Did a non-existent Ancient Greek write my novel?

Is heaven so cold, this angel has to wear socks? Image:Pixabay

Is heaven so cold this angel has to wear socks? Image:Pixabay

Now, I’m no great believer in Calliope.

No, I don’t mean the steam powered musical intrument. I’ve seen some of those, heard their fluty tones, so I know they exist.

I mean Calliope – the Muse – she of Nine Muses fame, that graceful female entity of Greek myth and legend, who Homer (no, not Simpson) called upon for inspiration whilst writing the Iliad and the Odyssey. Originally the Muse of epic poetry, she became the go-to girl for all writers, her remit having changed and expanded over the years.

The Ancient Greeks didn’t write novels, so had no need for a Muse of paperbacks. Though, if we fancy inventing one – you know, amongst ourselves – may I suggest the name Novella. Not a word of Greek origin, but catchy.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I don’t wait on outside forces to help me write. I also don’t believe in channelling a fey, chiton-draped lovely to help me out when my writing has hit a pit of deep, dark wordlessness. I’m a great believer in having a routine, in treating creativity like a muscle you need to train.

You wouldn’t expect your abs to stay looking like a padded xylophone without a million sit ups, and so it is with your brain. I expect mine to jump to attention and produce short stories, novel chapters or the mind-spew that I post on this blog, whenever I ask it to.

I see it as developing a professional attitude. If I want someone – anyone, please? – in the publishiing business to take my writing seriously then I have to approach writing as if it were a business. Between drinking a lot of tea and being distracted by Twitter, of course.

But …

A couple of days ago, I was re-reading some chapters from my as-yet-unacknowledged (mainly because it’s unpublished) work of YA loveliness. 

I was doing this because I’m just taking the first, cautious, squeaky-bum-time steps towards writing a sequel.

Yes, I know. Many of you reading this will be chuntering about the wisdom of planning, plotting, writing a sequel to a book that hasn’t seen the light of day yet. What if a prospective agent/publisher sees and likes the book but thinks it needs the odd tweak to reach perfection …

Well, we sure like the sixteen year old, flame haired, tomboy heroine. But the story would work a whole lot better if she was a fifty six year old former soldier – ex SAS, hard drinking, thrice married Ross Kemp look alike. How do you feel about a rewrite?

But there a few reasons I’m keen to start the sequel.

One: It’ll be good to have a big project to tackle again.

Two: It’ll (maybe) help sell the first book if the second is at least in the planning stages.

Three: I just wanna.

When it came down to putting fingertips to keys, I first wanted to reread some of the orignal book, to get back into the swing of the style, to slip back into that world, shrugging it on like a favourite old jumper I’d left at the bottom of a drawer and just rediscovered. I felt nervous reading it, in case after few months away, it looked amateurish and clunky and just plain drivel.

And do you know what I found?

That much of it was really okay. And even bits – BITS, mind – were actually good. It was almost like reading a proper novel.

The weirdest thing, though was that it feels like someone else wrote it. I don’t remember composing some of the sentences, or where some of the ideas came from. How the hell was that manuscript created without my brain being truly involved with the process on a concious level?

Which got me to thinking.

Firstly: is there something in Rooibos tea other than innocent leaves?

Secondly: maybe there are moments when Calliope has been my friend after all.

Are you a writer who channels Calliope to help you?

Have you written something that later you were surprised you’d written?


21 thoughts on “Did a non-existent Ancient Greek write my novel?

