Writing With Music: Yay Or Nay?

Today it’s time for me to address the age-old question: should you play music while writing or not?

First off, there is no should. Some people thrive on silence while they write, some require background noise, some want sensory overload while they attempt to churn out words. Personally, I fall into the latter category. If I don’t have a playlist with several songs that fit the mood and the theme of the story I’m writing, I feel lost and can’t add the required depth to the story.

However, when I have a really specific plot, it can be hard to find songs that work for me. I’ve only found one song that fits a certain plot of mine. The weirdest, and greatest, thing is when you’re just minding your own business, listening to some music, and suddenly THIS SONG FITS MY WIP PERFECTLY OH MY GOD.

One band is my go-to source for WIP-related songs. It’s the British band Ten, fairly unknown outside of a small circle of devoted fans (I have an eccentric taste in music). Ten is perfect for me since I love well crafted lyrics that avoid clichés, incredible melodies and hooks, heavy guitars and sexy voices. Once I had outlined an entire seven novel fantasy series (it’s about halfway done, before y’all ask). I had always skipped this one song on one of Ten’s albums and for some reason it came up and, for once, I didn’t skip. And no lie, that song fit the series to a tee. I mean, from the lyrics via the mood to the voice and instruments. It was as if it was specifically written for that series.

When things like that happen, it can give your motivation and inspiration a huge boost. Even now, when I hear that particular song, I immediately want to work on that particular WIP. It’s a strange sensation. And that makes me wonder how people write without music.

So, do you guys write without music? What is your reason?

And I leave you with one of my favorite songs from my favorite band:

It Ends This Day – Ten

What It’s Like Inside My Head, or The WIP Machine

Some of my writer friends call me the WIP Queen. At least, I’m assuming they mean WIP and not Whip. Because that would just be awkward. I swear I didn’t tell them– Anyway.

When I told my friend slash alpha reader Derek* about my intention to write a blog post about this subject, he said, and I quote: “That is a fascinating topic. I find your head amazeballs. Shaped like a giant inflated pumpkin balloon. Full of weird thoughts. Passions and desires. Snacks.”

Giant inflated pumpkin balloon aside, all of these things are true (and possibly deserving of their own blog posts at some point in the future). However, first and foremost, my head is filled with a WIP generator. While that might sound blissful to some, it’s a pain in the behind.

To wit, this is the process that usually occurs, while hiking, cooking, showering, snoozing, et cetera:

  1. A line pops into my head. Dialogue, or a first line of a first chapter, or a description, or maybe a faint idea of plot.
  2. Oh, that would make a cool short. But should I go route A, or route B?
  3. Dammit, I can’t choose. A divine sign that I should do both?
  4. In the span of an hour at the most, Route A and Route B both grow at a breakneck pace from short to novella to novel, adding characters and background and plot threads, until it’s a series of at least five books in the same universe with an ever expanding plot and character list.
  5. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This has led to a writing folder with 51 WIPs, at last count. Only 51, because I ignore the ideas that don’t make my writer boner go SPROINK immediately. And just about 14 of those 51 are shelved. For the others, I still get ideas, I still brainstorm, I still write. I find it hugely frustrating that I will never be able to finish all of them in my lifetime, and that the way my brain is wired means that I’ll come up with another 100 or so in the next decades that may never see the light of day.

To combat this, I’ve come up with a strategy. I focus on one WIP. That’s my main squeeze, my bb, my magnum opus. As long as I make my daily word count for that WIP, I’m allowed to play around with others. Which is necessary. The next WIP I’m going to focus on, when my current one TRUE COLORS is done (just three more chapters), is very lighthearted. I won’t be able to only write that one without also dabbling in some grimmer worlds. But that’s a topic for next time, darlings.

*Derek is not for sale. Mine.

Writing Versus Chronic Illness

Full disclosure: I have a chronic illness that causes me daily pain (yay) and tires me out easily (more yay). Latest diagnosis shows that it has to do with hypermobility in my joints. I also suffer from chronic migraines, which means I have anywhere from 10-20 severe migraines per month. Let that sink in. I’ve had them for 20+ years now, so I can manage around them, but they’re still a freakin’ PITA.

