“Time stands still
beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything
What’s standing in front of me
Every hour has come to this…”
~Christina Perri: A Thousand Years~
Dipping into my writer’s toolbox, I dug out one of my favorite topics to share with you today. Music.
Many writers and authors write to tunes of all sorts of genres. I find that the music sets the scene, just as it does in the movies. I mean picture watching some of your favorite flicks without the scores. It doesn’t work. Music evokes emotion and that’s what we as writers aim for.
“The Dragon’s Kiss”, the novel I’m currently working on, has about 35 songs attached to it at the moment. Each of which is for a different mood I need to capture in a scene. I thought I would share a few to maybe inspire you today. These songs aren’t necessarily there because of the lyrics themselves, but the beat, the passion of the song.
“Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling. I use this song for two different scenes. One during a transformative moment of my protagonist and the other is a chase scene down the streets of NYC. I also use “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up)” by Fall Out Boy when I write chase scenes. It has that kind of throbbing beat that works well. (As a side note, it’s one of my favorite “running tunes.”)
“Rain” by Jon Heintz. Such a lovely song. Originally this appeared in the TV show, “The Deadliest Catch” (which I love.) But it’s a haunting song, dark and deep. It’s perfect for a character who has lost much and is in mourning. Bill Wither’s “Aint No Sunshine” has that same feeling for me. I alternate between the two because the loss is different.
“Kecharitomene” by Loreena McKennitt is brilliant for the fantasy world I have created. It has an etherial quality to it. I alternate between that and “Flying for the First Time” by Elenowen.
Some other songs on the playlist include the Kelly Sweet remake of Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” “Walk” by the Foo Fighters, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri and “Disappear” by Hoobastank.
Obviously there are more than I’ve listed, but maybe some of these will inspire you to look outside what you normally listen to and expand your writing.
Advice: Score your book while writing it. I think it adds a little something special to what you’ve done. Now go and create something amazing.
In case some of you were wondering what I’m working on. It’s a fantasy novel tenatively entitled “The Dragon’s Kiss.”
I have had the idea for this work running through my head since I was 16 years old. Names, places and the plot have changed over such a vast period of time; however, the constant has been the nagging to get the story “out.” Over these long years, I have learned to hate the question, “What’s it about?” As this book will be part of a planned trilogy and there are several plots and setups, here’s what I can say with concrete certainty.
In a time of war live the daughters of the Dragon Lord, Ruler of Strakath. Oathbound to protect her land and Soulbound to the dragon she rides, the youngest must make a choice – to save her sisters and those they love or the heir of their sworn enemy, the king of Osenfal, in an attempt to gain peace for all.
This piece of “art” is a hybrid of sorts. Combining contemporary fantasy with high fantasy is my challenge and it’s taking a while to actually make sure all of the plot points aren’t left to die in some great writer’s wilderness somewhere.
I’ve pretty much decided Word is the program I do my best work in; however, Scrivener can be rather helpful as well. My problem with Scrivener is that it is overly cumbersome and I haven’t found a program that I like to help with the outlining, character charts and whatnot. I used to use index cards which were not at all helpful to me. I also keep a notebook where I jot down the who is who and what is what. I found that may actually be more helpful than software because I can take it with me wherever I go and note things as they come to mind.
Now as it’s NaNoWriMo, I must leave you be and carry on with the real task at hand. If you are interested in reading excerpts, let me know and I’ll share with you The Dragon’s Kiss.
” There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. ” – E. Hemingway –
As Mother Nature puts all her babies to rest and the world sees the greens turn to brown and the skies turn gray, writers must learn to pull upon inner resources for creativity and dedication. Today is the beginning of an important period of time – NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo.
For the uninformed, those are acronyms not gibberish. They are National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Post Month. Both are month-long challenges for writers and pretty daunting ones at that.
NaNoWriMo is the mother of them all. 30 Days. 50 thousand words. This averages out to around 1,666 words a day. Putting this into perspective, an average blog post for most people is 400-500 words. Basically triple or quadruple that and make it part of a continuous story – the bones of writing an entire novel in a month.
The novel won’t be pretty. There’s not much time for editing or refinement during November. However it is about getting the novel out of you – projectile vomiting it on the page. The cleanup comes later.
NaBloPoMo is a lesser “evil.” 30 blogs in 30 days. This contest actually makes you dedicate time to writing for a month. It’s far more lenient in its rules and regulations and is a great start for people who want to get into the habit of writing – sitting down at the keyboard (typewriter) and bleeding, but for shorter periods of time.
