Friday, February 8, 2013

Letting the Muse Take the Wheel

For years I've sort of plotted stories in my head before embarking on writing anything.  Sometimes it's taking a simple idea like "what would happen if...." or "let's torture some characters this way and see what happens." At some point in the rough draft I have enough materials to start assembling it into scenes, figure out what's missing, and start figuring how that will work to reach a conclusion, which five times out of six, turns out to be something different than I intended.

In other words, I generally work from a plan - dynamic, vague, and imprecise plan - but generally one that is continuously improving.  I have prepared a full outline on occasion and forced the story to conform, despite what my muse wants to do: A writer must crack the whip once in the while to show the muse who is boss of this outfit.

When the muse failed to contribute to two works-in-process recently I decided it needed a break, something to fire up the imagination, something that might spark the solutions to the WIP conundrums. With that thought in mind, I put both drafts aside, brought up a blank screen, and let my inner muse free-associate.

"Why not a fantasy," thought I as I typed the word "incantation."  My muse apparently veering toward  something Randal Garrett-ish, with a touch of Sam Boone perhaps.  I continued typing, letting muse go on for pages unimpeded by common sense.  On occasion my rational brain took command to establish a character when needed or scribbling in a little about him/her, maybe about what he did at work, who his friends might be, and what might take place in his environment.  When that rambling mess dribbled out I put the muse back to work.  The meandering story rolled out in a continuous stream, page after page as I let my muse dictate where and how it would go, darting this way and that into diversionary paths.

Surprisingly, at about ten thousand words, a story started to emerge. I hadn't thought of what might result when I let the muse push the characters around but along the line a romance seems to have emerged, as well as theft, a gruff detective, an escaped criminal, german spies, dirigibles, pay phones, a College of Psychomancy, and a dispute over academic funding. I have no idea of where this is going at this point (17,000 words) but the ride is thrilling and I am going to see it to the conclusion, it there is one.

Unable to resist going back to my regular practices, I've already started editing the first seven thousand words into a smooth second draft replete with back stories, historical notes, character sketches, descriptions, and local color.  Based on that, the first draft pieces I have yet to edit, and an estimate of how long it will take to get to the end, I figure this might come in around 25,000 words, but I could be wrong.

It might be a novel.

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