Because of this, I am too great a risk for employers. They feel I could explode in the workplace and that’s just bad manners. That’s why I started my own company copywriting, translating and editing about nine years ago. It’s going pretty well. Freelance work is uncertain, but I’m able to work from home and mostly set my own hours. Woke up with a migraine? No problem, I can take my meds, start work later and work until midnight. (Most of the time, although sometimes I have deadlines that just don’t allow any leeway.) Because of the uncertainty of the work, however, I have longer hours and work weeks than normal people. Alas, I can’t remember the last weekend I had off.

I don’t mind. It’s better than doing nothing, and I do fine.

When it comes to writing, that’s when it gets tricky. Like, super tricky.

After a long, 14 hour work day, everything hurts, I’m exhausted and I sit at my laptop and tear out my hair, going, “Bluuuuuh. Writing is soooo stupid. Uuuuugh.”

When I leave that phase in the rearview mirror and enter a more reasonable stage (for certain values of reasonable), I think, “I worked all freakin’ day. I’m in pain and I want to go to bed. I’m allowed a break. I don’t have to write. It’s a hobby, not a job.”

That’s where I go veering off the tracks. See, it IS a hobby, not a job. I worked all day, my body is killing me, maybe my head feels like a goddamn supernova on crack, so I deserve some time for myself, some time to spend on my hobby. Which is, you guessed it: writing.

When I don’t write for a while, I get cranky. I get depressed and restless. It’s interesting how easily I (and maybe some of you) dismiss that when it’s time to put pen to paper or keys to screen and actually do it. No time, too tired, too hurty, too much self-pity, too sad, too ugh.

When you’re chronically ill, it’s easy to feel like life owes you — or at least should ease up on those ridiculous demands — because you’ve been dealt a relatively shitty hand. It doesn’t. The only one who can make your life better is you (and possibly Chris Evans), and writing is good for you. So why not push through that pain and exhaustion and do it? It gives you an outlet, it keeps your mind busy and it’s just plain fun.

I promise, it does get easier the more you do it!

The 7-7-7 Meme!

The amazing Regan Summers tagged me for this meme. The rules are: Go to page 7, 70, or 170 of a current work in progress or recently published work and chose either the first complete paragraph or 7 lines of dialogue to share.

I chose the novella I’m writing right now, working title WING AND A PRAYER. Zach and Anna have just met.

“Then why are you here?”

“Pastor John is in the hospital.” He smirked. “We’ve been over this. Not three minutes ago.”

“Funny.” She faced him and grabbed a blue and white cupcake from the basket. She bit off a small bite with straight, small white teeth and waited until she’d swallowed it. Her tongue snaked out to lick her full lips. “I meant, why have you followed me out onto the lawn?”

Transfixed, Zach needed a moment to understand the question. He shifted, caught in that dangerous territory between half-hard and fully erect. Shit, that would be embarrassing. They would never let him live it down. “You work with the children,” Zach improvised. “Regular contact between us is important. Until Pastor John returns.”

Anna nodded, an amused twist to her mouth. “I give that excuse a five.”

“Out of five stars?” Zach arched an eyebrow. A twinkle danced in her pretty blue eyes. Electricity sparked between them. He became aware that he was holding his breath.

She laughed, throaty but not affected or mannered. “A scale of one to ten.”

So, there you have it. Try not to faint. Now, the rules say I gotta tag seven more people. I pick… Chelsea Mueller, Jilly Glass, Joshua Roots, PJ Perryman, Sadie Dane, Sara Peal and AC Masterson.  Have at it!

Tagged by the wonderful and hilarious Patti for the WIP Blog Hop. I am honored!

Here are the rules:

Give credit to the person/blog that tagged you.

Post the rules for this hop.

Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog.

Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

1. What is the working title of your book?

The Saga of EvilPants. I’ve been figuring out the real title and it’s going to be something like Yield to the Thorns.

2. What genre does the book fall under?

Historical ‘romance’, erotica

3. Which actors would you choose to play your characters for the movie rendition?

I really don’t know. Their image is so vivid in my mind that I can’t find actors to suit them perfectly.

