Friday, October 29, 2010

The long answer

"Are you doing NaNoWriMo?"

I've had a number of folks ask me this or some variation of this question over the past few weeks. I've thought about it. I've talked with Bren about it. We both have some novel-length projects on deck that could use the mad-1,666(.666)-words-a-day-dash that National Novel Writing Month thrusts upon its participants.

However, this year I've been learning some things about my own writing process. In 2006, I participated in NaNoWriMo and "won." That is, I completed my 50,000-word novel, and it was a lot of fun. It was a learning experience; it was cathartic; it was surprising (in that I surprised myself while writing it!). I didn't have a solid game plan when I sat down to write that novel. I had a basic idea, sat down and let the words go. It worked out okay for me. (Although I did run into a minor problem when, early in November, I felt a little blocked, and decided to "fast forward" the story I was writing a little bit and write a character's death scene, intending to drop it into the story later in the month when I got to where it should fit. However, when I got to that point in the story, I found that I was attached to the fated-to-day-by-my-words character, and she became a more important person in the novel and I needed her to live. I didn't want to lose the word count, so I wrote around it, turned it into a hallucination, and moved on!)

Of course I gave the novel a REAL quick edit before sending it off to Lulu.com to print up my one complimentary copy, and then decided to make the novel available for sale through Lulu as well. Out of the blue, the novel got some reviews which called me on some of the issues inherent in writing a novel in 30 days and not giving it a solid edit, but also said some encouraging things about my writing.

I decided to give NaNoWriMo a go the next year.

And the year after that.

Both times, I didn't make it. And it's taken me a few years to learn why.

I'm not what some of the writing podcasts I've been listening to lately call a "discovery writer."

Sometimes my short stories come about as a result sitting-down-and-just-doing-it, but the longer works with multiple characters, multiple points of view . . . ? I'm learning I need a bit more prep work.

And I'm okay with that.

So . . . will I participate in NaNoWriMo this year? No. Will I still throw down as many words as I can? You bet . . . after I've spent what I've decided is enough time working on an outline and character sketches.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Soundtrack for my writing

I think nearly everyone knows I collect film scores. Even if it's from a film I didn't like or may not have even seen yet, most of my available hard drive space is devoted to movie music. I love it, and can listen to film scores all day (and have repeatedly!).

Obviously, I have my favorites. And obviously, some of this film music is instantly identifiable with the films from which it comes which immediately tosses some fairly iconic film imagery across my mind's eye. Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Back to the Future. Halloween. Friday the 13th. Because I've seen these movies so many times, I can't help but think about these films when I hear the music. And that's just fine. There are times when I need a little John Williams action, or want to have John Carpenter jumping at me throughout the day.

However, I have a number of film scores that I'm able to enjoy and divorce from their source material, either because I'm not overly intimate with the film in question or I haven't seen the movie at all. (Or, in some cases, as with the score from Land of the Dead, I heard the music first, then saw the movie, which allowed my brain to appreciate the music by itself without attaching visuals to it.) And it's to these scores I look when I'm looking for music to play while writing.

I can't listen to music with lyrics when I write. I find it distracting, and I really struggle. And there's no way I could write a short horror story while listening to something like Williams' Jaws (actually, I MIGHT be able to with Jaws playing in the background, but most of Williams' film scores are so iconic that it might be tough) or Poledouris' Conan the Barbarian.

But film scores that aren't so instantly recognizable to me? No problem.

When I wrote Memories of Home, I had a particular film score I would load into my .mp3 player, and I was off and running. Part of it was the ritual of writing - when my ears started hearing a particular piece of music, my brain learned that that was the cue to start writing. Honestly, this almost ruined this music for me because when I hear it now, I immediately think about that novel's characters, setting, etc. It has made watching the movie from which it came a bit awkward.

I recently settled on a score for my current larger work-in-process, and I'm very happy about it on a few different levels.

1) I've never seen the music's movie.
2) I have no intention of seeing it (absolutely nothing about the movie - other than its score - looks appealing to me).
3) The composers - Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil - are the same composers behind the music I used when writing my previous novel, which means my brain has already started associating it with the familiar act of novel-ing.

I just double-clicked the first track in iTunes, so if you'll excuse me, I have some words to throw down.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trunked Memories

I made a decision that I think will impact my writing for the next few years at the very least, and I think I'm happy about it. It took me a little while to get to this point.

I'm trunking my novel.

A few years ago, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, and "won" by completing a 50,000-word-plus novel called Memories of Home. I had a lot of fun writing it, felt great when finishing it, and learned a lot through the entire process. I enjoyed the story enough to think I'd revisit it, expand it, beef up the word count, change the perspective (it was written in first-person, and I always viewed that as a cheat to make the 50,000-word goal easier to achieve; I prefer third-person in what I read), etc., etc., etc. I've poked at it over the years, re-outlined the novel, did a little more research, etc., etc., etc.

But I found myself spinning my wheels, focusing too much on some story that, in the end, is "just another story" to come out of my head. I mean, it's one thing to polish and rework a short story (I've got two short stories I'd still like to place somewhere some day), but this novel? It's time to let it go.

I'll always have the novel. And some day, when I have more free work time to go back and revisit Memories of Home, I may dust it off and see what I can do with it. But for now, I have other stories to tell; Memories of Home will always be there.