Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Courting The Muse

It was the middle of the summer when this new idea for a story came to me. When I started working the details out in my head, I realized it would be too long for a short story, yet too short to be a novel. I figured it'd be somewhere in the 40,000 to 50,000 word range.

Perfect for NaNoWriMo I thought (that's National Novel Writing Month - where a huge whack of writers all over the world try to write an entire novel in the month of November), and tucked a few notes away, figuring November would be the perfect time to work on this project.

So I signed up for NaNoWriMo and got ready. I did keep in the back of my mind that I still hadn't finished the novel in progress A Canadian Werewolf in New York that I'd been writing as part of The Writing Show podcast's reality series "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" -- despite having taken a break to pen the novelization of my online serial thriller I, Death and also work on a handful of other short writing projects. However, with ACWINY looming on my conscious, I figured I'd prove to myself that I could write the first draft of a 50,000 word novella in a single month.

I had tucked away all my notes on the novella project and planned on starting it in November (according to the conventions of NaNoWriMo you're supposed to write the entire first draft within the span of that month). And although I didn't hit the ground running on November 1st, I did work diligently on the novel while I was doing a book signing at the Coles in Halifax on November 2nd. It was a relatively quiet night and I often pass the time while sitting at the author table in the front of the store jotting down notes in a writer's journal. Given that I was on a business trip for several days I figured I'd be able to get up early and get working on the novel in the solitude of the hotel room.

However, during my book signing on Saturday November 3rd at the Chapters in Bayers Lake, in the middle of Hurricane Noel, no less, all my NaNoWriMo plans fell by the wayside. I started chatting with a young woman from Halifax who was relaying ghost lore from the Halifax area to me. One of the virtual "ghost walk tours" she took me on hit home with my muse, and when she left my author table, I began making notes for a story idea based on a scene she'd described to me. By the time my book signing was finished that night (and, oh, I did sell more copies of my book that night during the hurricane than I did the previous non-stormy night - note to self, people like horror during nasty storms, at least people from the East Coast) I'd penned several pages of notes for a new short story.

When I got back to the hotel I began working on the story (and yes, it was a fun experience to write a creepy horror tale with the gale force winds of Hurricane Noel tapping against my hotel room window), but realized I needed more information about the setting. So while I was off working on character sketches, I emailed my new friend Ashley asking her for more info about the small town just a few hours outside of Halifax to help me flesh out details in the story. She complied with all kinds of details and descriptions and even the offer of emailing me some photographs.

The next thing I new, armed with more detailed descriptions to accompany my imagination, I was wading thick through the joys of penning a completely new story, enthralled with the characters I was discovering through the act of telling their story, chilled by the scenes I was envisioning, compelled with getting the story onto the printed page.

So November 13th is here and I still haven't done much work on the mystery/thriller I'd been planning to write during November since the mid summer.

Guess that goes to show you that courting the muse is a tricky business. I can plan and make notes; I can outline and sketch characters until I'm blue in the face. But when it all comes down to it, I'm really at the mercy of my muse, and darn it, but she's a harsh mistress with her own agenda, no matter what plans I might attempt to lay down.

And I'm completely at her mercy. But I just can't resist her charms. More fool me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I picture my muse to be a mischevious imp, male and unfortunately a morning person.

Sucks working 8-4 everyday and inspiration strikes while you're on the job!

But when it hits, it's sheer bliss.