to edit or ask for a different direction is the fastest way I know to build a wall between the muse and me. Deciding beforehand that when I’m creating I’ll follow wherever the muse leads gets me some really neat plot twists and insightful character quirks.
How about you? What ways have you discovered to persuade your muse to give up her most profound secrets?