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New Creative Penn Guest Post: Fire the Muse and Go to Work

Flickr Creative Commons hard hat area by Jason EppinkThe Creative Penn is a long-running blog, podcast, and resource for authors trying to improve their chops for writing, marketing, publishing, and entrepreneurship. I’ve relied on Joanna Penn’s site for years, including as I planned to leave my job in 2011 to become a full-time writer.

After all the things I’ve learned from The Creative Penn, I wanted to give back to Joanna’s community. She recently gave me the green light to send along a guest post about writing.

The post just went up this morning, and here’s a snippet:

No More Excuses About Writing. Fire The Muse And Go To Work »

“So, you what, sit down and wait for the muse?”

My father-in-law’s question made sense. A master electrician and project manager, he heads up the installation of massive industrial electrical systems. But when he asked me about how I write and work, something clicked.

“No,” I replied. “When you get down to it, my job actually has a lot more in common with yours.”

Go to the full post (see you in the comments!) »

Image: Flickr Creative Commons hard hat area by Jason Eppink

10 Minutes


Tonight I am at the monthly meeting for Willamette Writers. My duties as co-chair as done for now, and I am listening to Eric Olsen talk about his creative process and that of other writers he’s known, all with varying degrees of success.

He just hit upon an example that hit me hard. He read an author’s account of how she would get her work done, all the more challenging while also raising a daughter. As someone who both works and provides a lot of child care for a wee lad, this resonates.

I would write from 11:15 till 1 in the morning, she said (more or less). Sometimes I would spend 10 minutes on my manuscript, but even those few minutes kept my book in my mind during the day.

And that’s what I work toward, always. I work on my fiction usually first thing in the morning, but when raising a child that doesn’t always work out the way I would prefer.

It’s those 10 minutes that stick with me. That’s where I can improve. It’s not easy. I have to immerse myself into a made-up place, where I also have to think not as myself but as multiple other people.

Tough schnackies. That’s the job. That’s my job. And like fatherhood, I have to figure out what works best with what I’ve got at the time.

So that’s where I am working. How can I better poise myself to take 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there, and work on the novel, or a short story, or a novella? What can I do, at any time, that keeps my wee travel fiction projects moving forward?

10 minutes. Maybe it’s all I get. But time is a gift. I don’t always get to use time the way I want. But how I use it, how I choose to perceive the value of what bits of time I get, well, that’s all up to me.

The trials and travails of writing travel fantasy novels

Photo by ironmanixs -

Varanasi, India - part of the basis of the fictional city in my novel. Photo by ironmanixs

If my pen were a match, it would be wet

This is not a day where I’m fired up to write a new scene, delve deep into a character, or get into the mystery and nuance of the plot, all the while subtly laying groundwork for the crucial twist at the end of the story.

This is the kind of day where I want to curl up in my favorite chair with a cuppa coffee and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. (Which I’m halfway through, as of this writing. It’s feckin awesome. I can hardly focus on my own story because this one is so compelling.)

This is the kind of day that is just damn hard to be an author.

Which brings us to the end of Act I

Over 30,000 words later, I’ve roughed out the novel’s first act of three. I can feel the book is in transition. Relationships are set, villains and heroes are established, major and minor characters are in play. Complexities have begun forming.

Now what?

Now what is what I feel I’ve been putting off: reviewing the first act, and filling in some major blanks:

  • More color and sensory detail. The novel is set in a fictional city by a fictional river in India. I want the novel to appeal to people who like travel. To support that, India needs to come alive on the page. The noise and vibrancy of the culture needs to be in the reader’s face, because India is always in a person’s face. Every moment is every sense on overload. I need to establish that more, and that means filling in good detail.
  • Surrounding narrative. My rough drafting tends to focus heavy on dialogue and action. My brain sees scenes in vivid detail, but when drafting I take for granted that I need to present that vivid detail to the reader. I get caught up in speech and movement, plot progression and narrative unfoldings, and forget to fill in visual blanks. Now it’s time to enhance conversations and action with a better sense of place and setting.
  • More travel. The world of this novel is a world for people who like travel. While keeping things relevant to plot and story progression, I need to weave in more actual traveling. Meeting people, seeing sights, doing the things that you would never do back home but can’t wait to talk about when you get back.

Yeah. That’s all. And I’m still just in the rough draft stage. Coffee and The Hunger Games is looking mighty appealing again…

But not yet.

