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Guest Post: Jackie Morse Kessler

Today YA Highway welcomes author Jackie Morse Kessler, who has written an awesome guest post for us as part of her LOSS blog tour. This book is amazing, as is the rest of the series, and I definitely recommend it. And commenting on this post can potentially win you copies of the first three books in the series! Giveaway details are at the end of the post.

Tempting the Muse 
By Jackie Morse Kessler

When I first starting writing a million years ago, there was no such thing as deadline pressure. I wrote because I had a story I wanted to tell. There were days when the words came easily, and there were days when the only words that came were the four-letter sort, usually in a mutter, as I’d stare at the blank page. But that was okay—if the Muse was busy, then I just tried writing another day. I wasn’t on a schedule. I had time. If I wasn’t inspired, I simply didn’t write.

And then, something crazy happened once I sold my novels: the writing went from being just about the craft to being about getting the craft done on time. Now it wasn’t just about me wanting to tell a story—I had to do it on someone else’s schedule. I suddenly had deadline pressure. And that’s when I discovered there’s a world of difference between writing for the sheer enjoyment of writing and writing when it’s part of a business. For one thing, now I had to juggle Real Life (which was already challenging, between the full-time day job, the family that included two young kids, and a geriatric cat with separation issues) with writing on deadline—goodbye, spare time!

For another thing, not being inspired suddenly wasn’t an excuse. I was on deadline. I had a job. The story had to come, whether or not the words were easy. And that meant I had to learn how to tempt the Muse, even on days when she’d rather be eating chocolate and catching reruns of Supernatural.

Here are some things that have helped me get the creative juices flowing—they are just as applicable for writing novels as they are for writing school papers:

1.    Take a shower. Sounds crazy, I know, but there’s something about standing under steaming hot running water that gets the ideas started. Maybe it’s because the only way I can write any shower-started ideas is with soap on the walls.

2.    Play music. Sometimes, getting in the right frame of mind is all about the atmosphere—and there’s nothing like music for creating the atmosphere. Linkin Park was very influential for me when I was writing LOSS—there’s one scene in the book that was inspired by the song “New Divide.” (And no, that’s not secretly a plug for the second Transformers movie, I promise. But if Michael Bay wanted to make LOSS into a movie, I wouldn’t say no.)

3.    Skip ahead. I’m a linear writer, so the notion of skipping a scene or chapter that just isn’t working makes my eye twitch. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with fast forwarding—as long as you don’t hand the book over to your editor with big bold letters where chapter eight should be, claiming [INSERT WITTY CHAPTER HERE].

4.    Power through. When skipping ahead just isn’t an option—see the above, re eye twitches—grab some chocolate, shut the door, and bang the scene out. Let yourself make mistakes. It doesn’t have to be gorgeous in the first draft—just get the basic ideas down. You can fix it later.

5.    Walk away… Sometimes, we have to get some air. Preferably, while eating chocolate. Stepping away from the keyboard could be exactly what’s needed to get ideas unstuck. There have been plenty of times that I’d be in the middle of doing dishes when I suddenly know how to fix a chapter. (And despite what my Loving Husband believes, that’s not me just trying to get out of doing the dishes. Cough. Really.)

6.    …and then come back to it. We all need a little time to clear our heads, but that’s not the same thing as giving up.  What looks impossible late at night could suddenly be very manageable first thing in the morning. Or, for night owls, vice-versa.

When writing on deadline, we don’t have the luxury of the Muse playing the diva card. But we can still tempt the Muse back to work—ideally, with lots of chocolate.


LOSS by Jackie Morse Kessler comes out March 20, 2012!

GIVEAWAY: One lucky commenter below will win a small cover poster of LOSS—and will be entered in the grand prize drawing! The grand prize winner will receive signed copies of HUNGER, RAGE, and LOSS—and will get to name a character in BREATH, the fourth book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series. The grand prize winner will be picked on Sunday, April 1, 2012. No foolin’.

So if you want to be entered in the giveaway, please comment with your name and email address. I (Kaitlin) will choose a random winner on March 20th (LOSS's release date!) and I will email you for your mailing address to pass along to Jackie so she can mail your poster and enter you for the (awesome) grand prize.

Thanks for joining us today, Jackie!
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

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  1. I am a big fan of the shower trick (or bath) - the perfect amount of time away from the computer combined with the warmth really gets me back into the creative mindset.

    A. K. Fotinos-Hoyer

    Yay for contests :D

  2. The shower works every time :) Awesome giveaway!

  3. Oooh I keep meaning to read this series, b/c I've heard such good things about it. What an awesome giveaway!

    lorimlee82 at gmail dot com

  4. Definitely walk helps with so many instances that pop up in your life!

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  5. I can certainly understand the ability to write on one's on time. I'm at the place right now. Sometimes I wonder if trying to get an agent and/or selling a series to a publisher would be a plus since that would turn into writing on deadline. So much difference there.

    But the ideas you listed are some great. Walking away works well, allwoing the story to breathe for a moment. Or just sit down and start rambling on paper about anything. That tends to be pretty helpful in getting the juices flowing and inspiring something for the story that needs help.


  6. Shower works sometimes for me, too!

    Jpetroroy at gmail dot com

  7. I always get great ideas in the shower! I guess it's because of the soothing warmth of the water and the fact that my mind instantly clears of blocks in the shower.


  8. I didn't know anybody else knew the shower trick! I've spent way too much time role playing in front of the bathroom mirror, too, making sure I'm doing all the characters' expressions just right.

    Thanks for sharing your tips with us, Jackie!

  9. Great guest post, Jackie. Ugh, I'm in the middle of this right now!!

  10. The whole time I was reading this post I was thinking "Ugh, this is so me!". And then I realized I was, once again, procrastinating instead of writing. I better go get some chocolate...

    (Diana Sousa
    dianafsousa (at) aeiou (dot) pt)

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. My version of the shower trick is to go ride a bike somewhere I'm not sure I can find my way back from. Also always works. :D

      (Kathrine Roid
      giveaways at fb dot pierian dot spring dot net)

  12. I tend to be a skipper, and GASP! HORROR! I don't usually use long notes. Just 3 binders worth of sketches, pictures, notes, etc.. I just have a decent mental picture of where I have to get to in the end. Most of the time it works. But I would be lying if I didn't say that sometimes I've forgotten a character is dead, or sometimes even had to consider re-writing a chapter because I forgot a character or characters were sitting there in chapter limbo waiting for me to get to them....
    I've enjoyed the "Horsemen" series so far...and can't wait to get my greedy little hands on the next....

  13. Walking away works for me with a lot of things.


  14. Love the cover!


  15. Love the cover!


  16. I have yet to learn how to power through, but I so wish I could! Congratulations on the books, Jackie, and thanks for the advice!

  17. such good tips. I wish someone had told me it was okay to skip ahead and power through when I was trying to finish my dissertation. I think like you I just felt like I needed to go in order and have the first part done before moving on.


  18. Insert Witty Chapter Here - gotta love humor when it comes down to the line!

    Thanks for the giveaway!


  19. If this is international i would like to enter :)


  20. I do the same while writing but I also eat an orange cuz I think maybe the magical juices of the orange keep my creative juices flowing and I love oranges! :)
    iloveninjas101 at yahoo dot com

  21. I love this series... okay, aside from that, I always love to hear from published authors that they, too, get stuck when writing. I'm like Jackie and cannot skip here and there, but have to really stick to the outline in my head... lol
    Jessica M

  22. Looking forward to reading Loss. Great series.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  23. Those are all great tips. I will have to try those when even writing book reviews, because sometimes the words are there - they just won't spill over onto the page. ;)

  24. Great advice! I also have to power though and can't skip around.

    Thanks for the give away!


  25. Wow - that cover is cool. And great tips.

    rewrighter (at) gmail (dot) com

  26. i sometimes feel like grief has a deadline. everyone expects you to move on(finsh). they expect you to take it all under your wing and fly. and some people don't move on.

    meredith lewis

  27. Personally, I think playing music and going out for a walk and fresh air definitely works to cure writer's block. Thank you so much for the tips!

    sauvadeavelle @ yahoo dot com


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Item Reviewed: Guest Post: Jackie Morse Kessler Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward