How To Think Sideways: Weird Time Travel Moment

Your own personal Stranger
Your own personal Stranger
I was digging through the weblog, trying to remember when exactly I suggested doing the How To Think Sideways course, and when readers voted on that course above all others as the one they wanted next.

And it was here:

My Top Twelve New Course Ideas

Reading over those course ideas, I’m amazed (and a bit disturbed) at how many of them ended up incorporated in How To Think Sideways.

Small Writing Courses

  • How to Start Your Novel

    Yes. It’s in there.

  • How to Finish Your Novel

    Yes. It’s in there.

  • How to Polish and Submit Your Novel

    Yes. It’s in there.

  • How to Pitch Your Novel to Pro Markets

    Yes. It’s in there.

  • How to Make Your Story Break Their Hearts

    Yes. It’s in there.

  • How to Write Page-Turning Scenes

    No. WAAAY too much info to cover in just one lesson—but I did follow up by making it its own separate course.

BIG Writing Courses

  • Create A World Clinic

    No. Not in there. But it’s the last writing course on my schedule, and it is about a third done.

  • Crit of the Month Club

    I’m poleaxed by this one. Yes, it’s in there, as the Walkthrough. Not completed yet. It’s what I’ll be doing while I write WARPAINT.

  • Novel Writing Secrets

    Yes. It’s in there. Every single solitary bit of it.

  • How to Think Sideways

    Yep. This is all in there, too.

  • Character Clinic Upgrade

    Yes. Even most of THIS is in there.

  • Learn to Write in a New Genre in One Month

    I cut it down to How To Learn A New Genre in One Lesson. But yes. It’s in there.

Now here’s the part that’s just really, truly wacky.

I did not consult that list while I wrote How to Think Sideways. I just wrote what I thought was that one course idea, and used the examples I needed to use to make my points…and somehow almost everything else on that list shoehorned its way in.

The subconscious mind, however, is a tricky, twisty creature—and mine clearly was up to something during the whole seven-eight months it took me to create the first version of the course…and then the many, many months I’ve spent doing upgrades and additions.

Today, I came around a corner and surprised my Muse at work, and it looked at me, winked, and said “Gotcha.”

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54 responses to “How To Think Sideways: Weird Time Travel Moment”

  1. Lisa Avatar

    It’s almost a relief to me, knowing my muse knows what it’s doing….because my conscious self most often doesn’t have a clue! My current WIP I approached much differently than previously abandoned writing projects that involved copiously over-researched backstory and plot outlining to the point I never got around to actually *writing* the story. For my WIP, I sketched out a few plot points and then followed the AIC method (ass in chair) and just wrote what came out of the ether. That’s when my muse reared her lovely head. πŸ™‚

    My characters ‘told’ me the story, following the guideline I wrote out (although sometimes not, and that’s when revision becomes a bitter blessing) but I discovered SO many things about them and the plot as the story unfolded by just letting my muse go. I found that this is the way my muse prefers to work, uncovering a story as I go, with a general target but the freedom to let ideas grow organically.

    One particular scene became critical to the entire series I was writing, when one of my MC’s was giving a little background about himself to another character, and I had *no* backstory written on him whatsoever. He revealed he had a twin brother that had died at birth, and right after I typed it, I thought…’Huh. That’s…weird.” And went on my merry way. It wasn’t until I was knee-deep in the climax of the second book and all these secrets were being revealed, that BAM! They were all leading up to the fact that his TWIN BROTHER *should* have lived. PCH! Talk about a big, fat frying pan in the face from my muse. The twin brother became a HUGE part of the rest of series (from beyond the grave, no less) as if he was supposed to be there all along and I’d planned it that way.

