My muse is a capricious thing. Flighty,
feisty, easily distracted. I was lucky to figure this out early on and
to have discovered ways of keeping him engaged.
The first? Writing two books at the
Admit it – some of you just cringed in
horror at the thought.
But this is the way I have always
worked. When I sold my first book to Harlequin Romance my second was a
quarter way to done. I was 10,000 odd words into Book 3 when Book 2
sold. And so on. As a professional with looming deadlines this seemed
an entirely sensible way to go about it.
Until I began chatting about my process
with other writers, many of whom found it so distressing they blocked
their ears and trilled “la la la” at the tops of their voices.
Isn’t one of the great dangers of not
sticking with one project at a time that no project is ever
finished? You bet! But will power is not one of my natural
fortes. (Remember my flighty, feisty, easily distracted muse? He picked
me for a reason.) And with this method I’m currently working on book
number thirty-three (and thirty-four J).
So here’s how it works for me.
I adore beginnings. Those glorious
opening chapters when everything’s still possible. But then comes the
messy middle; when the writing slows, and groans, and feels all gloopy.
That’s the first point at which my muse
and I head over to Book Number 2. Oh those sparkly, invigorating
characters with whom we have not chatted for so long! On we go thus
until…gloop. Seems as good a time as any to head on back to Book Number
Lo and behold, by this stage Book Number
1 feels like new. The answers come easier. The words trip lightly from
my fingers once more. It’s as if a rain shower has cleared away the
cobwebs. As if the time away has magically cleansed the gloop from my
I like to call it Mental Sorbet.
For those of you who find talk of magic
and muses and mental rain showers a tad whimsical, my theory of Mental
Sorbet is grounded in common advice (with a twist).
It is a common adage in the writing
world to ‘let a book rest’ once it is finished. The advice
suggests that time away from the piece gives your creative mind a break
in the hope that that once you return you will be see it through fresh
I suggest its fine to do so while
writing the book too.
Now walking away and writing nothing,
creating nothing, would send me bonkers! (Another fine reason to tinker
with Book Number 2.) But it’s not my only form of Mental Sorbet. Far
When I sold my first book I needed a
website. So I figured out how to build one. That led to other authors
asking me to do the same for them. (Bliss!)
Then came social media with its
ever-changing banners and profile images. I figured out how to build
them too. (Fun!)
My involvement with Tule Publishing
began with a pitch that included book covers I’d made for my titles in
an effort to solidify the feel of the stories for me. They asked if - as
a cover designer for others under my
AllyOop Designs moniker - I’d
be happy to design the covers myself. (Would I what?!)
You may be seeing a pattern here. While
Book Number 1 is at rest (for a week, a day, or even an hour) I’m still
getting work done. Stretching other parts of my creative brain
and keeping my imagination limber. Feeding my hungry muse. In ways that
continue to be helpful to my career.
But the objective certainly isn’t work
work work. The objective is to serve the best interests of Book Number
1. I also Bullet Journal. I draw and colour with my kids. I turn up
the music and dance. I write craft articles for the likes of Hearts
Talk. Whatever clears out the cobwebs while tapping into my need to
At a talk I gave recently to a group of
authors about book cover design someone asked why I bother running a
side business in book design and promotion when there are thirty-two
books out in the world with my name on them. The answer? There’d never
have been thirty-two books without the balance of other creative
pursuits alongside them. My demanding muse would have burnt out years
In keeping things fresh and stretching
my creative muscles, each string to my bow gives me a different kind of
zing. The zings breed energy. Focus. And fun. The make this amazing
gig sustainable and still the best job in the world.
Giving your story rest, respite, time
off doesn’t have to mean that you are losing momentum. Done right, you
could gain so much more.