For the past couple of weeks, I have debated entering one or both contests. Honestly, NaBloPoMo is a pretty easy decision. It’s an automatic “game on.” But the novel… it’s had me up at night thinking about it.
I’m more than a few pages into the piece I have been working on for a while. Do I dare challenge myself to get the 50 thousand words in that would bring that novel closer to completion… in a month? I’ll be honest. The prospect rather terrifies me. I’m the queen of procrastination and it’s so much easier to not run that guantlet. Can I balance home, a job search (potentially starting a new one) and writing for 30 days? A lot of people can. Can I really do it?
The answer is yes. Yes I can. I can do anything I set my mind to. I just have to do it.
So welcome to November… a month for writers and authors. As I go through this month, I’m sure you will be hearing about what’s happening, but more importantly the amount of Band-Aids needed as my fingers bleed from the constant pounding of the craft. Let the games begin!
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
― Robert Frost
For the past couple of months, I have taken a sabattical of sorts and pulled away from the normal hum-drum, work-a-day life. It has done me a world of good mentally and physically, but financially, it’s taken a bit of a bite out of the bank-book.
However, I think I can say I think I finally feel more alive than I have felt in a long time. I see things with a clarity I hadn’t seen in a while and I appreciate people and places again. While that may sound strange, I had “turned off” many relationships and just didn’t want to communicate. This may be the best blessing of all. I am once again breaking out of the protective shell I had built up around me.
When I write, I have to write from an emotional place or the scenes ring false and mechanical. Robert Frost hit the nail on the head. You have to bleed onto the page and let your emotions out. I held them too tight and let them fester and boil inside, but letting them out – well, I wasn’t going to do that. That would have been having to admit I actually HAD emotions. Fear, angst, loathing, hurt, love, joy, happiness… all of them I had kept bottled up for a while and I couldn’t express any of them. You know something? That’s not a way to live.
I thought I did it to protect myself. I thought if I insulated myself enough, I couldn’t be hurt by all of the changes brought about this year – that I wouldn’t be affected by “life” and it’s ebb and flow. I was wrong.
As a result, for the past few months, I couldn’t write. Physically, it was just painful. I couldn’t bring myself to actually look at the screen and put my fingers on the keys. Why? Because I write with emotion and I just knew that if I did, all of the bottled up feelings would unleash in a torrent and I wouldn’t be able to put a cap on it. I was “afraid.” Isn’t it bizarre to admit fear? Bizarre, but oh so true.
Over the past week, I have read about nine different books and some of them were REALLY good. The writing was tight, the characters were outstanding, the plots were well scripted. Slowly, the bottle on my emotions shook and as I closed the last book, the cork popped and everything I thought was contained released in a small explosion.
This time away from everyone and everything has done me a world of good. I see things differently now. Today, I am a writer once again.
“There’s a ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch…” Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa released the album “Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch in the early 1980’s. It’s most notable song was “Valley Girl” which was a parody of a stereotype during that time period. “Like totally” as well as “Gag me with a spoon” were heard so frequently it was almost nauseating. I’m pretty sure my parental units were grateful when those phrases went out of vogue. But on the album’s flip-side was the title track “Drowning Witch” which the past six months has felt on and off like my theme song.
The lyrics that especially speak to me are: “As the light goes dim and she’s trying to swim… will she make it? (Boy we sure hope so.)”
The upside of life: I’ve finally settled in to my Metroplex apartment and have been working on getting a routine settled into place. I can actually drive around the area (thanks to the GPS on my phone and in the vehicle) and I am learning to be more independent as it’s just me and Yoda here. I’m still learning about the area and it doesn’t yet feel like home, but I’m homesick for my peeps, not so much the city where I used to live.
But a few things have happened over the past two months that have really started putting life into perspective. I took a writing hiatus to clear the head and really start thinking about what I’m writing, how I’m writing it and most importantly, WHY I am doing it. I’m doing it because I love the written word and the power behind language. When I am writing, I create entire universes on a blank page and while I’m not yet in league with the best of the best, I feel I can take you to another place. Writing is the air I breathe and the time off has given me a much needed perspective on taking those deep, deep breaths.
