Welcome to The Bump House

Monday, September 6, 2010

The 12 Writing Labors

Special thanks to all of those who came over from Karen's BBQ. And, to Clarissa Draper who sent some people this way as well.

Poor Hercules, hated by Hera, went nuts, killed his family & then set about to clean it all up by laboring around the world. Now, I don't know about any of you, but I'm no Hercules. However, as writers, we also have labors/labours to endure. To that end, I give you the 12 Writing Labors on this Labor Day.

The Lion - As writers, our Nemean hide consists of the shell of our story. This is the blanket we wrap ourselves in, filling out every possible angle. The beginnings of our story-storming.

The Hydra - The Hydra ate cattle; we writers eat, sleep, drink & READ. Research, research, research. Writing books, books in our genre, books out of our genre. And then, for good measure, we throw in movie adaptations.

The Hind - No killing, just capturing. Capturing the essence of the story in outline, on notecards, or on a story board. The seeds of our story begin to take shape.

The Boar - At this point in Hercules' story, he decides to hang out, relax, grab some wine. Writers have a different agenda. We crawl inside the minds of our characters. We interview, we tweak, we grimace. They come alive as we allow them to roam the halls. Hercules didn't share his beverage any more than we are ready to share our characters with the world.

The Stables - We don't feed humans to our muse - do we? Nope. But we do extract living, breathing, feeling beings from our musial ether. We shape, we mold, we fill in the blank spots. Backstory, history - the things that make our characters real to us & to our readers.

The Birds - Not Hitchcock - Athena. She dropped some castanets & a little advice on old Herc. We have to get ours from others. Our critique group, beta readers, friends & family. We sketch it out, cast our net & look for holes. We need our flock to reinforce that which we are trying to accomplish.

The Bull - The white wizard - or space, depending. As we begin our writing; description, setting, characterization comes to life. We have to remember to give it space to breathe. That means peppering in dialogue, shortening paragraphs, alternating rhythm.

The Horses - Hercules descends to the Underworld, rescues his buddy's wife & upsets all the horse carts. So, he runs off to this next labor - a king who feeds guests to his horses. We feed our stories to the screen, paper, typewriter if you must. Every word flies across the page - they flow from our characters, their POV, their understanding of the world. We don't make our peops eat them in return.

The Belt - Pretty simple - find belt, take belt, return home. How hard could this be? Well, here the goddess of doubt raises her ugly head. We read, we re-read, we obsess. Then comes pestilence & monsters. Doubt has many friends. Writers must contend with their own demons - suppress them, kill them, feed them to the horses. Mostly, get some writing perspective. Critique groups, writing blogs - whatever works.

The Cattle - Hercules received a golden goblet to float his ocean. Writers aren't so lucky. We have query letters. These are our little vessels to publication. Many will leak, crack, sink to the bottom. But eventually, one will be sound, its mast high & it will pass the mighty gates of an agent or editor. Hallelujah.

The Apples - Hercules' orchard stood guarded by a hundred-headed dragon. It spoke many different languages - a walking Tower of Babel, if you will. Then wrestling ensued, Hercules won, of course. And here, Hercules trades spots with Atlas who sneaks into the garden to retrieve the apples. For writers, this is where an agent comes into play. They are the Rock of Writers. They do the work that we are remiss to want. Publishing houses, editors, sales, deals. All the apples in one basket.

Cerberus - The final labor for Hercules. Our hero is cleansed & then initiated. And then, he had to tame the beast - no weapons. With sheer might & determination did he win the monster. And you can too. Determination, desire, never-giving-up attitude. These are the armor with which we fight the journey. It also helps to develop a bit of armadillo skin - There Will be Critics & maybe some bloodletting. But, you will survive. Just as Hercules survived.

Happy Writing Labors,



  1. Do you know what happens when I visit your blog? I get smarter. I like that! That's why I recommend your blog.


  2. This post took a lot of work. Well done, Patti. I'm down there in the belt with the cattle at the moment. :)

  3. Clarissa,

    God love ya! I sure do. Thank you for assuaging my raging beast of doubt!!!


  4. Pat,

    Thank you so much!! You inspire me every day. I am at the top of my labors at the moment. I had to leave one WIP in the closet while I flex some other muskles!!