It’s Time to Face the Music

Hi everyone.

Today I want to talk about how I use music in my writing process.

First, let me say that music is an absolutely essential part of my life. I listen to music every single day – when I’m cooking, or doing the dishes, or just generally chilling after dinner; in the car, on the el, or the bus. It’s there, like nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide. It’s the air I breathe.

So naturally, music finds its way into my writing, too.

Like a lot of people, I discovered that “regular” music – you know the kind with people singing words – is too distracting while I’m actually writing. Songs have a funny way of taking up space in your head, and before you know it, you’re writing down the lyrics instead of your story. (Sure, it’s funny until someone gets sued.)

Anyway, now I listen to either instrumental tracks – usually classical things online – or “white noise” things I find on YouTube. My current favorite is a writer’s cabin in the woods. There’s a manual typewriter, a crackling fire, and a wet, drippy thunderstorm going on. It’s a kind of music, and it works for me. The only negative is that it makes me have to go to the bathroom. A lot.

 

 

 

 

I also use music to inspire me when I’m getting to know my characters. Like a lot of writers I put together playlists, one for each major character. These playlists always consist of songs that I feel represent these people – like, if they were in a movie, this is what you’d hear whenever they appear on screen. The songs become inextricably linked with the characters in my mind, so whenever I listen to them I learn new things about my people. It’s like magic and when I’ve picked the right songs for them, I end up loving them even more.

 

 

 

How about you? Do you use music in some form when you write?

I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

 

Cheating is such an ugly word

Hi everyone.

What do you do when you want to write a blog post, but you have a hard time tearing yourself away from your other writing?

This. This is what you do.

 

 

 

 

 

Some people may think a post built around memes is cheating.

I prefer to think of it as deferring to someone who had the same idea as you, only they said it better.

Coincidentally, both of these speak to me on a very personal level.

Every time I sit down to write, I talk to myself in order to shake off the normal world and hopefully make the transition to the world of make-believe. It’s like a little pep talk.

And this is what I say to remind myself that writing is a terrible, horrible, wonderful way to live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And …

 

 

 

 

 

What are some of the things you tell yourself when you write?

I’d love to hear about them in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Terrible Strange: Behind the Scenes

Hi everyone.

Today I’m going to take you behind the scenes of my first novel, tentatively titled Terrible Strange. I started this and completed a rough first draft when I was in grad school a couple of years ago. However, there was so much wrong with it that I decided to put it away for a while – it just wasn’t speaking to me, you know?

Anyway, it did start speaking to me a few months ago so I set about rewriting it. I’ve changed the POV, made the characters older, took them out of high school and put them in grad school, got rid of the clichéd “angry dad” character, and did a LOT more digging into my protagonist’s backstory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have also left behind “pantsing” in favor of plotting.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s been a struggle to make such a big change to my writing process, but whenever you combine pantsing with ADD all you get is a hot mess that kinda looks like a story. At least, that’s been my experience.

 

 

 

 

So, I checked out a bunch of different plotting books – there are so many good ones – and loved two books in particular: Save the Cat Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody and Story Genius, by Lisa Cron.

I was already familiar with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat series from my screenwriting days, and Lisa Cron’s blueprint method of building a story that has both internal logic and a sense of urgency is brilliant. Plus, constantly asking yourself, and your characters, questions – as she recommends – really, really works. Who knew?

 

 

Anyway, despite my lack of productivity – God, how I wish I could regularly churn out 2,000 words a day like my OCD girl idols on YouTube – I have still managed to reach the midpoint in my novel. Yay!

How about you? Have you ever rewritten something from scratch because the story just wouldn’t let you go? No matter how hard you tried to leave it in the box of shame, or the folder of forgetfulness?

Please let me know in the Comment section.

Thanks for reading.

What the HELL is a Johari Window?

Hi everyone.

I recently discovered an amazing writing tool, courtesy of another writer. (Shout out to Kristen Lamb @authorkristenlamb.com).

It’s called the Johari Window.

It was created by two psychologists in 1955 – Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. They thought it would help people to better understand their relationship to themselves and others. Self-help groups and corporate team-building exercise leaders loved it.

Ugh, I know. Snoozefest.

However, if you stop reading right now just remember this – these two guys named their creation after themselves – JO for Joseph and HARI for Harringtion – which is kinda cute.

Still here?

Great, because if you don’t think, Wow, this would be a great tool for character development the first time you see a Johari Window, then I don’t know what I can do for you.

That first box – OPEN (sometimes called ARENA) – this is all the information that your character knows about him/her/their self and that everyone else knows, too. Like – he used to be a lap dancer, but then he became an EMT, and now he’s a convicted felon out on parole.

That second box – BLIND SPOT – contains stuff about your character that other people know, but that your character is currently ignorant of, or blind to.

Like – she feels worthless and ashamed because she can’t afford name brand clothes, but other people see her as creative and stylish.

