Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner
The Four Myths Your Muse Desperately Wants You
to Believe, Part 3
by Karen S. Wiesner
Based on FIRST DRAFT OUTLINE (formerly titled FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS)
This is the third of four posts dealing with how writers can get their muses to work with rather than against them.
In Part 2 of this article, we talked about the second myth your muse desperately wants you to believe. Let's continue.
Myth Three: You have to dig for plots blindly.
The writing process has been compared to many things since the beginning of time: A series of epiphanies exploding all around you. A spiritual journey. Currently, the most popular analogy is that stories are discovered by digging around in the creative dirt, and then you as the writer are supposed to unearth whatever it is you think you’ve found. How many authors believe this fossil-in-the-ground philosophy? Countless. Let me tell you, my friend, that’s exactly what your Master Muse wants you—its loyal, cowering slave—to believe.
The single biggest flaw in this digging-blindly-for-plot theory of writing (and similar analogies) is that it doesn’t take into account that the writer may start digging for his story a hundred miles in the wrong direction! If you haven’t done all the necessary preparation to begin work, you have no idea whether or not there really is a story beneath the soil you’re unearthing. You may dig endlessly and never find it…or you may find it quite a ways down the pike from where you started, and nothing that has come before has any or much consequence and worth.
How many authors believe outlines are a last resort? Sadly, too many to count. So many writers attribute far too much of a project to some magical, cataclysmic explosion which somehow takes you from the first page of a novel to the last, with little or no premeditation involved. I don’t discount the magical element—because it is there in some degree, but I simply can’t buy into the spiritual intuition way of writing. How can a brand-new, never-written-much-or-anything-before writer have this kind of intuition?
With an outline and clear-cut goals, you know there is a story down there, you know where to start digging, and you know exactly how far to go down. Everything you plot from start to finish is good and worthwhile.
Now I’m sure archaeology has changed radically in the last five or ten years, becoming what archaeologists believe is more of a science than treasure hunting. Do you think archaeologists feel less like archaeologists because of these changes? I doubt it. In fact, they probably feel more like worthwhile scientists because they spend more time uncovering what they’re after than in seemingly endless searches for it. Likewise, writers who use an outline spend more time writing a story than searching for one.
In the next part of this article, we'll talk about another myth your muse desperately wants you to believe.
Wiesner is the author of First Draft Outline
Volume 1 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection
is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit