Hey everyone! Today I’d like to welcome Libby Heily to The Five Year Project. She’s here to tell us about where her newest main character, Grape, came from.
Take it away, Libby!
The Birth of Grape Merriweather
“Calm down,” the vamp kid from school said, his hands raised in the air like a victim. He had switched his purple shirt for a black one and slicked his curly hair back as well. “It’s cool. It’s just me,” he said and reached out to grab her shoulder.
Parallels: Felix Was Here
Okay. Now I’m finally back. Obviously, I’m ridiculously behind, so I’m not really hoping to finish the A to Z Challenge in time.
Someone suggested that I just drop in on today’s letter, but the thing is… I just don’t want to do that. I was really enjoying writing these posts, so it just feels a bit off for me to skip like half the alphabet in an attempt to conform to some sort of arbitrary expectation.
Sorry if I’m sounding like I’m being all faux academic. Really, I’m not. I’m really just pulling words out of the ether as I’m writing this. And the post will go live as soon as I’m done. I know, I know. I wouldn’t even be in this pickle if I’d just scheduled posts ahead but… You know what? I like living on the edge even if I fall off every now and then.
What I’m going to do is change the name a bit and call my posts for the A to Z Challenge (and Beyond) the A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing and then I’m just going to keep going on my own time until the posts are done.
Maybe, when I’m done, I might decide to start another A to Z series, because I’m enjoying the mental acrobatics involved, but we’ll see. In the meantime:
Today, I’m at M, which in my mind stands for Muse.
No, not the band – although they’re EPIC.
I’m talking about the muse. Your muse. My muse. Different muses.
I used to write about mine (even in passing) much more than I do these days. Mostly, it’s because someone ALWAYS comments that “Muses don’t exist and you should just write”. And although this is sort of true, it’s a bit tiring to keep explaining that I’m not really all airy fairy in my approach to writing. (I think my recent monthly posts on my writing progress might have convinced people of this. But there you go.)
I suspect, from those “Muses don’t exist” comments that not all writers have the same experience as me. Or if they do, they’ve shoved their muse into some faraway corner of their imagination in an effort to simplify their writing process. Which is, of course, just as valid an approach to writing as mine.
This is still important for everyone to know, though, so even if you’re rolling your eyes, shush a moment longer and pay attention.
See, whatever you think, you as a writer need to make sure you have a healthy relationship with your writing. Your muse, if you will.
The way I look at it, my creativity in general and my writing creativity specifically comes from some place other than my writing thought. So I’m a very intuitive writer, I suppose, writing words down literally as they come to me. (Although the words do sometimes come faster than I can write them down.) There is, however, not much along the lines of conscious thought to my writing efforts. Especially when I’m drafting fiction.
So for me, the muse idea works, in the sense of it’s a psychological embodiment of my creative efforts. So to me, it’s not a question of muses existing or not. Mine (both of them) exist because I called them into existence the same way I call my characters into existence. (In fact, one of my muses is one of my characters in my fantasy series.)
However, you might prefer to call a muse your creativity, or your dedication to a story, or your desire to write a story down, or the million little moments of inspiration that go into creating a story. That’s exactly what a muse is.
I just call them my muses because it’s a bit catchier.
Now that I have that sorted, let me get to the important things you should know about muses.
1) Muses are very erratic creatures, so you can’t sit around waiting for them to inspire you to write.
2) Muses can (and will, if you let them) bury you under new ideas. In a sense, that’s their job. Your job is to finish ideas one at a time so you can actually call things done.
That’s pretty much it, really. Muses give you ideas, but they don’t give you the determination or dedication to your story that you’ll need to finish it. You will, however, find that if you show dedication and determination, your muse will be kinder to you.
Not always, mind you. But if you commit to finishing a story until that commitment is part of your process, your muse will give you the inspiration needed to know what you should be writing down.
But read this and absorb it:
That comes from our dedication to and love of our story. It took me a while to learn this, which is why I’m putting this bluntly. The sooner you learn this, the sooner you’ll become an efficient writer.
Do you believe in muses? What’s yours like? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about your creative process?
Hey all! Misha here. Remember me? Yep. I’m still around. Nope, the shoes haven’t yet caused my demise. I am just incredibly busy at this time, since our first big shipment has arrived and we’re unpacking it.
Still, I’m taking break from all that to host my Untethered Realms buddy Graeme Ing for an interview as part of his blog tour for his newest book.
Welcome to the Five Year Project, Graeme. First things first. Tell us a bit more about yourself.
Thank you for inviting me, Misha. Born in England, I’ve been living in San Diego in the U.S. for 18 years now, with my wife, Tamara, and six cats. I must say that the climate here is very agreeable. I’m a software engineering manager by day, but my passion is writing and exploring. Apart from traveling the world whenever I can, I’m an avid mountaineer (from my armchair!), and student of famous explorers. I dabble in astronomy, piloting, map making and navigation. It should come as no surprise then, that my favourite part of writing is creating exotic worlds and characters. Speculative-fiction is a real passion for me.
Another cat person! (I have five cats.) How did you get into writing originally?