    So, yeah. Muses are sneaky little devils….but you gotta love ’em, right? πŸ™‚

    1. Holly Avatar

      You do. πŸ˜€

  2. Michael Polk Avatar
    Michael Polk

    I have honestly often found old ideas incorporating themselves into new story lines. For example, and I just realized this now, my friend and I used to play this game I made up, which is one of my better stories. It used some darkness-powered magic channeled through a stone (which came from a pendant I own.) This was around 2008, 2009. Now, 3 to 4 years later, I find myself putting a clone of that idea into one of my alien worlds. People with powers through stones. Another example: The first stories I ever wrote were in relation to Pokemon. This was around second grade, 2004 is when it started. Then, 4 or 5 years later, at the beginning of the darkness-powered magic I was telling you about earlier, I have animals, pets in a way, that complement the power of the darkness (which is really cool). Then we have the dozens of variations with shape-shifters, religions, names (I have four people that I can remember with a variation of a name from “Island of the Blue Dolphins” [Tanyositlopai, if you’re wondering.] Tanyo and Tanyolin.)…The list goes on. When I realize the correlation, I think, “How did I miss that?” “When did that happen?” “Why was this not my intent in the first place? This rocks.” (Of course, sometimes, it doesn’t rock but ends up sticking anyway.) But every time it happens, I feel like I’ve Quantum Leaped into a past frame of mind which opens up my mind to more jumbles of old ideas. It works wonders.

  3. Rob Cornell Avatar

    I think my Muse curled up and died recently. πŸ™

    But before it did, I was working on the second book in my Lockman Chronicles (paranormal thrillers) and I had to provide my main character with a set of wheels. On a whim, I made it this tricked out car like something out of James Bond. Just supposed to be a neat piece of flair, but nothing important to the plot. Instead, that car became crucial to the climax of the whole book, and I had no idea it would until the moment I needed it.

  4. Maggie Avatar

    I had a really strange experience like this a few months back, and my Muse shocked the heck out of me. Long story short: my MC was being hunted by multiple people–people who wanted to kill her–and she didn’t know why. Meanwhile, there were occasional flashbacks to a crucial event that took place in her childhood, involving my MC, her family, and her best friend. In the present storyline, my MC got into a really sticky situation, and one of her would-be-assassins had the perfect opportunity to kill her–and he didn’t. (I was planning on her fighting her way out of it, and thought this was way too easy of a solution…but my Muse insisted. I told myself that if there wasn’t a reason for this action by the time I was revising, I would change it. And I moved on.)
    But my Muse knew what it was doing. A little later this assassin came back, and after getting a good look at him, and after looking past the burns and scars on his face, my MC finally recognized him as her *best friend from childhood*–the same one in her flashbacks, the one she thought was long dead (and apparently wasn’t). I was NOT planning this–to the best of my knowledge, the assassin was an isolated character. All of the sudden there was a whole new layer; did he spare her life in the name of their past friendship? Will he have to choose between doing his duty and saving his friend? Is he playing the people that want to kill her, and really trying to protect her? I was so overwhelmed. I could almost picture my Muse pointing and laughing at me, enjoying the (not so subtle) reminder of who’s really the boss around here.

  5. DasteRoad Avatar

    My muse has been kinda pouting at me since I got my new job. Which is actually the best thing that’s ever happened to me professionally and I’m happy about it, but it has the nasty drawback of killing my creativity. Oh well. I figure I just have to find a new way to manage my time and concentration.

    My muse usually plays her best tricks on me regarding character development and themes. I often realize what I was really talking about months, if not years, after I’ve written it, and it’s generally about a deep seated issue in my life I’ve only been coming to terms with recently. It’s quite an awesome eureka moment πŸ˜€

    1. Jessica Avatar

      I know what you mean about your muse quieting after you started your job. My muse has been quiet now for a while as I am looking for work. Recently, though, she is stabbing me to pay attention to her again. Once she’s discovered, she never goes away.

  6. Kathryn Carson Avatar
    Kathryn Carson

    My muse is a very sneaky person for two big reasons.

