A-muse-ment, at last

A visit from the museI haven’t had a visit from the muse in ages; at least a year. Sure, I’ve blogged a lot, and I write copy for websites, but having the mental space and physical and mental time to create fiction just hasn’t been there.

Mainly, I haven’t been able to think of plots. I have plenty of characters noted down but nothing to do with them.

For someone who from childhood until recent years always had a story or novella on the go, in the planning stages or in final editing, I’ve felt bereft and a fraud to myself.

However, my muse sat on my shoulders yesterday, and she was wearing spurs. A couple of weeks ago I found an entry form for a short story competition in my monthly issue of NewsWrite from the NSW Writers’ Centre. The prize money is pretty good – in fact fantastic for someone whose credit card only has $84 left on it.

The muse dug her spurs in. “Plot,” she hissed. “I’ve got one, use this.” And suddenly I had the right plot for two characters who’d been knocking idly around in my subconscious.

All of us write differently. I get scraps of sentences, or entire paragraphs, at odd times. Washing up, weeding the garden, or any other relatively mindless activity. Get enough scraps and I have the basis of my story’s voice. I am almost embarrassed to say my story’s voice came to me in a flow of sentences yesterday morning after breakfast while I was shit-picking in the courtyard (cleaning up my dog’s poo).

I HAD to get upstairs and start writing. I’d envisaged these characters originally in a third person narrative, but my muse, and the story’s voice, said it had to be first person. My main character Don jumped fully fledged from my brain into the computer as if he were relating his story and I merely taking down dictation. Three hours later I’d written about 3,500 words, an entire draft of the story. The muse was giggling her zany head off for the entire process, prodding and suggesting and magically making words flow, and she did a tap-dance on my head when I typed ‘the end‘.

What a cathartic process writing is. I love being able to turn the world off and just get that first draft done, out of my head and into reality. This is one of the reasons I enjoy writing short stories – I’m way too impatient to write an entire novel.

I’d love to share the new story here, as I do think it’s one of the best things I’ve written in years – my husband, who has seen the first draft, agrees. It’s not inanely silly like some of my stories; it’s not cozy either. It’s unlike any story I’ve written before in terms of voice, but I can’t publish it anywhere until the competition has been judged. So…watch this space! Sooner or later it will appear here. Whether it wins a prize or not, I’m proud of it.

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