$@&@%# Muse!

So the part of my Muse that I call my sense of structure has apparently been on vacation for the last 8 months, a fact I noticed when it returned this morning at 6:15 to whisper vicious nothings in my ear.

M: “Psst Kelly, I’ve got a question.”
K :”Go ‘way.”
M: “No, really, there’s something I’ve been wondering about.”
K: “No, really, go ‘way.”
M: “You know that bit right at the end….”
K: “Sleeping here.”
M: “Yeah, I heard you the first time. Still gonna ask my question.”
K: “So ask, then go ‘way.”
M: “Right, so that bit at the end where you introduce the thing and that other thing that fixes the first thing.” (Redacted for spoilers)
K: “Yes.”
M: “Well, I can’t help but noticing that the way things are structured now you really do introduce them right at the end even though they’re really important. Do you think that’s such a good idea?”
K: “Sure. I’ve been planning it since I wrote chapter 6. Yes, I introduce them late, but the one solves the other, so it’s not like I’m just pulling a rabbit out of my hat to solve a problem.”
M: “No, more like you’re pulling a carrot out of your sleeve to feed the starving rabbit that just came out of the hat. You’re okay with that?”
K: (waking up more) “Shouldn’t I be?”
M: “I’m sure it’ll be fine. You just go back to sleep.”
K: “All right then.” (Pulls covers over head, just like when there are bats in the room)
M: “Oh, I almost forgot….”
K: Pokes head out again. “What!”
M: “That character you introduce in chapter 8, the one who’s going to be really important in book 2?”
K: “Yes.”
M: “Well, since the character’s familiar is going to be really important at some point don’t you think you should introduce a place to put it?”
K: “Go ‘way!”
M: “Sleep tight.”
K: “I will, thanks. Now to get back to…Oh hell.”

Stupid Muse.

And that’s why at 6:20 this AM I got up and scrawled a note on a post-it note that said:
THINGXXXXXX (redacted for spoilers)
and stuck it to my cell phone. No, I don’t know why I put it there either. I was mostly asleep.

And then, when Laura woke up a couple of minutes later and headed off to do things, I asked her to add EXSANGUINATION TABLE to the note stuck to my cell phone and pulled the covers back over my head. Laura, having lived with a writer for 20+ plus years, just asked where the phone was and let me go back to sleep, which I did. Wonderful lady I’m married to.

Now, I don’t really believe in the Muse as an external force so much as I think of it as a collection of story processing techniques that my brain uses at a level below the conscious, often while I’m dreaming, and all of which make my job enormously less difficult. The sense of structure is really the latest major upgrade to the system, having come along in the middle of my tenth novel. So, it’s the one I rely on the least (I can plot perfectly well without it, thank you very much), which is why I didn’t notice its absence until it returned. But, like all the other bits of Muse I’ve built over the years, I know that when it does show up I’d damn well better listen.

So, I’ll just leave you with this:


And ask you what questions your Muse asks you at ridiculous hours of the night and morning.


Previously posted at the Wyrdsmiths blog

Filed under writing humor, writing life, writing process. You can also use to trackback.

There are 6 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. Marie Brennan

    My worst wasn’t a question; it was waking up one morning with my brain going “Oooh! Vivisection!” for the book I was currently writing.

    So when I got to your EXSANGUINATION TABLE, I laughed so very much. :-)

  2. 2. Kelly McCullough

    Marie, oh yes, the bloody minded subconscious of the f&sf novelist is a marvel.

  3. 3. Elias McClellan

    Mine were rather mundane or so I thought at the time:

    1. What if he (protag) was Creole?

    2. What if he was a 15 year old?

    These two points are still troubling to me. I’m not Creole, I didn’t hit the 15 year-old-level of maturity until I was about 26, and I’d rather take a nap on an autopsy table than disrespect anyone’s culture.

    While I did write it as such, (my first completed manuscript, yea!) I then wrote a 2nd to submit first. Too attached to my protag to suffer rejection and/or helpful suggestions to age him or Caucasion-ize him.

  4. 4. Laura

    My muse tends to think and drive me in circles. Which can be thought of as a style difference.

    Except, for one problem. There is no end.

    So, when I am ready to beat my head against my desk, is when I get outside help to say enough already.

  5. 5. JRVogt

    While on a late night drive through the mountains, I came up with this list that relates to a work-in-progress:

    Chimney Sweep
    Romantic Interest.

    Yeah. Had to keep repeating various words and phrases to myself until I got home an hour later and could write them down finally.

  6. 6. CC

    My worst muse visit was one morning when I woke up, not from a dream, mind you; rolled over, checked the time, and rolled back over to doze. As my eyes close for a well earned ten minutes of dozing, an image of my characters cuddling popped into my mind. I was not dreaming, I was half-awake and somehow fully conscious, but yet it wasn’t a thought that I had orchestrated. So…yeah, my muse is like that. Of course, my characters aren’t romantic until, at least, book three and I was on book one at the time…

Author Information

Kelly McCullough

Kelly McCullough is a fantasy and science fiction author. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the WebMage and Fallen Blade series—Penguin/ACE. His short fiction has appeared in numerous venues including Writers of the Future and Weird Tales. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star—part of an NSF-funded science curriculum—and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited—funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Visit site.



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