Robert E Howard related how he felt that at times his own character, Conan, would stand at his shoulder and relate his adventures while Howard sat the typewriter transcribing them. These stories seemed to come in no particular order, and after a time Conan left—perhaps to pay a visit at some later date.
As a writer I often feel similarly: as though the characters, themselves—not me—have certain stories to relate. When they start relating these stories I don't necessarily have much control over where and how they take place. Or to put it bluntly, I'm a victim of my muse.
How am I a victim of my muse? I'll give you an example. I recently completed a trio of Weird West short stories featuring famed Native American gunfighter, Lone Crow. These were intended for placement within three different upcoming Weird West anthologies. The story ideas were not a problem for me to develop because, it seemed, that Lone Crow was at my shoulder rehearsing the tales.
However, after I completed the three stories I realized that none of them actually took place west of the Mississippi. Sure, they were all firmly set in the era of the old west, but one story took place in Brazil, another took place in Arkham Massachussetts, and the third transpired in New York City.
One editor quickly confirmed my suspicions that I had shot myself in the foot. He liked the story, but it didn't take place in the West and so it wasn't a Western, and not a good fit for the anthology he was editing.
One of the reasons that I have eleven published novels (number twelve, Lost Tribes of the Dire Planet, on the way next month) is that when it comes to writing I am unreasoningly and blindly persistent in the face of all common sense and logic. Instead of writing, surely, it would be more profitable for me to get some exercise, or maybe even get more sleep or watch TV? Okay, maybe not the last one. But still I persist in writing.
Lone Crow still seemed to be hanging around the home library where I do my writing, perusing a copy of Herbert Asbury's Barbary Coast, so I asked him, “Do you happen to have any adventures that took place somewhere in the West?”
“There was the time that I tried to bring in Shotgun Ferguson for murder,” said Crow.
And I was off and running, typing words as fast as my fingers could fly across the keyboard. I managed to slide the story in before the deadline, and this time Lone Crow's tale was more to the editor's liking.
For me, it seems the demands of an editor and muse most often don't mesh, but occasionally—with some prodding—I can get them to cooperate.