    One, if my muse tries to hand me an idea and I don’t immediately run with it, I always see it pop up later in someone else’s hands. It takes about six months, and the amazing part is, it doesn’t necessarily reappear as a fiction idea. My muse’s ideas have come back in songs, ad campaigns, charity work, even (I kid you not) cutting-edge medical science. It freaks me out to no end that my muse regularly tries to hand me ideas that even my conscious mind knows are _way_ out of my league. πŸ™‚

    And two, I wrote my husband as a main character’s husband _before_ I met him in real life. The attitude, the hobbies, the looks, even the damage. Right down to his dirtiest, darkest secret.

    Yeah, I listen to my muse. And then I run gibbering in terror half the time. πŸ™‚

  7. Karmel Stone Avatar
    Karmel Stone

    I love my muse and I would hope she loves me, I try and treat her like a queen which may be bad because I do have to say she runs my life. Oh you have to go to class, noooo stay and dream up stories or write this scene that’s been bugging you. >.< Anyway right now I find myself working on two huge projects. One I've been working on for 8+ years (since that's what got me into writing) and has worked its way into 20+ books with the main characters I had originally planned not even in a lot of them. Maybe its a world character now? Oh well. Then I have another one. One so completely different in so many ways. The first one is based on scientific magick while the second is purely technology. Of course there is more too them but my muse keeps wanting me to join them up somehow… and I'm like. Really? How? I think I've created a monster. lol But somehow my muse always finds a way to solve things and incorporate small insignificant details later. (She also makes it hard to watch movies or read having already figured out the plots…) Now if only I can get her to focus in on the projects I want and not have her randomly pick stuff to do. Found myself drawing the other day, oh and I picked up learning how to play the violin… then there was learning Latin… Yup, I'm all over the place.

  8. Christina Avatar

    I believe a lot of these stories are expressions of the Law of Attraction. There is no coincidence. You may not know you need something right now, but when the time is right it will be there for you, even if it’s just in the back of your mind.

    My muse loves to give me ideas out of nowhere, and like a previous poster said, get me started them seemingly head off on vacation. But I know she’s there because even when I feel like tossing the whole manuscript in the virtual trash can, she reminds me to chill out and do something else. And when I do that, the perfect answer comes to me. But sometimes I have to tell my muse that stopping / starting a project is not a good idea and we need to finish the current one. She gets grumpy when I say that.

    She brought me a wonderful name today, and when I heard it I immediately saw the character. Never mind that she’s an elven warrior and I never had any inkling or desire to write fantasy novels about elven warriors. That’s what she is and one day I’ll be trusted to write her story.

  9. Celise Avatar

    My Muse seems to have taken an extended leave of absence. Until recently. I went back to school in Aug 2009 and I’ll be done this Sept. During that time, I discovered that if I wanted to work on my YA series at all, I’d have to incorporate it into my degree program (Nonprofit Mgmt w/ a Breadth in Writing and Literature). So, even though I created a Novel Revising Course and was able to revise the first 50 pages (supposed to be 100, but I was too overwhelmed with two other courses) of Book 2 in my series, I haven’t written anything else since. However, for my birthday a few weeks ago, I went to a spa that was two stories. I found out from one of the ladies that another location was 3 stories…and it sparked my imagination to rewrite Book One surrounding this other spa location. Once I’m done with school, I plan to get a tour of this place and get back to writing. I love when that happens. I was getting worried that my Muse had left for good.

  10. Pamala Owldreamer Avatar
    Pamala Owldreamer

    I have three muses,two lovely females and one gorgeous male that have been with me since I started writing ten years ago.Frequently they whisper ideas in my head about a new story,however;about halfway or a third of the way through the book they take off for an extended vacation in Ireland leaving me to finish the rest on my own.Ahh well,that’s what I get for having three Irish Muses.

  11. Charlotte Babb Avatar

    As I continue in the second (third and fourth) WIP in the series, I always find that what seemed like an innocent joke or bit of word play is actually a gun to be fired in the next book. My world is much more consistent than I have made it up to be. So I think Heinlein is right. we are all actually writing about real worlds that came into being as we began to write them…and then they continued on their own path.

