“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.