  1. You say a lot of absolutely useful things about adopting a professional approach to writing, Lynn. Am also intrigued by the notion of Calliope writing. Now you mention it, I rarely recognise my own work when I go back to it after a stretch of time. I also often think if someone asked me to write the same thing again, i.e. if it had never been written in the first place, I couldn’t. The first YA novel I wrote was for Zimbabwe Publishing House. They had put out a call for submissions, and I was living in Kenya at the time, so I wrote about what I could see on Nariobi’s streets, and in an idiom that seemed to fit with the locale. The little book just got written. I think I did the typing part. I certainly remember sitting at the table with a laptop. And then within a few weeks of sending it off, ZPH accepted it and published it, and it got an award at the Zimbabwe Book Fair, and a White Raven citation from the International Youth Library. And the books have been selling in Africa for nearly 20 years, and sometimes my Kenyan publisher sends me royalties, and my Zimbabwean one doesn’t, but many thousands of copies appear to have been sold. And the whole thing has been going on quite remotely of me – (and especially now I’m back in the UK), all of which is to say that there is nothing too strange, heartbreaking, spirit-raising, downcasting, or plain wonderful when it comes to the world of publishing and writing. Also, as I hardly need to point out, I’m still not famous, or even well known as a writer despite being published all over the place. As to Calliope writing the novel, I think when we’re really tuned into a project we have one foot in the conscious world and the other in the subconscious – something like that anyway. It is a kind of mediumship. And I can see why you might wish to start a sequel before you’ve quite completed the first book, because one will inform the other and planning the second might guide you in completing the first. I should say, though, that often with publishers it’s not wise to mention that you’ve got sequel, and I know that may sound daft. But in the meantime, jolly good luck with both 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Tish. It’s great to hear about your publishing experiences. Such interesting things you’ve done. I’m not entirely sure what happens while I’m writing – this deeper part of the brain that takes over, the fact that afterwards I can hardly believe it was me who wrote the thing in the first place. I need a neurologist to explain it to me 🙂
      Yes, it’s a tricky one about the sequels isn’t it? On the one hand, publishers seem keen to know that you have more than one book in you – that you won’t be a one hit wonder – and on the other … hell I don’t know. I sent some chapters to a publisher’s open submission window a few months ago and they specifically asked for you to state if the book was a stand alone or part of a series, so I told them. We’ll see what happens. All the best 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that writing is mostly about discipline and routine. Nothing gets done unless you choose to sit down and do it. Consistency sparks the imagination, I’ve found.

    That said, there is something to be said for recognizing inspiration whenever and wherever it strikes.

    I usually labor so hard over my words that I rarely don’t remember writing them or where they came from. The only surprises when I review older work is whether it’s any good or not. That surprise can go either way!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can’t believe you find anything but good surprises when reviewing your own work! And your writing doesn’t read as if you’ve laboured over it, you’ll be glad to know 🙂
      I feel as if I labour over writing too – blog posts, for example, take so much longer to write than I think they should. How do I manage to make the process take so very long? All that re-writing and re-writing. It leaves me feeling less productive than I think I should be.
      Why can’t I just dash something acceptable off the cuff?


      1. Thank you! But oh yes, I will read and re-read and edit time and again, even for a short blog post. That’s why I rarely post more than once a week, usually. October was an exception, and you can see that it wore me out. I haven’t posted at all this month. (That’s not the only reason, but it’s a big part of it.) I even edit my comments, like this one. Sheesh!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha! I edit my comments too! And SMS messages – I wish I could edit messages I put in birthday cards as I’m often unsatisfied with them, but writing a draft on Word first seems a bit excessive … 🙂
        Hope you restock your creative juices and we can read some more of your work soon 🙂


  3. Yes! Write a sequel! Never mind that you’re still holding your breath, uncertain of whether the publishers will take the first one.
    What you said about not recognising some of the sentences – back in winter I was going through some of the short storiess I had written, and I must have accidentally pressed a wrong key somehow. A page came up, but it was zoomed down, and the writing looked tiny. I had to squint to read it, don’t know why I didn’t just zoom in, but, anyway, I was reading it and wondering where it came from, because it didn’t look like something of mine. I started thinking I had somehow accessed someone else’s documents. I thought the work was brilliant, and wished I could write that well. I decided to zoom in, and the moment I saw it in the format I was used to I recognised it as mine. It gave me a massive confidence boost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, wonderful! Glad it’s not just me who has these out of body writing experiences. There’s just some part of the subconscious takes over, I suppose – auto-writing without us being fully plugged in.
      And by the way, you should never be surprised at the quality of your work, Jane – it’s consistently very high 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, wouldn’t we all like to be able to answer that one – then we’d all know exactly what to write and we’d all be best selling authors living the life of Riley – or J.K. Rowling at least 🙂 And people like heavy, Jane – no worries over that. Hope the process isn’t too tough on you, though X

        Liked by 1 person

      2. He’s not being difficult now. He’s gon through a detox at my place, and it’s hard to watch. He did several silly drugs to get him through, and though I don’t like it, it seems to be working, but he’s still a bit doped up and he keeps asking irritating questions about whether to reheat naan bread in the microwave or the toaster, and turning everything out of my fridge to see what there is to eat. I should be glad; for the past few days he has been unable to eat.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Still sounds difficult to cope with – just less so. Let’s hope he gets through this and reaches some normality soon – for both your sakes 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I know he wants to, but the addict in him is a monster. Before he went to prison he was recognised by the dealers and the other addicts as one of the worst cases around – even THE worst case.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It’s sounds atrocious and the monster in him is winning at the moment. I just hope at some point the other side of him can win through. So sorry Jane x

        Liked by 1 person

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