If Juliet finds her muse in the city, and Gina finds hers in the country, I’d have to say, my primary muse is in the suburbs. That’s where I live, and I do most of my writing at home. But that suburban muse is not the only muse who drops thoughts and ideas into my mind. Muses find me wherever I go.
Writers are often asked where we get our ideas, and my answer is, “Everywhere.” If one’s mind is open to ideas, the muses will slip them in continuously.
The initial idea for the Civil War novel I recently completed came during a visit to the Ohio River Museum in Marietta, Ohio. I found a tiny nugget of information that spoke to me and begged me to tell its story. (Muses love to hang out in museums. That’s why they’re called museums.) I visited many sites where incidents in my story take place, most of them in Georgia. (Georgia muses speak with a delightful accent.)
I also read dozens of books and articles on my subject, more research to help me flesh out my idea. I wrote numerous first chapters, but I still hadn’t nailed down my story yet.
When I had 5 chapters, I took them to a Rich Wallace workshop, where Rich made me rethink my vision of where the story was going. He felt my main character needed a new love interest. And he was right. Once I created her, I became excited to explore her background and develop her more fully. My fingers were eager to put down the words. It took my story in a new direction.
While I created, I needed to refigure the way the new story would progress. About that time, I read the novel Cane River by Lalita Tademy, a story of Ms. Tademy’s ancestors, four generations of African American women, the first a slave. The novel was told in four parts, each from a different ancestor’s point of view, each picking up where the previous one left off.
I realized my story might work best told in three parts from three viewpoints.By the time I went to Chautauqua in 2011, I had more than thirty chapters. An editor there (Julie) pointed out that my transition from Part One to Part Two created a distraction for the reader. I decided to take essentials from that second part and sprinkle them into the other two parts, leaving only two parts.
I am pleased with the way the story turned out. I wrote it, but it evolved over time with help from many muses. Rich, Ms. Tademy, and Julie caused me to think, rethink, and make changes. And isn’t that what muses do?
Kathy Cannon Wiechman is the third of seven siblings, mother of four, and wife of Jim Wiechman for “dang near forever.” She learned poetry from her published mother and love of family from her hard-working father. Her love of writing goes back to age five and Words still fascinate her. She is a member of SCBWI, two critique groups, & Swagger. Her short stories have won prizes from the Children’s Writer and her poems have appeared on the Meadowbrook Press web site & in Ladybug magazine.