Monday, March 15, 2021

writing inspiration, the muse, publishing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Photo: Diego PH

A VISIT FROM THE MUSE

A few months ago, my muse visited me just as I sat down for breakfast.  Having a flash of inspiration at the kitchen table has never happened to me before.  In fact, inspiration usually strikes when I'm at the computer—it rarely happens elsewhere.  But that morning, the idea was so surprising and so powerful that I wolfed down my oatmeal and jogged upstairs to write.   

My muse was kind enough to follow me.  She revealed the initial concept and the conflict of the story.  Nothing more.  I simply started to type the first line (whatever came into my head) and allowed the muse to guide me.  This first line led to the setting of the story: a small village governed by a king.  

At this point, all I knew was the main character was a little boy who faced a big problem.  However, I didn't know his name or how he was going to solve the problem.  It didn't matter at this point.  What mattered was following the lead of the muse and allowing the voice of the story to shine through with lyrical language (rhythm, similes, and repetition) and sparse dialogue. 

I honestly didn't think about where the story was going.  Misspellings were ignored.  Editing would come later.  After about an hour, I had a rough draft of the story.

In the weeks that followed, it was time to address major issues.  There were questions that had to be answered: 

  • What were the personality traits of the main character?
  • Would the main character's name reflect his personality?
  • How would the main character change by the end of the story? 
  • How can I show the feelings of a child when he's up against something so big?  
  • How would he solve the problem?  
  • How could the message (the theme) of the story be conveyed without being didactic?  
  • How do I resolve the story and perhaps throw in a twist?  
  • How do I allow the action of the story to unfold visually so that an illustrator had plenty to work with?

With so much to consider and work out, you might say, go ask the muse for her help.  Invite her to return.  But it doesn't work that way.  It's not up to my muse to solve these problems.  Her goal was to inspire and set me on a journey.  I alone had to find a way to way to make it all work.   

Day by day, the story took shape and the beginning, the middle, and the ending came together like pieces of a puzzle.  Then, my first reader made comments and afterward, I edited the manuscript.  Now, the story is out on submission.  Time will tell how it will be received.  It may be a tough sell because it has social and political overtones.  However, it has a powerful premise, so it may pique the interest of an agent.   

It's exciting and surprising when inspiration strikes.  But this brain flash can be fleeting and soon forgotten.  That's why I wolfed down breakfast and headed upstairs to write.  When the muse stops by, there is no time to waste.  Intending to get to it later would not a good plan.  I had to act now.  I had been given a gift:  the seeds to a story.  And I was fired up to set it all down in words.  


✌ and 



Monday, February 15, 2021

writing, writing room, writing in silence, Stephen King
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Photo: Kristina Flour 
DAMN THAT OL' STEPHEN KING

After having breakfast, I warm up a cup of Guatemalan coffee and head upstairs to work.  I check LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter and then dive into composing blogs, fine-tuning query letters, and editing manuscripts.  But when it's noisy, my productivity slams to a halt.  It's frustrating because I have little control over loud sounds.  I can't force people to refrain from mowing their lawns.  I can't keep neighbor's dogs from barking.  

My husband has a good idea how sensitive I am to noise, so he tries to keep the volume down when he practices the guitar.  But when the Pittsburgh Steelers are on television, he cheers for them or more likely, he shouts at them.  If you're a fan you'd understand.  It's nearly impossible to be quiet (especially this season) while watching the Steelers. 

When it's noisy during my work hours, I always think of Stephen King.  King writes in a room on the top floor of a Victorian mansion outside of Bangor, Maine, lit by skylights and filled with shelves of books.  He has a big desk and a cozy chair.  I imagine it's free of distractions.  I imagine it is very quiet. 

My writing place (the guest bedroom) is comfortable and convenient.  But unlike King's room, I do not have bookshelves or skylights.  And it is not always quiet—especially when it snows.  

A few days ago, we received a sprinkling of snow.  My husband was inspired to get outside and remove it.  If it had been more than four inches, he would have used the snow blower.  But since we only accumulated a couple of inches, he opted for the snow shovel.  He began on the driveway and to most people it was not that loud, but it pulled me away from writing and I focused on the rhythmic sound of shoveling, the scraping of metal on concrete, and though I appreciated him clearing the snow, I hoped that the job would soon be finished and then all I thought about was Stephen King—up in his study merrily composing his best-selling novels IN COMPLETE SILENCE.  Damn that ol' Stephen King.  

It's kind of a drag to be sensitive to noise.  But this is the way I'm wired.  In my younger days, I had to have peace and quiet when doing homework.  The need for silence is still the case and it has stuck with me throughout my adult life.  There's no escaping it.  Not even ear plugs work.  I have to try to suck it up and deal with it.   

Luckily, for most of the year, the neighborhood is quiet and the Mrvos household is calm.  Ah...I savor the serenity.  When it's tranquil, still and hushed, I am writing away in my writing room, working away in complete blissful silence, totally in the groove.  I am focused and oh so productive.  All is good and Stephen King is never on my mind—unless the weather turns wintry and we're in for two inches of snow.  

✌ and 




Friday, January 15, 2021

Twitter pitch parties

TO PB PITCH OR NOT TO PB PITCH, THAT IS THE QUESTION

I'd often wondered if it would be worthwhile to participate in #PBPitch, an online session where writers can pitch manuscripts to agents and editors.  All that's needed is a Twitter account and a polished manuscript to join in.      

Being curious, I decided to pitch three manuscripts in the 2020 October event.  What I found was it's necessary to allow time to work on pitches days well before the event.  I needed to create at least two different pitches per manuscript because writers were not allowed to use the exact wording twice.  Each had to be unique and compelling.  In addition, the pitches needed to be short.  Agents and editors would not have time to read big blocks of text even though Twitter allows a 280-character count.    

There would be a lot of writers taking part in the event.  So, I was eager to learn the best approaches to pitching.  Here's what I found out from writers who have had success: 

  • Check the rules to see how many manuscripts you can pitch and how often you can pitch
  • Watch to see when the engagement picks up and then pitch your manuscript 
  • Use hashtags that categorize your work
  • Pin your strongest pitch
  • Retweet other writers' pitches and make encouraging comments
  • Respond to your comments 
  • Spread your pitches out from morning to evening 

I felt a roller coaster ride of emotions during the Twitter Pitch event:  excited, hopeful, giddy as well as nervous, disillusioned, and defeated.  Afterwards, I wondered why put myself through this mixture of joy and agony.  All writers that participated were dying to have their pitches liked by an agent.  And yet during the last session (and I'm talking 12 hours) I only saw a handful pitches that received hearts.  

Is Twitter pitching worth it?  That's a tough question.  Pitch events are a great way to interact with agents, to support the writing community, and to fine-tune the hook for query letters.  On the down side, a pitch event is time-consuming, can be physically exhausting (my eyes were killing me after reading and commenting on pitches) and it may leave you feeling discouraged.  

There are those who say you should never stop taking risks.  Writers have found representation through pitching.  But I'm on the fence about it.  Part of me even wonders if any agents actually saw my pitches.  It's easy to get lost in the feed.  You however, may feel up to the challenge.   So, do some research.  Weigh the pros and cons.  And if you're curious, go for it.  Only you can determine if #PBPitch is right for you.

✌ and