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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Cate Masters

Work that Muse!

Long ago, someone told me “you’re not a writer if you don’t write every day.” I don’t believe that, but I do believe it’s important to write as often as possible. Even if you can only squeeze in a few minutes a day, just write. Jot down your ideas as they come to you so you don’t lose them (one of my biggest faults!) You might have thousands of wonderful ideas, but if you don’t capture them on paper, they’ll disappear like fireflies. And once you begin your idea, don’t stop. "I write when the spirit moves me," William Faulkner said. "And the spirit moves me every day." So sometimes your muse needs a little nudge.

Last year, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWRiMo. Set in November of each year, the goal is to finish the first draft of a 50,000-word novel. Figuring the days before and after Thanksgiving as a total loss, that’s about 2000 words a day. Broken down, it doesn’t seem such a daunting task. I followed author Barbara Kingsolver’s advice: “Chain that muse to the desk and get the job done!” In other words: sit your rear in the chair and place your fingers on the keyboard.

Bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult, who averages one book per year, said: “When you only have 20 minutes, you write, whether it's garbage, or it's good … you just do it, and you fix it later." Keep a notebook and working pen in your purse, in your car, by your bed. I once went to a conference where the keynote speaker said she had a two-hour a day commute, but used that time to plot. Even when you’re not actually writing, you can use downtime such as driving, the grocery store line or even a shower to work out plot points or flesh out a character a bit more.

The more you work your muse, the better shape she’ll be in so that when you call on her, she’ll be there, ready to get to work.

Another favorite quote of mine (I have a lot, as you’ve probably noticed!) is from William Wordsworth, who said: "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart... Write from the soul, not from some notion what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal." Great advice. I’ve always been a big believer in going with your gut. Write the story you want to read. Let your heart guide you – it won’t steer you wrong.

Cate Masters’ novels, novellas and short fiction appear at The Wild Rose Press, Eternal Press, Wild Child Publishing/ Freya’s Bower and Shadowfire Press. The proud mom of three adult children, she currently lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband, Benji the dog and their dictator-like cat, Chairman Maiow. Visit her online at and, or follow her on Facebook: or Twitter:


booklover0226 said...

I like the idea about jotting down thoughts and comments whenever they come to you. Too many times I'll put it off and end up forgetting them!

Cate Masters said...

Me too! Although sometimes, too, I don't add enough detail and I'll find it months later and wonder what had me so excited. Better to catch it when you're 'in the flow'!

booklover0226 said...

My big problem, lately, is not being able to read what I have jotted down! UGH, my handwriting is horrible...