I also realized that the job I got when I moved down here is not the stellar expectation I built up in my mind. (Haven’t we all done that a time or two?) I had plenty of time to contemplate this fact after an on-the-job injury and spending time in bed at home. I figured out while recovering when you get up out of bed each day and dread going to work and then come home too exhausted to even be human, there is a problem. Seriously, some days I felt like the anti-christ as my mood and behavior changed so dramatically.
What was I doing? Why was I doing it? Who was I doing it for?
Since the accident these little life questions have been haunting me and it all came to a head one day when someone at work called into question my character and integrity with such venom it took me aback. This person doesn’t know me and what little interaction we have had has been tense even prior to this. It brought out feelings of anger, resentment and frankly, despair. (Basically my middle school years all wrapped up into a couple of days.)
WHAT was I doing? I’m a grown woman and I don’t need or deserve to be treated like I’m worthless by someone who doesn’t know me or want to know me. WHY was I still working there after a couple of months of progressive misery? The grass was literally greener on the other side, but laying underneath the grass was a cold, dark place. I was working there for the wrong reasons and there are no right ones to really keep me there. WHO was I doing this for? The epic question of the day wore on my heart and I realized I was doing it JUST for the money and not for anyone.
Money is an evil task-master. The Beatles were right. It can’t buy you love and at the end of the day, it only buys a fleeting happiness.
So as I write this, I’m a little more than 24 hours out of the epic showdown that will occur on Monday. I can’t look back on this time with regret like those who consistently say, “if I knew then what I know now.” I have learned a lot about me, what I believe in and where I’m going in the future.
The ship is arriving and I’m swimming to shore, but it’s not too late. Not too late at all.
… when the words don’t come?
I’m not talking writer’s block. I’m talking about when life circumstances throw steaming piles of dog excrement in your general direction and you are bogged down in the muck and mire of the depths of emotion. I know I should channel this… “this”… into something creative or useful.
This year has been one big mess after another. My spousal unit was transferred to another city in the state, we sold our house, I have a family member who’s going through yet ANOTHER big round of big chemo for cancer and the news I got last night has left me scrambling – no starved – for oxygen. I feel like I’m at the top of a cloud enshrouded mountain and cannot inhale deeply enough. At this moment, I can’t see past the billowing nebula storming around me.
It’s one thing to write with emotion. It’s another to be unable to write because of it. Poop.
For years I hid the fact I’m a writer. It was too difficult to explain what it is I actually do. Most people seem to think I sit down at my desk, type a few pages and go about my day. But like many others, my life isn’t like that. My life is rather exhausting. I have a full time job, a family and some dogs who, for lack of a better description, bother the hell out of me while I’m concentrating. I don’t have the luxury of secreting myself away for days on end until a piece is done. I try to carve out chunks of time to get done what needs to be done. Sometimes that ends in success – others are epic failure.
So what is this “being a writer” thing?
It is first and foremost being a goal-setter. It doesn’t matter if you are writing for newspapers / magazines or writing a novel. You have goals in mind that must be met. Whether it’s writing four articles a month or if it’s writing two pages a day, it’s still a goal. I have found I have a better shot at achieving my goals if I am held accountable by letting my critique group know what I plan to do. Others have success by writing them down in a prominent place. A sticky note on the bathroom mirror is great for this.
So how do you set writing goals? You need to remember the SMART mnemonic often attributed to Peter Drucker.
- Specific – how many words, pages, what kind of writing (Fiction/Non-fiction)
- Measurable – find a way to show you are making progress whether it be word count, number of pages or chapters.
- Assignable – who is responsible for what? As the writer, you are assigning the goals to yourself.
- Realistic – this is where most goals fail. If I’m writing a 120k word novel, there is no way I can do this in 30 days while taking care of a family. Keep your goals within reach.
- Time-related – deadlines are important. Give yourself one. Someday your publisher will and you need to know how to work under deadlines and the associated pressures if you have never done so before.
A writer is also a thief of sorts.
Yes. I just said that. I seriously doubt any of us will be convicted in a court of law (unless we are plagerizing); however, we steal all the time. We filch bits of conversation from unsuspecting people around us. We gleen ideas from news articles, other books, names, places, and events. We take inspiration from the tales told to us from others and someone else’s moment in time becomes our own.
Writers are expected to be excellent story-tellers.
Strangely enough, this is not always the case. One may be able to write brilliant and earth-shattering prose, but cannot tell a story to a group of friends in order to save a life. However, as long as they can deliver on the page, that’s all that really matters, eh?