The third box – HIDDEN (sometimes called FAÇADE) – is full of all the crap your character knows about themselves, but that they keep hidden from everybody else.

Like – they have a shoe fetish, only no one can tell because they have 40 pairs of the same style shoe.

 

 

 

 

The fourth box – UNKNOWN – is where all the stuff that no one in your story knows about yet.

Like – aliens have been keeping an eye on your character ever since they were born, because your character’s bio-dad is the leader of a great civilization on Alpha Centauri.

Once you use the Johari Window to map out your protagonist, you can continue to use it to structure your story. The way you do that is to design a story problem that will eventually help your protagonist finally see their blind spot and how it’s negatively affecting their life and other people’s lives too. And in the process of doing that, you want to shrink that UNKNOWN box by the story’s end with the goal of ending up with a more balanced, whole person who knows who they are, likes who they are, and knows where they’re going.

Have you ever seen the Johari Window before? And have you used it in your writing?

Let me know in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

Writer’s Journal vs. Writer’s Notebook

Hi Everyone.

Today I want to talk about a topic that came up online recently — what is the difference between a Writer’s Journal and a Writer’s Notebook?

It’s all just a bunch of  OCD writers once again obsessing about stuff that doesn’t matter, you say? Oh, you are so wrong.

Not only does this stuff matter, it matters A LOT.

At least to us writer types.

Let me explain.

Writers’ Journals are kind of like specialized diaries. This is where you put all the writing that should probably never see the light of day.

For instance:

  • If you do daily writing prompts — this is where you put your responses to those prompts. Five ways to describe a dung beetle!
  • If you spend the first ten minutes of every writing day writing I don’t know what to write today. Do that here.
  • If you’re thrashing around, trying to nail down a difficult scene that’s not quite ready to be introduced to  the rest of your manuscript, this is a good place to do your thrashing.
  • If you need to get the boring, every day stuff off your chest before you can be creative, then unload that crap here.
  • If you sometimes find yourself compulsively writing Zarry or BTS fan fiction, because … well, just because — then this is a safe space for it.

Writers’ Notebooks, on the other hand, are where you get to live as a writer.

Here’s what goes in your notebook:

  • Your thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, observations, bits of overheard conversation
  • Pick a place, like a coffee shop, and move around the room listing the things you hear, smell, taste, wonder about — you can use these bits to flesh out a setting or a scene later on
  • It’s where you collect random — or not so random — ideas
  • Bits of poetry or song lyrics you like
  • Topics and themes that are important to you, or that you find yourself coming back to over and over again
  • Character sketches of strangers
  • Bits of dialogue — even if you don’t know who will be saying this dialogue yet
  • Doodles or sketches of people or places that intrigue you for some reason
  • Quotes from books or authors that turn you on
  • Words that you just frigging like the sound of
  • Lists of things
  • Whatever else you feel like including — as long as it’s personal

Believe it or not, all of this stuff is valuable. These are the tiny bits of grit and sand your writer’s mind will use to create pearls.

So get yourself a couple of blank notebooks and make one your Journal and the other one your Notebook. Add something to each of them every day.

You’ll be glad you did!

Do you have a separate writer’s journal and writer’s notebook? Let me know in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading!

Binge-watching Netflix — It’s strictly research, I swear.

Well, here we are living out all our old “if I only didn’t have to work” fantasies.  (Except maybe for the one where you get naked and belly flop into a pool of lime jello.)

 

 

 

So, in between taking naps and trying not to eat everything in the house, my husband and I have been binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. But unlike the rest of America we are doing it for a higher purpose — we’re both writers so we’re calling it “research”. 

Yeah, I said what I said.

Right now we’re researching the hell out of “Supernatural” — already on Season 3. Woo-hoo! Great cast, great writing, and according to Dean in Season 2, Episode 18 — great craft services.

 

 

 

Also, sadly, we’re finishing up “The Magicians” later tonight. LOVE this show, especially Quentin, Eliot, and Margo the Destroyer. Maybe we can get a GoFundMe site started to finance another season (or 10) just to frigging bring back Quentin (and, by extension, one of the hottest ships on TV — Queliot!). C’mon, you guys — it’s a magical world. Anything can happen!

And, last but not least — “Lucifer.” He is my favorite drama queen. My husband and I are both loving Lucy’s character arc, but it’s hard waiting for the most recent season to make it onto Netflix. Ugh. I want it nooooooowwwww!

So, how dare we call what appears to be a hedonistic waste of time “research”? Hey, when you write everything is research.

Three week trips to exotic places just to get “local flavor” for your next book  ? Research.

 

 

 

 

Eavesdropping on people in public places (ah, the good old days) simply to hear authentic idiot conversations? Research.

eavesdropping

Watching 72 hours of shoe fetish porn just to give one of your characters a “secret obsession”? Research.

Let me know what you’re binge-watching in the Comments.

Thanks for reading!