Books by Melissa Bowersock

Monday, September 16, 2013

Capturing the Muse: Who's Got Whom?

In one of my last posts, I talked about how I was attacked by a story that absolutely insisted on being written down. It's rare that a story comes on that quickly, that strong, that demanding. 

I started writing the story on August 2nd. I finished it on September 9th. 

Thirty-nine days and done. 

Granted, it's not War and Peace. It'll come in at just under 200 pages, 42,000 words and change. There are some areas that might be a little spare, and I believe I will need to go back and put a bit more meat on the bones here and there, but I was writing so fast that I didn't always take the time to flesh out the details. That is rare for me. Normally I will sit for long minutes as I search for the absolutely correct word before I go on. This one wouldn't wait for that.

The process was interesting. Every evening as I was watching TV or lying in bed awake, I would think about where I left off and what was coming up next in the story. Without really putting too much effort into it, I would block out the next scene, the next half chapter or so. If I was still awake, I would formulate the sentences in my mind, getting the dialog just right. The next day I would fire up the computer and write out what I had plotted the night before, and that evening it would continue. It went on like that day after day. 

So often we writers talk about capturing the muse; how do we grab on to that nebulous inspiration, bend it to our will, tie it down so it doesn't fly off at the slightest distraction? Too often it's so intangible, it just flits in and out, touches us briefly, fires up our imagination, then disappears, carried off by the smallest breeze. Too often it plants a tiny seed of pure genius, gets all our juices flowing, then flits off and leaves us plodding heavily through the details. 

This time, the muse had me. By the throat. She didn't just flutter in and out like a butterfly, this time she plopped her voluptuous self in my lap and put a half Nelson on me. She followed me everywhere. If I so much as zoned out during a slug of commercials while watching TV, she was there, feeding me the next chapter. As soon as I turned the lights out at night, she was there, her head on my pillow, whispering in my ear. Anytime my mind was not 100% focused on something else, she was there, nudging, prodding, her elbow in my side.

This was the first time I can remember that not only did I not need to nail her feet to the floor, but that I actually could not get away from her. I had to write every day to get the stuff in my head down on paper, or I think my head would have exploded. It was actually a rather frantic feeling, satisfying and scary by turns. Now that I have set the book aside for a "cool down" period before I go back and start editing, I feel a bit empty, rudderless. Rather like coming down off a manic high.

Now the hard part: the blurb and the title. The story is about a young couple that buys an older Victorian house and soon discovers that they got a freebie in the bargain--a ghost that likes to start fires. While they are navigating some heavy seas in their marriage, the female lead also strives to unravel the meaning behind the fires, helped in this endeavor by a sympathetic fire captain. The tension in both story lines ramps up to a combustible ending that is both bittersweet and satisfying. 

Any suggestions?


  1. The Ghost That Lit a Fire Under Us - or The Feisty Ghost - or something like that... You were asking for a title suggestion, weren't you?