Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Monday

“A man doesn’t get driven to write a book unless there’s a sense of loss, unless there’s something missing. I used everything I had to lessen that gap, to jump across from who I was to who I wanted to be. I wanted to get it on paper because I knew I’d never feel that way again.”
~Ryan Adams

Dark confession time: I’ve killed a man and stuffed his body—wait, that’s in a book, not real life. Seriously, I am a terrible procrastinator. I go through spurts where I am super-productive, throwing all of my spare time and energy into writing, editing, and generally being creative. Then, as the ink dries and the paper settle, I slack off and sometimes spend a few days where I get nothing of productive value done.

I have a large series that I work on. It’s like having a hot rod in the garage: I go outside in intervals and tinker around with it, changing the upholstery, installing a new radio station, condense the characters (sorry, mixed the metaphor a bit). So when I say I don’t work on anything, I really mean I don’t work on current projects, and go out into the garage and tinker around on my hot rod (by the way, if I DID have a garage, or a hot rod, it would be a two car, and a 1969 Camero SS. I’m just saying.). Which is what I have done the past few days, instead of working on editing, I have been working on the Camero (hitherto how I shall refer to my book series). I love editing, and I still love the book I am editing, but it’s a very different process editing than it is writing, and I have felt antsy, with too much pent up creative energy.

Dark confession time again: I am obsessed with writing. If I needed alcohol, like I need to write, I would be an alcoholic. It’s sorta pathetic. If I don’t write or do something creative at least every couple of days, I get anxious. I pace around the house, bored with myself, listless, unsure of what to do. Nothing sounds fun. I think I have been lapsing into doing something creative while I am supposed to be editing because of this obsession.

Since this is the first time I have edited something novel length, I am still learning what works best for me. This book needs more than a grammar sweep and liposuction, too. I need to clarify character motivations, delineate one character from the other better, and so on, so this is an extensive editing job. I originally thought to put aside all future book projects so I could concentrate on editing, but now I am not so sure. I think I shall schedule some creative writing time along with my editing time, and see if that helps. I am not going to start writing a new book, but instead work on the prewriting stuff I do before I actually sit down to write the book. We’ll see what happens. Writing is constantly a learning process, I am still trying to figure out what the best, most efficient way to get the “job” done.

Why am I rambling on and on about this you ask? Because I have deemed Mondays to be Progress Report day. It will keep me honest, if I let everyone know my progress (or lack thereof). I will have an entire week to slack off, and cram it all in on Sunday, so I can come back on Monday crowing: “Yes, my progress this week was fabulous, I just edited the entire book. And yes, as a matter of fact, I am brilliant, thank you for asking.” Or not.

I will also post some writing prompts, so you too can get your rears in gear! Yaaay! Don’t you just love being productive?

So, progress: I have edited my butt off this morning, and plan to get some more pages done before taking a break and working on my current WIP. Which means I should probably decide which book I will work on next. *scratches head* I have three ideas that are really strongly developed, enough that with a week or two of prewriting, I could start the first draft. Each book is in various stages of development, but they could all be just as viable. So I am not sure which one I am going to pick. What? Pick the one I am the most excited about you say? Excellent advice! I am glad I have such intelligent readers! Problem is, I love all three ideas, and vacillate between which idea excites me the most. Kinda a good problem to have, but…there you have it. There’s a zombie book, a mermaid book, and a…something else. It has a serial killer, Chinese Triads, and telepathy.

Mermaid book: probably the most developed of the three, I worked on most of this for a writing class I took. I still have some Worldbuilding things I need to work on though.
Serial killer book: this is the next most developed. I almost did this one for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month, more about that later), so I have a bunch of stuff already developed.
Zombie book: this is the least developed, but I have 30 pages of a rough draft already. It started out as a dream. I sat down to get the gist of things on paper, and thirty pages later… The bonus with this one is the main character’s voice just started talking to me, and it’s really fun, kind of a parody on the zombie tropes.

I really like the characters and plot for all of the above stories, so I am going to have to really think about which one I want to focus on.

I also wanted to mention the quote at the beginning of this post. I really feel like even if you aren’t writing from a sense of loss, that you still are trying to bridge a gap. Whether you’re writing because you love the character, or you have something to say, or you have a question that you are testing, I believe every writer is trying to bridge a gap between their idea and the reality of what comes out. And it’s also like a time capsule. As I edit, I can see who I was then, and who I am now. I bring the things I have learned since writing my book to the process of editing, and in a ways, merge the two people.

Now for the writing prompt, but first a quick explanation: I am a huge fan of music. I love music, I write to music, I make a separate playlist for each book I write. It helps me set the mood and tone of what I am trying to write. It’s just how I roll. You might like it to be quiet; I can respect that. Sometimes I use music to just drown out the rest of the sounds so I can concentrate on telling the story, not the sounds of the heat kicking on, or the neighborhood kids yelling outside.

