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The Demon Returns


The Truth Behind All Those Unfinished Novels




Marilynn Byerly


"Psst. Psst. Over here!"


I ignored the tiny voice, leaned closer to the computer screen, and continued typing.


"It's crap, you know. Total crap. No editor in the world will touch it."


I flinched but kept typing. "Go away."


"Boring, badly written crap. But I've got this great idea. A sure winner."


"That's what you said about this novel. Go away. I only have three chapters left. The final confrontation, the villain's glorious demise, the final love reconciliation, then fade to happily ever after."


"But I have a wonderful idea. You see the villain hires the hero to murder the heroine, and it's a South American country, and...."


I pushed my glasses back up my nose and straightened. The little demon, complete with horns, hooves, and curly black hair, sprawled on the Webster's Unabridged Dictionary by my computer.


He twirled his tail in his hand and grinned with more seductive skill than a host of romance novel hunks.


I smiled back in spite of myself. "I dreamed that last night."


"Yeah, it was me. Great idea, huh?"


"I wrote copious notes when I woke up. Thanks."


He preened his horns. "Thought it was your style. Action. Adventure. Cliffs to shove the heroine off of. Why you wasting your time with that--"


"It isn't crap. I have to finish. I always finish my novels. I'm a professional."


'And don't it steam me." A puff of smoke drifted out of his ears.


"I appreciate the ideas. Keep them coming. Now go away!"


"But.... How about a planet where...."


"Aren't we desperate." I smiled wickedly. "It won't work. I know what you are and what you're trying to do."


"I'm your friend. I'm trying to give you a salable idea."


"You're a withdrawal symptom."


Sitting up indignantly, he straightened an imaginary tie like a miniature Rodney Dangerfield. "I beg your pardon. I am your adventure muse. And you don't do drugs. Not even booze. I am not...."


"Adrenaline withdrawal. Nothing more," I insisted.


"Adrenaline's what your body pumps when you're afraid," he protested.


"Or when you're facing a challenge. And adrenaline is addictive. Ask any stage actor. Or rock climber. That mountain gets climbed, not because it's there, but because the climber is addicted to the rush of danger."


The demon rested his hand on his forehead and wailed, "Oh, the terror of paper cuts, the exciting rush of eye strain."


I chuckled. "You don't know fear until you stare at a blank screen and try to bring people to life, create a world that is as real to the reader as it is to you. Creating order and reality out of nothing."


"And you're throwing away all that to finish that garbage."


"It's finished already. In here." I tapped my head. "All I have to do is type it out. All the creating is done. That's why you've shown up as you usually do. The adrenaline's stopped pumping so my subconscious starts giving me new ideas. New sources of that wonderful addictive adrenaline."




I continued relentlessly, "When your brethren show up, amateurs toss aside good projects and start something new. A pro knows what you are, takes copious notes of your ideas for the future projects' file, and finishes."


"You kink my tail sometimes."


"Go away, please, and let me finish. The sooner finished, the sooner started on one of your glorious ideas."


The demon grinned jauntily. "In that case...."


As he disappeared, I said, "And keep bringing me those great ideas."


With a thumps up gesture, he vanished in a wink of smoke.



Copyright 2001 by Marilynn Byerly

This article may be reproduced, but only with the permission of Marilynn Byerly ( It must contain the byline and copyright information.



Marilynn Byerly is teaching three online writing courses. To learn more, click on the link of each course.


"The Big Question: How to Create a Powerful Novel from a Few Ideas and One Big Question"


“Keeping the Reader Reading the First Chapter” How to pull the reader into your novel in the first chapter and keep her wanting to read more.


Magic, Monsters and Amour: Creating a Believable Paranormal World.


Workshop Schedule

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