Last summer, when I was having a panic about being able to finish “The Swan Harp”, I had a Skype conversation with my friend Ravi in England. Like me, Ravi is an adult who reads young-adult lit by choice. During the conversation Ravi said, “You know, when you sell this book you’ll have to write two more. It’ll be a three-book contract – that’s how it works.”
Whether Ravi is right or merely wildly optimistic remains to be seen. Unlike J.K. Rowling, I have not seen a multi-year, integrated saga unroll in my head, needing only copious amounts of time, ink and sweat to bring it into being. I’d been thnking about this story for nearly twenty years before I set pen to paper, and thinking of it as a stand-alone, one-off sort of thing.
The first thing Ravi’s comment made me do was panic – again. Yikes! Did I have even one more story about this world in me, let alone two? But when I settled down, I realized that I’d created a detailed world, and introduced characters and situations that created room for expansion. When I reread “The Swan Harp” carefully, I saw where I’d created openings for other stories in the one I’d written. There was a ten-thousand-word passage I’d had to cut that in itself was the seed of another novel. So the second thing that comment did was create a little opening for the Muse, a place where she could slide another inspiration in.
The Muse needs room. If I’ve learned nothing else from a life in the arts, I’ve learned that you can think and ponder and plan and research – in fact, you must – but this is only preparation for when the Muse strikes. You must also be open to the Muse. It’s possible to dismiss her – or him – utterly by being closed. I was dead certain that “The Swan Harp” was a one-off until Ravi said so matter-of-factly that I’d need to write two more stories about that world.
I did my preparation and then waited. My Muse came through. I now have fairly well-formed ideas for a second novel set in Kiar’s world, and a thread to follow for a third. It doesn’t bother me that they aren’t as well-fleshed as “The Swan Harp”. Even that has changed a lot in the time I’ve been actively working on it, and I know that once I immerse myself in these other stories, I can write them, too.
I like to be in control of my life, as much as that’s possible. I’m a planner and a thinker and a do-something-about-it kind of person. I’m intolerant of indecision in myself and impatient with it in others. Perusing a menu for more than three or four minutes makes me antsy. I don’t like to shop for clothes.
Waiting on the Muse is a state of indecision, an uneasy place for me. Yet here I am. I’m not sure what that means about my – ahem – personal development as a writer. I do know I still won’t be going shopping for clothes anytime soon.