Monday, February 4, 2013



How to Find Your Muse by Writing the Book You Love
By Sally Bosco

People talk about finding their muse, like it’s an outside thing, like some person or sprite will come along, and suddenly they'll be all inspired. I tend to think of it as contacting the source of my own inner creativity. One way I do this is to make sure that what I’m working on is something I love.

A few years ago I decided that I was going to write only books I loved, books I’d actually buy if I saw them online or in a book store. I wanted to start each day looking forward to working on this particular book. I think I had always done that to some extent, but more recently I decided to make a concerted effort of it. Here’s what I did. I answered these questions for myself:

The first and most obvious question is, what is my favorite genre?
To me, that’s a tough one because I like to read in a wide variety of genres. I like anything from literary to horror to paranormal, sometimes adult, sometimes young adult. I like the story to have romance elements, but I don’t like straight-up romance novels most of the time. I had to figure out what combination of these genres I wanted to pursue. My writers’ voice runs to young adult, and I vary between mainstream with a literary bent to horror. It turns out that I’ve written lots of variations on the above.

What are some of my favorite books and why? Make a list.
Take a good hard look at what you like to read and figure out why. Incorporate those elements in your writing. Like I mentioned earlier, my reading has been very eclectic. I like the simple elegance of Ernest Hemingway and the moody Gothic prose of Ann Rice. I like the ambiguity of Jeanette Winterson and the inventiveness of Neil Gaiman. Try to encompass some of those elements in your story.

What kinds of elements do you like to read in a story? Make a list.
Break down your favorite novels into component parts. When you’re reading someone else’s story, what elements really grab you? I like to have some form of experimentation, but sometimes experimental elements can be gimmicky. To avoid that, I like to use something that is different or not usually done. For example, my current work-in-progress, Poisonous Garden, is told from the point of view of a person of indeterminable gender. So you need to figure out what elements you like best in a story and use those.

What elements do I love to write about? Make a list.
What are your favorite things? My general list is: doppelgangers, road trips, sleazy diners, dark mysterious outdoor spaces, houses or rooms that change shape, alternate dimensions, gender identity such as cross-dressers, and shape shifters. For each new novel I write, I come up with a list of key words I’d like to work into the story. The end goal is making sure I’m writing a story that I’ll love, that I would want to read. In Zen and the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury said to make a list of the things you love and hate and write about those. Great advice.

What’s the story I want to write?
Try to form some plots from the above-mentioned questions. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm crazy ideas.  I usually make lots of lists of ideas. Some may turn into novels and some short stories. Most sit there for years and all of a sudden one of them will speak to me. Keep a file on your laptop or phone of story ideas that you’re always adding to. Choose one and start developing it, using your lists of favorite elements and key words.

How can I make sure it stays the story I want to write?
Too often in the past, the stories I’ve written have run-off-the-rails into something I didn’t really like. For me, the remedy to this is careful outlining to ensure that the story goes in the direction I want it to. I know that for some people that wrecks their spontaneity, but for me it works. I recommend Blake Snyder’s book, Save the Cat for an outlining process.

How do you contact your muse?

Sally Bosco ( writes dark fiction. She is inexplicably drawn to the Uncanny, the shades of gray between the light and dark, the area where your mind hovers as you’re falling off to sleep. She loves writing young adult fiction because she strongly relates to teenage angst, the search for self-identity and the feelings of being an outsider.

Her published novels include:, Shadow Cat (written as Zoe LaPage, her adult alter-ego), and The Werecat Chronicles, and she was a contributor to Many Genres, One Craft. She’s had short stories published in literary magazines and anthologies, including the Small Bites anthology and most recently Hazard Yet Forward. She has an MFA degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

Web page:


  1. Good to see you in the Madhouse, Sally! Great tips and advice here. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Best photo ever plus solid nuts & bolts advice too many don't consider. Great job.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Chris and Leslie! The article was really fun to do. It is actually the way I write lately.

  4. Helpful advice, Sally. "Most [ideas] sit there for years and all of a sudden one of them will speak to me." That really struck me. Happens to me too. Then I get another idea that picks a mate from one that's been waiting in the wings, and bingo, a story sparks.

  5. I enjoyed THE WERECAT CHRONICLES, Sally. Thanks for sharing your insight here.

    And thanks for bringing Sally to us, Steph.

    :) Heidi