    1. Karmel Stone Avatar
      Karmel Stone

      I actually liked to think what we write are other deminsions and we are just connected to them and able to write what it is we see. They are real, but other than in books and stories never will the two meet. ;D

  12. Rebecca Z Avatar
    Rebecca Z

    Oh, yes… my muse is very… uh, hard to understand. I always know where my chapter is going to end up, and what needs to be included in order for the story to develop, but more often than not (especially when I’m a bit tired) those needed events don’t turn out the way I thought. Sure, they turn out even better than they would’ve, but it’s a little unsettling to be writing words that you had no original intention of writing. Sometimes I get writers block, sometimes I get ideas that I can put down creatively on paper, and sometimes… I find imagery flowing onto the page that forms a creative scene. I love my writing, and my muse, and am happy that others have it too.

  13. Roger Lawrence Avatar

    My muse went off on her merry way a few months ago. I’m learning to do without her – or it could be a him. The least she/he could do was to make me a cup of teas whilst I’m struggling.I’m just fleshing the outline for book five of a series of which I’ve only written four. I could do with some help.

  14. Ieva Avatar

    My Muse has a wicked way of coming up with things that I will have to deal with later. Ranging from “OK, reading this I realize that this is a problem I have and I have to deal with it, and the story even suggests ways I could think about it” to “whoa, so *this* is what my character looks in real life, and this is how I should approach him/her” to even the very creepy “OK, now I have this very traumatic, unexpected and totally unfair event in my life that I have to deal with… and I am not the only one because A YEAR AGO I BASED MY WRITING ON SOMEBODY DEALING WITH THE EXACT SAME PROBLEM”. The last bit is totally uncanny and haunts me even now, and is a reason why I am sometimes afraid to write dark stuff–because too often my writing comes true. Luckily, there is always a way to explain it away, but still.

  15. Seleane Gray Avatar

    In my current WIP, that has been put on hold for the moment because of both real life stress and problems coming from both sides and my blog series on MTM version 2, I had put a character in a year or two ago. I had only thought of him as the vehicle of a betrayal towards the main character, there was no more to him and after the first book he’d be gone. And yet, I had started developing him as a fully evolved character. I had stopped shortly into my process on this because I just couldn’t see why I was developing someone that would only survive a book. But the Muse — Moon is her name — had other plans for this guy. I mean he had kissed the MC, drawn pictures for her, listened to her play violin late at night, done homework with her and listened to her problems and concerns about her love interest, school, powers, friends, and her strange dreams. He was involved despite the fact that he was mixed in with the bad guys and knew he had to betray her for the plan his bosses had cooked up. I had never thought about how intertwined he had become until I was in the middle of the first part of MTM and still playing with characters on this WIP. I was looking at the MC and her love interest, the MC’s best friends, and how a couple of them had love interests themselves and some didn’t because of unknown reasons. The Muse didn’t only allow me to keep a character I thought I had to get rid of, despite the fact I liked him, showed me the reason why one of the best friends didn’t have a boyfriend, she also gave me a VERY AMAZING reason to keep the betrayer from above. He was to be the MC’s protector, someone who would keep her save from the darkness that was after her but also from herself until she stepped into her own. It just blew me away. Like wow, so that is why I had started to develop him into this wicked cool character. He had just gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd as a young kid but was really suppose to have this cool destiny.

  16. C.A. Scott Avatar
    C.A. Scott

    I have a story about an artist (painter/sculptor) who’s also a serial killer. His Muse makes him do it, won’t leave him alone until he does, then gives him a little respite before starting in again… Sometimes I think his Muse is actually me subconsciously inserting myself into the story. Or maybe it’s mine’s evil twin… Or maybe, just maybe, it’s all one big metaphor for the love/hate relationship we all have with them…

  17. Ching Avatar

    All of the characters i create become mains. I guess i get attached to them when i create them and get to know them. I also love to ask myself questions at night, sleep and don’t think about them. Then, the next morning or a few days after, i’d get the answer either by something that i thought of but didn’t go with what i was doing at that time or an idea that pops into my head. Also, sometimes get amazed and now abit wierded out, that one idea connects and links to an idea maybe 5 or 6 months ago.

  18. Michael Melcher Avatar
    Michael Melcher


    I’m glad your Muse has been hard work, not just for you but for the whole Jungean shared unconscious that I and others also benefit from. Your Muse has indirectly provided me with lots of helpful advice, including today. Keep it up, Muse of Holly!


  19. Cynthia Bahnsen Avatar
    Cynthia Bahnsen

    I was writing a short story about a week ago. Things had been going pretty good and I knew what the end was going to be, so I sort of told my muse that it could ‘take a vacation while I took it from here’ style of thing. So it did.

    It was like there was this empty space. Even though I knew basically what was coming, what few words I was able to write had no magic in them, and it wasn’t fun.

    When I finally realized what had happened I had to grovel to get my muse to come back. It came back but grudgingly. I don’t quite remember what things I had to do, there were some things from the Plot Clinic, but I don’t remember which. All I really remember about the experience is that I learned my muse is very touchy, and I have to be sweet and kind to it and promise it nice things or will turn on me. Oh, well. It takes all sorts to do the world’s work.

  20. Carradee Avatar

    Something I’ve noticedβ€”well, ever since a friend pointed it out to meβ€”is that I tend to write multiple stories about one type of character at a time. For example, I’ve written a cat shapeshifter into both my epic fantasy and my urban fantasy series.

    I think it’s because I’m a character-based writer, so I start with a character type and come up with several ideas built out of it, including how that character type would apply to my different story worlds. And then, writing about comparable character types fits together, mentally.

    For example, the narrator I’m working on today? She’s 1. angry and bitter, 2. centuries old but looks like a kid, and 3. isn’t afraid of ticking people off. Each number could also be applied to the narrator of some other story. (Though not all the same story & narrator!).

  21. Patrick Baum Avatar

    As a software developer, I was in denial of my muse. Imagine my surprise to find a creative version of me who is not altogether me. Meet PJ Muse. Hello. Shut up.

    PJ Muse is the wellspring of my current project, my first novel. I ask questions, he answers — whenever he wants. He conducts interviews with my characters; coordinates conversations among them. Why, he’s a director! Thank you. Stoppit.

    He’s also a critic. I tend to be sentimental; sappy, actually. PJ Muse often reminds me to get out of the way of the story. Let it happen. Easy on the exposition, stupid. See?

    PJ Muse developed the character arcs of my main character, his love interest, the antagonist, and several minor characters in one day. Upon the armature of these arcs the action is sustained and harmonized with each of the personalities.

    But PJ Muse’s forte is dialog. On demand, he will come up with the perfect line IN THE CHARACTER’S VOICE, IN THE CHARACTER’S MOOD, CONSISTENT WITH THE CHARACTER’S PERSONALITY.

    Thanks, Holly. Yeah, Holly. I’ve been stuck in here for 51 years. Thanks to you, I’m finally out of PJ Jail. Will you stop? No. Good.

  22. Ke-Yana Drake Avatar

    I have a massive project. When I say massive, I mean freaking-holy-crap-wow-what-was-I-thinking-massive. Twenty-one books planned, six for the core series and the rest as companion novels and history books, I have a very complicated conlang (constructed language), fifty-odd planets each with their own history and possible stories… blah blah blah-super-massive. It all started with a little story I wrote when I was 12. There are elements of that story that were just put into my stories, parts of characters, odd details I didn’t know why I put in there at the time, but that I left in there because it was coming out of my brain and it felt right. Later on, I discovered these random details that had no use in the beginning became major keys to the plots and characters of the finished stories. It’s like my muse planned all this from aged twelve. It’s freaky, and also really rather exciting.

