This subject comes up today because I am an acquisitions editor on Sybaritic Press. On the occasions that I have advised aspiring authors when wearing my editor hat, I often tell them that they need to ditch their muse. I usually say this because the muse is often blamed for a lack of productivity on the writer's part. 'My muse isn't speaking to me' or 'I can only write when my muse is working.' Nonsense, I tell them. If you want to be a writer, write and write every day. Write something and keep writing. It's the only way to hone skills. And if you want to get published, editors expect work to be turned in when it's due.
I had the notion of writing in response to inspiration only beaten out of me in undergrad and then grad school. I was a Journalism/PR major as an undergrad. We had to do exercises with basic facts given by the instructors that we had to put into stories -- news stories, features, interviews, press kits. It taught us how to structure a coherent story quickly. In grad school, I had to write a chapter a week each semester of my thesis novel and I had to write a short story per week for my workshops. There was no time to wait for inspiration. You had to present a detailed outline of the novel and then follow the structure. The artistic touches (adding depth to the characters, refining descriptions and dialogue) came with the re-writes.
Of course, there must be inspiration. That is what makes the writer choose which story to tell or what characters to follow. But if a writer wants to be a professional, the writer must treat the craft professionally. If you want to be professionally published (even with a small press), you have to be able to meet deadlines. Learning how to work from structure will enable a writer to get through any kind of writer's block. It may not be a perfect draft, but what an editor is there for -- to help hone the draft.
Right now, I have an out of control muse. I'm crashing through my soldiers novel because it simply must be written -- NOW (that happens sometimes), I have my hot cops novel that has a publishing date I must meet -- so I'm working on that as well. And now I want to write a short piece about my mother and I at happy hour in a French Quarter bar in New Orleans called Dancing with the German at Happy Hour. I blame that on youtube.com. But that is for another blog. All of these stories demand my attention. Since I have a publishing deadline on one of them, I have to give that the higher priority.
So, to those fanfic writers who want to break into the professional world, it's fine to keep writing fanfic. I consider it practice and it can hone skills. However, once involved with a press or when you're trying to get the attention of a press, deadlines must be met. It's hard for me to accept that the story I'm waiting to see isn't finished when I'm seeing new fanfic from the same writer being posted all over the place.
I now get off my soap box and return to my usual insanity.
Next week, excerpts from the new book and Jury duty in LA. Also, see the news section of http://sybpress.com for exciting announcements and calls for stories.