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When your muse goes rogue

The last couple of months have been more than interesting in the old proverbial way. But, until recently, I’d still managed to get some writing done. Not nearly as much as I would have liked and, as a result, I’m behind on a couple of deadlines. Add in the hard drive that died and is being resuscitated and, well, frustration has been the emotion of the week. But now that things appear to be getting back to normal, Myrtle the Muse has decided that she wants to be more difficult than usual and my writing life has fallen down the well and into a Twilight Zone version of Wonderland.

I’d finally finished Nocturnal Challenge, the fourth books and fifth title in my Nocturnal Lives series. If I had to pick one character of all those I’ve written who I really like, it would be Mackenzie Santos from that series. Mac is stubborn, flawed and trying to figure out how to live in a world that suddenly isn’t quite what she always thought it to be. She can also be a pushy bitch in my head when she thinks I’m not giving her and her cohorts enough of my attention — as in whenever I’m writing anything else.

Normally, the Nocturnal Lives books are relatively easy writes. But not Challenge. Part of the “challenge” — pun intended — is that the world for not just Mac but for everyone is about to change and the events in this book will play a big role in what happens. Part of it is that one of the major supporting characters is basically off-screen for the entire book, so some of the byplay that has been so important in the previous books isn’t there.

The real challenge, however, has been Myrtle the Muse. She has been playing games with this book from the very beginning. She messed with my normal writing routine. Usually I write front to back. Not this time. Oh no, Myrtle demanded I write the opening couple of chapters, the last third (maybe a bit more) of the book and then go back and write the middle. I. DO. NOT. LIKE. THIS. Not that Myrtle cared.

When I finished Challenge, I put it aside. I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I practiced what I preach. I put it away until I could look at it with fresh eyes. The problem with that is it gave Myrtle more time to figure out ways to screw with me.

Imagine my surprise — and anger, frustration and outright disbelief — when I picked Challenge up over the weekend and started reading it. Everything about it screamed “WRONG!” It was more than my usual dose of self-doubt. The muse that shall no longer be named (TMTSNLBN)– yes, I’m that mad at her — was having all sorts of fun messing with my head.

You see, after three novels and a novella in the universe, all written in third person, TMTSNLBN had decided it would be really cool if I wrote Challenge in first person. Forget about the more than 80,000 words I’d already written. I would be sooooo easy to go back and write it in first person. Do it all from Mac’s point of view. Forget about the fact the other books were written in third person.

Head, meet desk. Repeat.

I talked with my mentor and alpha readers. They were as confused by TMTSNLBN as was I. So I tried what TMTSNLBN wanted. I tried first person. Not only no but NO! It doesn’t work. Maybe if this were the first book in the series but not the fourth. So I’ve told TMTSNLBN that she is in a time out. I’ve printed out the manuscript as it and am going at it the only way I know how — with a figurative shovel.

In other words, I’ve told my muse that she is just that, a muse, not the final arbiter of all that I write. I’ve also reminded her that I know about her warped sense of humor and that I, too, look at a calendar and I’m not about to fall for her early Halloween joke. (Okay, I really do know that my muse is only an extension of my mind and not a real person. It would be easier if she were. Then I could toss her out the front door and refuse her calls.)

The point of all this is that sometimes, for whatever reason, we get sidetracked. It can be the popcorn kitten issue where everything except what you are working on looks like it would be fun to write. It can be your subconscious telling you that you are about to go off the rails if you don’t go back and fix something. It can be, as I suspect this is, a subconscious fear because you are taking your characters into unknown territory after they have gotten comfortable where they are.

My solution has been to give myself not only a daily schedule of what I expect to do but a deadline for when I plan to put the book up for pre-order. The only thing that will impact that schedule is if, when I get the recovered hard disc back, I discover I lost the one major editing job hanging over me. If that is the case, the weekend will be spent redoing it because it is very late now.

In the meantime, push through. That’s what I keep telling myself. The work computer is back together. The geek guys at the local shop have been trying to salvage my old HD. Writing, such as it is, is starting up again. Now to get back into a regular schedule and get a few deadlines met.

And, most importantly, figure out how to stop TMTSNLBN from going rogue again.