The benefit of going to the school I do, and studying the things I do, is that there is a lot of people with the same basic idea that I have. They want to write. Because they want to write, we can talk shop. We can compare notes, tools, quirks, and mistakes. And then we can swear that we’d never do that, or secretly blush that we didn’t think of something so obvious.

A representation from the 1500s of the Muses d...
The Muses dancing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I told a study group mate how I outline – yes, I’m harping on about that lately – and showed her my ‘method’. I have a story question, like ‘Will Frodo throw the One Ring into Mount Doom’. Then I have eight blocks. The question is posed in the first two blocks. The other six are used to answer the question.

That way the chasm of words that are in a novel is shrunk down to a more manageable size. Instead of thinking about eighty or a hundred thousand words, I can think about the next ten thousand. And since each block has a specific function in my method of making a story understandable, there’s a progression.

I explained this to my class mate, who wrinkled her nose about me writing to a ‘formula’. Which made me bristle because I don’t. I just manage a project by breaking a project into parts and sub goals. It’s too big a job to keep in one’s head all the time. It’s better to have bits of it that you do, and once you’ve done all the bits you have something that resembles a story.

I would never have been able to write a word if I didn’t have ‘my method’. It’s flexible enough to allow for creativity. And it’s flexible enough to allow for surprises and plot twists. And in the end, we’re supposed to be professional, and professionals develop methodology and a tool-set. I doubt that a programmer would write a word-processor in one sitting.

But she wouldn’t listen on that ear, and condemned my method to lack inspiration. She would listen to her muse, and let the muse guide her. I didn’t tell her that the word ‘muse’ comes from the Proto-Indo-European ‘mousike’, which has give us the word music. It’s the art of metrical, metered speech. And a meter is a method, a formula. The muses then, side with me. They would not approve of her dalliance and disrespect for the craft of art and writing.