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Write your Novel To Sell - Training Your Muse


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Writing a novel is without a doubt one of the most difficult tasks thousands of people around the globe eagerly take on every year. Visions of fame and fortune and seeing their names on the covers of published novels send them to their computers to start chapter one.

There are no statistics on how many would-be writers actually finish those manuscripts, but a generous guess would be half. Of those, another generous guess is that 3-5% sell their manuscripts to print publishers.

Few other professions have such a low success rate, yet there seems to be a never-ending supply of newcomers eager to reach for that dream.

More novels are rejected because they aren't different enough from all the others an editor or agent reads than for any other single reason.

We're born creative, but all too often our creative instincts are repressed by the rules of childhood.

Don't lie. Color within the lines. Don't hit your sister. Stop daydreaming.

You can write your own list from the voices of your past.

These were intended to keep us safe and help us fit comfortably into our world. In many cases they also dampened our ability to expand our imaginations when we want to undertake a creative adventure such as writing a novel.

No matter how good the “great idea" you get is, if you don't challenge your imagination to expand it into a strong story idea that offers something different, your novel is destined for that huge majority of manuscripts that never excite a publisher enough to buy.

What is a muse?

According to my online dictionary, a muse is the protector of an art or science. Many beginning writers, however, mistakenly believe that great idea is a neatly wrapped gift, ready to become a novel.

What it really is, is an inspiration that can be developed into a story idea. Your muse will help you with the process but doing the whole thing for you isn't in her job description.

Train your muse

The easiest way to start training your muse is mindstorming. It can be used anywhere you need to make important decisions for your novel and definitely should be part of your initial planning.

The mindstorming technique doesn't require anything but the usual tools you use to write.

Mindstorming is brainstorming alone instead of with a group.

Begin by writing your “great idea" at the top of a blank page. Then choose one of the three main elements of a good story and write it below the title.

It doesn't make any difference if you pick characters, plot or setting. You need to mindstorm all three. Let's start with plot.

Step 1:

Considering your idea, what could you add, subtract or change that would make the idea unique and more exciting or turn the situation in a different direction?

Take a deep breath to wake up your muse and mindstorm a list of 20 possibilities. Don't consider them for logic or feasibility, simply write them down quickly and force yourself to keep going until you have at least 20. More are fine. Fewer are unacceptable—keep going!

Until now, your muse has been working only parttime, but suddenly you are encouraging her to give you her very best efforts. She may balk a little, but she will come through for you.

Step 2:

Once you have your list, let your muse take a break while you let the left side of your brain exert its logic.

Go through your list and cross off any ideas that are impossible, illogical or won't work in your novel for some other reason. This will most likely shorten your list to 5 to 10 ideas you can use.

Create a new list by putting these in order of how different and/or exciting they will make your story.

Step 3:

Adapt the questions to suit and repeat the entire mindstorming process for the other two basic elements of your story, the character(s) and the setting. When those adjusted lists are ready, you have the ingredients for a winning novel.

Use the strongest, most unique idea from each list to create a new statement of your storyline. This will help keep you focused on actions that will build dramatic tension and suspense as you write.

Do not discard the others. You can use them to plan your plot. Unless, of course, your muse decides she enjoys working overtime and comes up with even better ideas.

You will soon discover how valuable mindstorming is to your creativity and use it to plan other parts of your novel.

Once you've wakened your muse, she will give you her best whenever you ask for it. And you'll become skilled at recognizing those ideas that will sell!

Copyright 2007

Marilyn Henderson chose writing as a career change so she could work from home. She had no idea how hard it was to make that first sale then keep selling, but she soon learned the difference between writing a novel she hoped would sell and what agents and editors really want. Now after more than 60 novels published, she shares that expertise with writers who want to build careers or make those firstsales. Http://


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