However, lately I like Henry Cavill for Lord EvilPants, though he is not manly and evil enough (sorry Henry) and a bit too young:

Image

For Emma, I kind of like Jane Levy, because she’s pretty and witty:

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And I’m nowhere near figuring out any of the supporting roles 🙂

4. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In England in the 1600s, a young woman is forced into a marriage with a vengeful nobleman and must submit to his depraved desires. (Shenanigans do ensue.)

5. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to get an agent. Self-publishing is not completely out of the question, but I would like EvilPants to be all official ‘n stuff.

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year. There used to be months that I didn’t have time to write because of work and other obligations, so I was fairly proud of this achievement. Now I’ve found a way to keep up the wordcount on a daily basis, so yay.

7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I haven’t the slightest. I haven’t read much in this genre. My preferred genre is fantasy, but this just rollllled on out.

8. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My love for all things history, but especially my adoration for evil men and innocent maidens. Like Joey from Friends used to say (about the Xerox girl butt naked and a big tub of jam): “Put your hands together.”

9. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Strong, layered characters and an emotional plot. Also, all the poarn. All of it.

Question #10

Tag, you’re it!

These are my ‘tags’ (will be updated with blog links):

@kitiandra

@justbishop

@jmc_writing

@cobramisfit

@jmsloderbeck

A snake in the grass…

My secondary love interest in the Saga of EvilPants is turning out to be quite the dastardly bastard.

Initially, he was going to be a soft-hearted, smitten kitten. Right now, he’s attempting to force himself on my FMC while tossing off bon mots about her virtue, before she conks him about the head with his own weapon.

What is this need I have to make everything darker than it has to be? Is it just so I can lean back, sigh and think, “Well, at least I haven’t been imprisoned by a psycho killer who turns out to be my father!”? (Note: this does not actually happen in my WIPs. No need to thank me.)

I don’t know. What I do know is that I plain and simple like writing dark stuff. I’m a pretty cheerful type, so my mom is in for a hilarious surprise if she ever reads one of my books (also, because of the poarn). I like watching my characters fight against impossible odds and lose. Or ‘win’, where a win means surviving, even though everything else has been taken away from them. That’s not to say that every WIP I have is doom and gloom, but advance warning to anyone who will read my stuff at some point: there’s a fair bit of misery in most.

Anyway. Back to Sir M and his wily deception. I’ve struggled with this character more than I did with my FMC and MMC. I wondered what would make the story stronger. A nice, upstanding sort who truly and genuinely loved my heroine, or someone with a hidden agenda? To tell you the truth, I’m still not sure. A nice, upstanding fellow would provide a nice counterweight to Lord EvilPants himself for a while. But the character itself would be less interesting. On the other hand, having two bad guys in the story is intriguing on another level. Lord EvilPants starts out wearing the Pants of Evil with pride, but gradually softens. Sir M starts out wearing the White Pants of Virtue, but gradually his true motives are revealed.

So I could go either way, but I chose the road that would add the most interest along the way. That’s why Emma is currently fighting off a bloke twice her size. You’re welcome, Emma.

My process, let me show you it.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about their writing process. I… don’t really have one. Recently, I did outline my three main WIPs and distilled a process from that.

So, without further ado: my easy seven step guide to writing a successful* paranormal romance.

* = success rate not yet tested.

First, you create a timeline. And no, I have no idea why it’s not neatly in the middle of the paper. It was when I drew it. You’ll see.

Second, you add the story arc. The quest, if you will.

Then, you add the relationship progress throughout the novel.

Fourth, you add vague plot details, to be filled in later.

But you’re not done yet. You need conflict. Conflict, obviously, needs a red pen.

I said seven steps, didn’t I? For the sixth step, you add deaths. No paranormal romance is complete without heart-wrenching deaths.

Finally, and most importantly, you add dirty poarn in crucial places. Because the best poarn is dirty contains character development.

See? Easy peasy. I know, it’s a wonder I’m not published yet. No need to thank me, I’m doing this out of kindness.