Unlock the Muse – September 5, 2018

Welcome to September! Summer ends, and a new season begins. While fall isn’t quite the renewal of spring, it does bring a new beginning. The excitement of returning to school, renewing old friendships and new commitment to goals.

For myself, I have committed to working on a series of novels I’m writing. My plan this fall is to have a solid outline in place by November for part of this series. I intend to come away from National Novel Writing Month this year with a completed (if horrible) first draft.

This week, your writing prompt is as follows:

Imagine what it was like when you were in your mother’s womb. Describe this environment without using the sense of sight.

Nothing like going back to the very beginning. After you contemplate your own womb experience, stretch this exercise to the birth of a nation, a people, the world. What was that gestation period like?

To really get to the heart of any story, you need to know your characters. They can’t do things simply for the sake of the plot, but their behavior should emerge organically from who they really are. This may mean conducting extensive fictional interviews, or spending time with them, writing your draft in fits and starts that may not go anywhere you’re expecting. Here’s what Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird regarding false starts and getting to know your characters:

So if you want to get to know your characters, you have to hang out with them long enough to see beyond all the things they aren’t. You may try to get them to do something because it would be convenient plotwise, or you might want to pigeonhole them so you can maintain the illusion of control. But with luck their tendrils will sneak out the sides of the box you’ve put them in, and you will finally have to admit that who they are isn’t who you thought they were.

Spend some time with your characters. Invite them to coffee and discuss their goals and dreams. What do they want most out of life? Let them grow and develop into who they should be, then let them burst forth onto the page fully formed and alive!

In keeping with the theme of gestation and birth, the question for you this month is how long does it take for a story to develop from idea to draft? (Hint: there is no wrong answer!)

Likely, this is as different from one person to the next as it is from one story to the next. I know that I’ve had ideas that lay dormant for months, or even years before they finally quicken into full life, as well as many that never go beyond that initial idea.

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing a link to your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!

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