    I say congrats! You have an Evil Plotting Muse! πŸ˜€

    1. Dave Avatar


      I too have an epic story in the works (although at three core volumes and one companion piece, mine is clearly not as epic as yours!).

      And oddly, the same thing happens to my story.

      It is based upon a short story I wrote when I was 15 years old, but there are so many things I added (some set-dressing, as it is science fiction) which have mysteriously synergised into something of incredible beauty.

      My Muse is in the habit of conspiring to inspire me with lots of lovely ideas, character traits, technologies and other pretty toys; which are all a part of her long-hidden agendas that shake me to my core when I realise how beautifully entwined they are.

      So are we really experiencing the effects of Muses, or are really in the clutches of the Graeae?

    2. Karmel Stone Avatar
      Karmel Stone

      Wow freaky… I have an epic story too. Looking at uh… 20+ books as well. I’m working on the language and so far it only uses one planet, but I’m looking at the time before there was a moon, some times throughout history and present day… maybe a little future. It still amazes me how the little things come together too. ;D

  23. Jim Elliott Avatar
    Jim Elliott

    Holly with all due respect I think you are trying to tell your muse how to behave and hold it accountable for behavior you find unsettling. My success at my chosen endeavor is totally dependent upon my muse, fickle though it may be. In 35 years I have never figured out just exactly how it works. I just know that it works. You might try treating your muse as more of an invited guest independent of your expectations. You might be surprised at what happens when you take this approach. Of course that’s just my opinion and certainly worth what it cost.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’m not complaining. I was going to do all those courses separately, and now I don’t have to—and can get back to writing my fiction much sooner—because my right brain decided to incorporate all of them into THINK SIDEWAYS.

      I know how the Muse process works—I’ve trained my left and right brains to work with each other, and they do so very well. This is something I consciously cultivate, and have for years.

      I just find it damned unnerving when my right brain decides to take all the courses the left brain listed, and squeeze them over a period of several years into the ONE course I was working on at the time…without bothering to give my left brain the heads-up on what it was doing.

      1. Holly Avatar

        I should add, however, that I ALWAYS hold my Muse accountable for its behavior, just as I ALWAYS hold my Me (my left brain) accountable for its behavior.

        Letting them make excuses for themselves is the sure track to never getting any work done, or for never having it turn out the way I need it to turn out.

        1. Charles Reid Avatar
          Charles Reid

          The reality of creation and spirit is one, after my near-death experience is what guides me to write about spirituality. Story telling is what connects us all. Story reveals humanity, its the imperfections and sin which connects us all.

          1. Holly Avatar

            I disagree. I don’t connect to people by their flaws, but by their desire to overcome them, to make themselves and their lives matter to them, to be more and better than they were.

  24. Kat Avatar

    I hit a serious wall in my current project – everything was going as planned, but something was missing. I had my band of heroes, and they’d saved the person they (didn’t know) they needed to win the final battle, but the stakes just weren’t there yet.

    I toyed with the idea of bringing back in the other group who the heroes hadn’t chosen to team up with before, but they just weren’t likable enough to bring much meat to the story where there was so much corruption and backbiting.

    They just didn’t seem like the kind of folks you’d trust… Oh, wait. They weren’t. They tricked the leader of the heroes and kidnapped him.

    Hello second act disaster!

    I was perfectly happy to leave them as a subplot that showed the group to be close-knit and cautious, and instead they gave my the plot twist I totally needed. My mind is so much smarter than I am…

  25. Heidi Avatar

    Sorry but I’m not sure what a muse is. Is a muse that little girl in my mind that gives me advice that makes my writting better, lets me bounce ideas off of her, and does things to my writing that makes my writing 10 times better without me knowing. And when/if I do find out she giggles and says “That was fun!” and then runs off? Or is this girl just the newest person in my head?
    (I have 35 people in my head if you include her,doing the same type of things & yes, in my case, being crazy while being a writer helps. πŸ˜€

    1. Holly Avatar

      Your Muse is your subconscious mind, your right brain, the part of you that is observant, creative, and mostly wordless, who sends messages to your wordy, logical left brain via the corpus callosum, which is a think band of connecting nerves running between the left and right halves of your brain.

