My Muse

The gods of creative energy have a twisted sense of humour.  First they instill in us an obsessive need to produce something from nothing (a novel, a musical score, a sculpture etc).  Then they stand back and let us flounder around in our potential.  It’s almost like they’re testing us; waiting to see which of us will sink and which can swim.  Sometimes, when I’m really struggling with a piece of dialogue or an action scene, I can hear them laughing.

I find it rather rude to be honest.

Stephen King refers to his muse as a cranky little man who smokes cigars and pretends to ignore him.  Sounds about right, don’t you think?  My muse is somewhat more feminine (I hope), but no less ruthless.  She hovers around me and has developed the annoying habit of reading over my shoulder.  When I hear her “tutt” at something I’ve just written, I hit the delete key.

I use my delete key a lot.

My father once asked me how many hours I’d spent writing the book so far.  My answer was: countless.  It’s humbling to know the figure myself, but downright depressing to publicize it to the world.  Yet in all that time, my muse has seen fit to help me out only twice; first in chapter one, and then again for a small portion of chapter four.

The draft of chapter one which will likely appear in the book, was written in two days start to finish.  The two pages of chapter four were written in about ten minutes.  I love them.  I don’t want to change anything about them.  Neither, by the way, does Ed.  When he read them, he suggested taking out one small line of chapter one.  And, in all the suggestions he had for chapter four, he didn’t touch those two pages.

There is a disclaimer though.  Before My Muse helped me out, I struggled with each of these sections for two and a half years.  I easily have nine or ten versions of the first chapter and trashed them all.  They just didn’t work.  The bit in chapter four was even harder.

The truth of the matter is this: the Muses are holding all the cards.  We want what they got, and they’re not about to give it away.  They’re going to make us work for it.  Those of us deemed worthy will receive the tiniest bit of inspiration – like a dealer giving a heroine addict a hit.

It isn’t fair of course.  I’d much prefer My Muse come for tea every afternoon and dictate a brilliant award-winning novel to me.  But until that happens, I’ll keep slogging away in the trenches.

About the author 

Valerie Francis

Valerie Francis is a bestselling author, literary editor, and podcaster with a passion for stories by, for and about women.

Each month, Valerie recommends books from literature’s best female authors. Selections come from every genre because women write, and read, in every genre. The Women’s Fiction category offers up some terrific novels, but these days there’s a strong female presence in thriller, horror, crime, and other genres traditionally dominated by male writers. No matter what the publishing companies may think, in the 21st Century, Women’s Fiction is whatever we want it to be.

stories for women, by women, and about women