Writers are notoriously private.
I tell people all the time I’m “anti-social.” Their eyes widen and mouths open in shock. Maybe it’s because I’m fairly friendly and outgoing, which sounds like an oxymoron to being private. But many writers don’t open up to people unless they are really close to them. When you start talking about being reserved or dare I say clandestine, many people may think about authors such as the hermitic Orwell, Woolf and Plath who suffered from madness, or Nietzsche who preferred solitude and was also a bit mental.
Today, writers/authors have to have a “public face” if they are to be successful. Their writing will speak for itself, but marketing & book promotion will include book signings and interviews. Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets are becoming more expected from authors. The public wants to connect with you. This does not mean that you have to detail every thread in the fabric of your life. But you do have to make accommodations you might not want to.
A writer is so many different things to so many different people. I describe what I do as: I’m an analyst, researcher, creator and wordsmith wrapped in a cloak of thievery and mystery out to transform the universe for but a moment in time. But… maybe that’s the madness speaking.
I have been down and out with the flu, influenza, or what I would not-so-lovingly call the plague. After a week of anti-biotics, Tamiflu and a host of over the counter meds to help with the symptoms, I am still running a low-grade fever, coughing and so congested it’s not only hard to breathe, but open my jaw. In fact, I contemplated the entire concept of lock-jaw today. I can honestly say I didn’t know much about it and found the following:
In unvaccinated individuals, tetanus is contracted through a cut or deep wound which becomes contaminated with the organism. Tetanus has also been associated with clean wounds, surgical procedures, insect bites, dental infections, and intravenous drug use. It is not transmitted from person to person. A common first sign of tetanus is muscular stiffness in the jaw (lockjaw), followed by stiffness of the neck, difficulty in swallowing, rigidity of abdominal muscles, spasms, sweating and fever. The incubation period is usually eight days but may range from three days to three weeks. Shorter incubation periods are associated with more heavily contaminated wounds.
Reassuring in the fact I can’t think of a “recent” wound that would allow this and I’m good on the rest – no surgeries, bites, dental work and DEFINITELY no drugs.
With this “plague,” I have felt a bit like Typhoid Mary at work. Yes. I am going to work despite the fact I am still sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching and can’t breathe. I missed almost two weeks between being out of town training and last week when this evil organism took over my body. I don’t know of anyone at work that has this (yet), but the kids and hubby are getting a little ticked at me. Something about “not feeling good” and sniffling, sneezing, coughing… I’m sure you get the picture.
In fact, youngest came in earlier tonight to ask about Kleenex. She needed some. I don’t have any — perse. I have what’s left of three boxes of Puffs Plus, the greatest tissue for severely congested people ever made. (Lotion is such a blessing and helps with the chafing.)
Strangely enough, most people call tissues “Kleenex” and with good cause. It’s the name brand that first became associated with the disposable tissues in the 1920’s. By the 30’s Kleenex was being marketed with the slogan “Don’t Carry a Cold in Your Pocket.” Its use as a disposable handkerchief replacement became predominant.
I’m not a fan of the handkerchief. In fact, I have an almost “Sheldon Cooper Aversion” to them. There’s something about its reusability that rather disgusts me. I don’t care if they are “green” or “coming back into style.” I have a hard time with the concept of, despite being washed and theoretically clean, carrying around a piece of cloth that has been used to absorb some of the grossest bodily fluids to emit from a human is somehow wrong.
There is also the legitimate problem of absorbency.
I have personally gone through TWO large boxes of Puffs and an entire “mega” roll of Charmin Extra Soft bath tissue during this illness. There are not enough handkerchiefs to keep my nose dry in this city.
The amount of laundry it would entail is insane and frankly, where does one store a used ‘kerchief? I don’t wanna carry my own snot around in my purse. Quite the conundrum, eh?
So typically, I avoid the problem completely by carrying around a wad of tissue and a plastic zip-lock bag in case I can’t get to a trash can to dispose of the bacteria-laden paper product.
During this viral attack on my persona, I have also found out a few things about being sick.
1) The higher the fever, the less I give a crap about anything or anyone. Pretty much my family could be starving or walking around naked and my only thought is, “so?” Sad, I think, when I get too far into myself to care for others.
2) Breathing is not to be taken for granted and apparently I do. I woke up in the middle of the night the other night and I couldn’t breathe. I’m not sure what happened, but I was gasping for air like a fish plucked from the water and dropped into the boat. It passed, but I realized at that moment oxygen is a beautiful thing.