      1. Heidi Avatar

        OK, so your muse is your subconscious but I don’t understand what you mean by “your right brain, the part of you that is observant, creative, and mostly wordless” and “wordy, logical left brain”.
        Maybe it’s because I’m ambidextrous and both sides of my brain are observant, creative, logical, and wordy?

        1. Holly Avatar

          You may be ambidextrous, but your left and right brain still have different characteristics. πŸ˜€ If you use both about equally (most people don’t) you don’t have to work so hard to transition between the two halves. But the transition is still there.

  26. Anando Vivek Avatar

    I had a character turn up that I hadn’t planned for at all, and who just kinda wrote himself into a scene at one point. Only after I had finished, did I realize that he was largely a male version of a female friend – including many physical and job traits.

    By the end of the scene, I was prepared to forget the character, as a one-off bit part. Then an idea hit me for how to throw in a twist and bring him back. I wrote down the note and put it aside to come back to.

    Later, in another scene, he wrote himself in again, and it took a completely different twist that I wasn’t expecting, and that actually creates even more, and more delicious problems (dramatic, not for me as the writer) than my original idea.

    Now I’m trying to follow up on some of them, and write his next scene, and I’m grinding to a halt. I’m thinking I need to just drop the thinking and let the character run again.

  27. Margaret Fieland Avatar

    One November a while back I was thinking about writing a Christmas letter — it had been an eventful year with quite a lot of hair-raising events — arrived at my destination and started to write the poem that popped into my head. The meter and rhyme scheme seemed familiar, but it wasn’t until I write the last line “love to everyone, Lenore,” that I realized I’d been channeling Poe {wry grin}.

    Then in my soon-to-be released science fiction novel, I had a scene between my main character’s grandfather and another man (unspecified) in the middle of the night where my main character observes them kissing and overhears a word he doesn’t know. I got to the end of the draft, leaving this loose end, when my writing partner noticed I’d been hinting at an affair between the grandfather and another man. Yup. The hints were all there. I did have to go back and do some revising, but far less than I thought.

  28. Mel Avatar

    I was writing a scene in which two characters, both FBI agents, went undercover in a small town. My female character’s eye caught on a weary, weathered fisherman making his way toward her up a long pier, and I described his gait, his clothes, even his wrinkled forehead. Only AFTER I’d finished writing all that and the long moments of watching him did my muse reveal that my character recognized him even though I hadn’t – he was a fellow agent who’d been undercover much longer. I laughed out loud in delight as I reread what I had written; every detail was consistent with the character without being too obvious. My first readers all enjoyed the scene as much as I had, and wondered how I thought it up. I tell them I didn’t. Then I explain how sneaky my muse is.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I love this. It’s a perfect “Toys on the Floor” moment.

  29. Talynn Avatar

    I do love it when Muse takes over and surprises me. I wrote a description interview of one of my characters for a blog hop I entered and what came out surprised me. Not only did I learn something new about my character, I now know how to write my next scene. Yay!

  30. Ivye Avatar

    I don’t know if it qualifies, but here it goes: some ten or twelve years ago, I decided I’d write a novel about Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan Playwright. I read a whole lot on the man, his works and his times, and as part of my novel-notes, I put together a very, very, very detailed timeline of the years 1587-1593, filling it with things that, at the time, fell in the Not-that-I-Really-Need-That-But-You-Never-Know sort. I started the novel, I wrote some 20000 words (using very little of the weird little notes I had made in that timeline), then life happened. I dropped the project, and never took it up as such again. Years went by, I wrote other things, and in time I started to write stage plays. And who should crop up as a likely protagonist, but Marlowe? I went for it, but understand that the play’s theme, plot and slant have very little to do with those of the novel. It’s another story entirely. Still, when I started research, I asked myself, couldn’t I use something of what I had done back then? I unearthed my detailed timeline, and lo and behold! All the weird notes, dates, theatrical things and detail were just what I needed for my play.
    I was very much astounded – and of course, the Muse was very, very, very smug about it.