In addition to this, I also find music to be very inspirational. I hear a song, and feel a certain emotion attached to it, and think about the lyrics. This method of inspiration I am about to tell you about happened by accident. I was listening to a song, and started wondering what would have happened to someone to make them sing a song about this (Karma, by Kamelot, in case you’re wondering). What events lead the person to where they were now? What would happen after the song was over? How would it resolve itself? And lo, a story was born. From there, I started getting ideas from a lot of other songs, and not even songs that are obviously about something, like heartbreak, or a relationship, or what have you.

So my suggestion is for you to pick a song that you really, really love, a song that has always made you swell with emotion, and try to figure out what would have happened to make someone write a song about it. And what happens next. If music isn’t your thing, you could always do the same thing with a poem. I am not talking about plagiarizing the song or poem, just think about what would make someone need to express themselves in that way. And you if really want something different, pick a difficult poem or song. E.e. cummings comes to mind, or an instrumental song.

I will go into greater detail on my song inspiration process later, but here’s a quick example (I picked a more straightforward song for starters, but I actually prefer the not-so-straightforward songs. Somehow, having the singer spell it out for you that his woman cheated on him, so he’s sad, kills some of the wondering of what happened to make them feel that way):

…And twenty minutes later, I have scourged my archives for a song that I would consider somewhat straight forward, but flexible enough to allow some interpretation, and come up with nothing.

Fyi, the songs that I am discarding as too simplistic for my purposes (not that you couldn’t use them, but it’s a little harder to speculate when the songs are straightforward) are songs like: Take My Hand by Dido, Hanging By A Moment by Lifehouse, most love songs, a lot of country songs, etc.
Okay, here’s a good one, an oldie but a goodie:

In the Air Tonight, by Phil Collins
(If you have never heard this song before I HIGHLY suggest you Youtube it. Not only are the lyrics amazing, the musical accompaniment is very atmospheric)

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord.
And I’ve been waiting for this moment, for all my life, oh lord.
Can you feel it, coming in the air tonight?

Well, if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand.
I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am.
But I was there when I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes.
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been, it’s all been a pack of lies.

…there are more lyrics, but you get the gist. The immediate question my mind jumps to is this: what is “it?”

(har har, yes, I shall refrain Stephen King references…for the time being)

The speaker keeps singing about “it”, that he can feel “it” coming in the air tonight, that he’s been waiting for all his life for this one moment? Was is it? Justice? Revenge? Death? Redemption?

And hello? Did you miss the part where he said he would not save the man if he saw him drowning? Yikes! That’s harsh. What could someone do to another person that would make them so angry and bitter with them, that they would just sit there and watch them drown? Murder a family member? Maybe the speaker knows the guy is a terrible person, but has no hard evidence, so he’s stalking him.

And if the “it” is connected to the drowning man, why would the speaker wait his entire life to see this person fall? What could the speaker have witnessed that was so horrible, he would just watch him drown, yet not do anything? What did the speaker do to stop this incident? Nothing, and he feels guilty? Why didn’t he do anything if this is the case? Or the speaker tried to stop this incident, and was crippled for his trouble? Why doesn’t this guy remember him?

And so on…as you can see, my imagination always jumps to the grisly macabre, but yours doesn’t have to. You could start thinking about school children, and them arguing over a girl, and you wind up with a tale about two school friends fighting over a girl, with a very different twist than most the love triangle books out there because you’re thinking about it from a totally different angle.

By constant asking open ended questions, by wondering what would have gotten this person into the emotional state he’s in to sing such a song, you can come up with all sorts of different ideas. You could do the same thing for the same song, and even come up with different ideas. The beauty of this is it’s vague enough that you can fill in the blanks yourself, and make you own leaps in logic and storytelling. You can choose to use as much of the song lyrics in this process as you want. As you can see, I could write a whole story based off of the first stanza and the chorus alone, a gripping story about an ancient rivalry between two men, one with a dark past and the other with a heavy grudge… But if you were stumped you could always look to the rest of the song for further inspiration. Or combine two songs together. Or use one song for one character, and one song for another character. I like to give my main characters theme songs with I can, to encapsulate how they feel and their general outlook in life.

So there you have it. It’s not the only way I get ideas, but it’s my most reliable. Whenever I am stumped or need something “more” to add to an idea I have, I pick out a few songs and brainstorm using the songs in regards to the idea I already have.

Random tangent: I think the reason why my posts have been so long, despite my intentions to “keep is short and sweet”, is because I am not doing anything really creative at the moment. My brain is like, “Yes, yes, we get to express ourselves! Ramble until everyone in a 100 mile radius falls asleep!”

So that concludes this Monday’s progress report and writing prompt. I hope you find new and exciting ideas!

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