Touch up. Fill in. Move on.

Even more important is what I must make sure not to do: over-revise. I want to touch up the first act to help me be better prepared for the drafting of the second act. That doesn’t mean the first act needs to be ready for typesetting. There still will be big revisions to come once the full draft is written.

That is my mission: touch up, fill in, and move on. There’s writing galore to do — probably about 60,000 more words, for a rough draft totaling about 90,000 words, equal to about 360 pages.

Time to fire up the printer, the legal pad, and both the drafting and editing pens.

Act I, I’m coming for you.

Act II, you’re next, buddy.

Now I’m fired up. Hunger Games will just have to wait till lunch.

Nick Usborne’s latest riff on long copy sales letters

Nick Usborne’s latest riff on long copy sales letters – Debbie Weil, WordBiz Report

I go back and forth on this all the time. On the one hand, design screams “short pages! short pages!” But users scroll more than they click. The New York Times experiences dropoff when its articles span multiple pages. And Usborne says longer pages work — as long as they’re done right, of course.

The trick? To gab like good conversation, and say something that both talks with your reader/ customer, and at the same time seems like you’re listening to what’s going on in their head — and somehow putting it on a page before they even knew they were thinking it.

One Word, every day

one word. so little time.

Now this is a writing exercise. They give you one word, and you have 60 seconds to write. No thinking, just writing.

Writers should scribble every day. It’s practice, just like hitting a ball or shooting an arrow. I’m going to start going to one word every day. I’ll post my ramblings under this One Word, 60 Seconds category.

Now it’s your turn. Besides, it’s only a minute. You can spare a minute for a bit of writing. It’s good for you. Anyone can bare their soul, or just blather some shite, for 1 minute. Go on. That’s it. Click the link.

Have fun.

What can you read about on here?

Thank you Jon Meyers for asking what I’m going to be writing about.

A feature of blogs is that you can set up categories to organize your ramblings. Once there’s a post under that category, you can look at any and every post in that category. Here are categories now on or coming soon to AntSaint:

  • Beer & Wine
  • Books & Reviews
  • Coffee
  • Daily Miscellany
  • Food & Recipes
  • One Word, 60 Seconds
  • Stuff I Use
  • Stuff I Want to Read
  • Travel
  • Web/Tech
  • Weblogs
  • Work
  • Writing

This will change over time, of course. Categories are in the right-side bar on every page. Enjoy, and let me know if there’s anything you want to hear about.

So It Begins

What this blog is
If you’re interested in books, travel, writing, food, coffee and quirky perspectives on the world, then you’ll find something here worth sticking around for. is about anything from writing novels to backpacking through Asia, from a good microbrew porter to an average day on the range in my home of Eugene, Oregon.

There’ll be off-the-cuff smarty-pants remarks, and some serious musings. There’ll be reflections on ol’ day-to-day life, and overall curiosity about the world and its general nuttiness. There’ll be links and book reviews, photos and lots and lots of stuff that I can’t yet even imagine.

What it’s not
What there will not be is endless why-blog?-navel-gazing (it’s like writing a novel about why people write novels) or eye-glazing second-by-second retellings of my day (Oatmeal. With chocolate chips. Wore my red shirt to the office. Remembered pants, but just barely).

I hate that crap. If I lapse into this rot, slap me (antsaint at myway dot com). I’ll thank you in a post.

Why it’s here
I’ve set up this site for a few reasons –

  • It’s good practice. AntSaint is personal and professional. I’m a writer and editor by trade, and there are projects I’m working on that I need a website for, both now and down the road.
  • It’s the 21st century – not having a website is like not having a phone number.
  • I have something to say, even if I don’t know what it is until it catches my attention and doesn’t let go.
  • What I have to say will be different. At least, people around me say that I look at things, and talk about them, a tad on the out-there side. I’ll just post and spout, and we’ll see what happens.
  • It’s fun. ‘Nuff said.
  • I’m hoping that the end-but-ongoing result will be some good, not-too-clean fun. Have a good time, thanks for coming around, and if you’ve got 2 cents to add to my 2 cents, leave a comment or send it to antsaint at myway dot com.


    Anthony St. Clair - Travel Fantasy Author / Craft Beer Writer / Business Copywriter
    Author and copywriter Anthony St. Clair has specialized in online content since 2000, blogged since 2004 and is the author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series.

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