  31. Joanna Erbach Avatar

    Absolutely my muse is a tricky one, and that’s why I treat her with respect as an equal. I think that in the long term it will lead to greater success.

    I was one of the artists who joined the HTTS Resource Providers board, under the impression that there would be a continuous stream of new students, and then was startled to discover later that you were abandoning the ongoing courses in favour of your own novels. It was a very small monetary investment, no big deal, but it still made me realize again that nothing in the business world is necessarily stable. I agree with a lot of your ideology, but I made the mistake of not watching my back. I’ve also made the mistake, many times, of not listening when my muse had something potentially useful to say.

    It’s a delicate balance.

    1. Holly Avatar

      While in fact, I haven’t abandoned the course, the Providers, or the community. HTTS DIRECT offers the community and all the HTTS boards, Resource Provider Boards, discussion boards, and workgroups to ANYONE who is taking the lessons and wants to join.

      I can’t force people to join (and wouldn’t if I could). But I hope as the HTTS Direct course takes off (and later, the HTRYN Direct course) there WILL be a steady stream of new folks.

      If you want out, of course, I’ll be happy to cancel your membership, delete your entry, and refund your $20 for the last six months.

      1. Joanna Erbach Avatar

        In that case I’m misunderstanding, and I apologize. I’m still interested in being a part of it, and, well… mistakes. They happen. Clearly I should have done better research.

  32. Mae Avatar

    Hi Holly…marvelous sharing here. Thanks. Fits right in with the premise of the non-fiction “Write It Down, Make It Happen” by Henriette Anne Klauser, Scribner 2000. Having you share this nails it down for me. List Making, here I come…

    1. Holly Avatar

      Lists are amazing tools.

      Apparently sometimes a bit more amazing than we realize.

    2. Beverly Avatar

      I have had the book for years. I have found that if I can articulate it I can achieve it. It comes as absolutely no surprise that once you made your list it was set into motion.

  33. Jane Iwan Avatar
    Jane Iwan

    I love your Muse. Sometimes mine wakes me up in the middle of the night with metaphors.

  34. Jean Avatar

    This happens to me all the time. In fact, I come to count on it. I make a list and set it aside. When I come back at some later time, thinking I haven’t accomplished much, only to find I can check off most of the list. I did it. Without thinking about it or worrying about it or anything. I wrote the list. Set it aside, and it got done. I love the subconscious and it’s power to work on my behalf.

    My challenge has been to remember to use this technique more often and in ever-expanding areas of my life. It’s kind of why I’ve gravitated to David Allen’s Getting Things Done. The key there is to clear your mind of everything that needs to be done. Put it in a tracking system (he doesn’t care how you do it, just that you track and review regularly). His theory is, getting it out of your head and into a tracking system frees your mind to accomplish creative things. In addition to getting it out of your head, you need to identify your next action for each task. If the next action is still to overwhelming, you haven’t broken it down into a small enough task yet. Or maybe it isn’t important enough. But I digress.

    (In a side note how do I get the newsletter pop up to stop coming up every time I come to the site? I am already subscribed.)

    1. Jean Avatar

      Okay. It doesn’t pop up every time I come to the site. Only when it’s a new session.

      1. Holly Avatar

        If you have JavaScript on, it should only show up once a month. If you have it turned off, it’s a lot more pervasive.

        1. Jean Avatar

          Probably the difference, then. I have Java on, but I think I do a new session here about… once a month (because I usually read in RSS)! Grin. So it just SEEMS like it’s every time.

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