I’ve been scribbling stories since before I was a teenager. I even typed screenplays on a manual typewriter. I blame my mother for introducing me to Tolkien and McCaffrey at an early age! Seems like being a storyteller was my destiny (said in my best Darth Vader voice). It’s a shame that I never did anything with my writing until about eight years ago when I finally decided to pursue being a published author. I’ve got a lot of ground to make up. Thankfully I have hundreds of plot ideas.
Sounds a lot like me, growing up. What inspired you to write Necromancer?
Great question. For years I’d had this idea of a girl wanting to be a necromancer. At the same time, I’d developed this sarcastic character who believed he could defeat anything. His voice was so clear in my head, begging to be written. Since one of my favourite fantasy series are Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar books, I wanted to design a brooding metropolis that I could write lots of books about. Then, while finishing my first book, I had this idea for a secret society holding the city to ransom. All these pieces slotted together rapidly to become Necromancer, and if you read it then you’ll see how. 🙂 Many of my book ideas come to me in pieces like that. I plan to write more books in this city, some about the characters from Necromancer, and some about totally new characters.
I just love that aspect to writing fantasy, creating a setting that seems to come alive on its own. What’s your favorite thing to focus on in world building?
I love a setting that comes alive! My favourite thing is to draw maps, be they of the Kingdom, the world or even just a city. That’s me – I love maps. What I focus on though is culture. For “Necromancer” for example: Why was the city built here? What is the weather like? That determines the types of buildings they have. Who lives in it, what races? How are they governed? What are the exports and imports of the city? How do people travel? Horses, carts, flying creatures, magic? What do they eat and drink? Do they worship Gods? Every city has low-life and slum areas, so what are they like? What peculiar customs are there, like greeting someone? What laws? And so on. It’s so much fun layering up all this in the context of the story(s) I want to tell. Then I have to resist dumping all this super information into the book, but instead dribble it in bit by bit, adding flavour to my characters and plot. You can see why I say that I “engineer” worlds. 🙂
That’s definitely my focus as well when I do world building. History and culture. I can spend ages exploring my fantasy worlds through stories, but then, I’d probably end up boring my readers. 😉
Now please do tell us what Necromancer is about and where people can find it!
Perhaps I can cheat and include the book’s blurb?
It has a host of nasty creatures lurking in and below the streets of the city. Being a Necromancer certainly is a dangerous job! But it’s not all grim – there’s some romance in there too. It’s out from August 23rd on all ebook formats and paperback. Just check your preferred online retailer.
Great! Let’s finish up with something positive. What’s the best piece of writing advice you have for new writers?
Write as often as you can, no matter how little, even 500 words a day. Don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t listen to the myriad of internal fears (all authors have them, you’re not alone), and don’t get dismayed by slow progress, other people’s success or things like marketing. Just write. Write for yourself. Write what you like to read. You can do it. Just keep writing. Good luck, and tell me when your first book comes out!
Graeme Ing engineers original fantasy worlds, both YA and adult, but hang around, and you’ll likely read tales of romance, sci-fi, paranormal, cyberpunk, steampunk or any blend of the above.
Born in England in 1965, Graeme moved to San Diego, California in 1996 and lives there still. His career as a software engineer and development manager spans 30 years, mostly in the computer games industry. He is also an armchair mountaineer, astronomer, mapmaker, pilot and general geek. He and his wife, Tamara, share their house with more cats than he can count.
Hi all! Sorry for my very long absence! The good news is that that lucky break I’ve been hoping for seems to have come. But of course, that means that I’m putting in some long hours. (As in I’ve been putting in 18 hour days since Monday.)
Thank you for having me, Misha. I see we’re starting with the tough questions…Let’s see…I live in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley where I work in retail by day and write by night. I’m a semi-avid hiker and biker. I’m starting to become more of a runner, too. (Of course, I was so much NOT a runner before that any amount of running now would make me more of a runner.) I watch too much television and eat too much junk food. I’m also addicted to buying pens, spiral-bound notebooks, and books. So many books. Oh, and swords and daggers. I do have a lot of those, too. I’m also prone to rambling, but that’s probably obvious right now, huh?
When I was probably twelve (maybe thirteen) years old, my mother bought me a trio of books she found in our local bookstore. They were the first three books in a series called The Secret of the Unicorn Queen, about an ordinary teenage girl who’s accidentally transported into a parallel universe filled with magic, swords, and women warriors riding unicorns. It was totally my thing. It still is my thing. Anyway, I loved the premise so much that, in high school, I decided to write my own story about an ordinary teenage girl who’s accidentally transported into a parallel universe filled with magic, swords, and rebels riding unicorns. Many, many moons and many, many incarnations later,Effigy was born. Thanks, mom!
Effigy is the first book in the Coileáin Chronicles, a fantasy series which ultimately will tell the story of the three Coileáin sisters and the role each will play in an epic struggle between good and evil. I set out to write a more character-driven fantasy because for me and the books I like to read, character is king. So in addition to the more traditional fantasy elements—magic, sword fights, unicorns (yes, there are unicorns in my novel. Some of them even talk.), etc.—there’s also a good amount of human drama. Effigy’s main character is a young woman named Haleine. She starts off leading this very charmed and happy life, but after one of those cruel twists of which fate is so often fond, she ends up on a much darker path that really leaves her raw by the end of things. And did I mention the sarcastic pegasus?