3) I’ve always got to be doing something and NOT doing anything other than laying in bed is torture.
With that said, it’s a conundrum wrapped in paradox.
There is no energy to do anything so I torture myself by thinking of all the things I need to be doing and then really not caring about it so much as I try to take a few deep breaths.
Lather, rinse and repeat.
Finally, I should be working on the novel. I don’t have the energy so I am blogging. It’s easier on the mind, clouded by good drugs. I haven’t written diddly-squat in a couple of weeks, the plot line is still messed up and I am cranky about it. I’m not sure how yet to fix it and that too is bothering me.
Scrivener looks promising, but at this point, I’m not sure if it’s helping or hurting the process. I actually have used it for a few things, but I’m thinking at this point breaking out index cards and a notebook might be better. I don’t know. For me this feels like one of those things that’s supposed to make writing easier and because of all the bells and whistles makes it harder. I don’t know if others have this issue. I should go on the forums and ask, but again… rule 1 comes into play. I haven’t really cared THAT much to do so.
I am hoping to get the ball rolling again by this weekend. I want to feel productive, aside from doing laundry, and get the words back down on the page. Maybe, just maybe, this fever will FINALLY break and I’ll get back to caring about something.
For now though, my only concern is sleep and sleeping a few hours without having to blow my nose 437 times. Maybe tonight is the night.
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”~Mark Twain, letter to George Bainton, 1888
I am a writer.
I wrote my first story when I was seven years old. It was a page long and not well written, but I knew then the power of the pencil and Big Chief tablet. My father, the story-teller, seemed to like it and he tucked it away saved it for a rainy day.
When I was twelve, I began forming the idea for a story that was much longer and more detailed, but I didn’t have the life experience to emotionally connect to the characters. So the characters went on a vacation to Europe for a few years.
I tried to write the story again in high school, but I got “busy” with friends, social activities and writing of another form – journalism. I learned the craft of the who, what, where, when, why and how. Pieces of craft started coming together and I discovered what I thought I knew, I didn’t really know. So I practiced writing for the school newspaper, song lyrics, poetry and other things that would expand not only my mind, but my style.
After high school came college and then “life.” It’s trite, but life gets in the way of our plans. So, the Pulitzer in journalism, which I was sure I was going to win, went by the wayside and in its place came a husband, two beautiful children, a few dogs and an assortment of adventures that adulthood brings.
My characters though were growing tired of Europe. However, I wasn’t ready to bring them home, so I created a new bunch of characters and tried writing a story in a genre that was more mainstream and “accepted.” I use the word accepted because at this point, I had my own demons to battle and I wanted to write a story my family would “approve” of. It was a hard story to write. There was no emotional connection to the characters and frankly, the story fizzled in a big way. It’s still two-thirds done sitting in the attic collecting dust.
Because of more life changes and other events, I quit writing. I stopped journaling, stopped doodling poetry, and I stopped everything including reading. I went through a personal winter and the soils of my soul needed some time to just lay fallow for a while. Several seasons later, seeds were planted when I started reading again.
A writer must read. We get inspiration from what others have written. You see, a writer is zipping along a good book and then BAM! A word, a turn of phrase, or something else catches our eye and the muse within plants a seed. Further reading waters and nurtures the seedling and before you know it, you have a field of ideas and you just have to harvest them.
After a long and barren winter, I would have to thank too many writers to list that inspired me to pick up the pen and write again. But gone was the notion I had to write to please anyone, but myself, my worst critic.
My characters rejoiced. They finally came home from their long hiatus and I discovered something about them. They were well-rounded and flushed out from their adventures and living life abroad. They had matured and become more than I had ever dreamed of. Their story isn’t torture to write, it’s in a genre I love and most importantly, I finally found my “voice.”
The first fifty pages are done and some re-writes have already been completed. After all, being a writer doesn’t mean that you slop down some words on paper and submit them. You take what you have written, rewrite them until they are crisp and then rewrite them until they are razor sharp. As a friend told me once, “the writing is easy, the re-writing is a bitch.”
I wanted to share this achivement today because I didn’t know if this day would come. But in being true to myself, it has. I look forward to what the next pages have to offer, what my characters are going to do next and when I get to write the final words that will close out this novel.
Fifty down – a few hundred to go.
Today I realized…
I AM a writer.