Writing Life: Swimming in It
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Ever since I realized (last week) that All Right has been somewhere in my head for over two years, I’ve been a little bit ashamed by how long it’s taken to produce a draft of the story. After all, 10,000 usable words in two years is not exactly a blistering pace.
I’m trying to do somethings about that: for one, I’m hoping to power through and push the draft to 50,000 words by the end of November. Don’t think of it as an official NaNoWriMo, but more of an unofficial, “you really need to buckle down and get thoughts on paper” sort of writing spring (hat-tip to Elizabeth Allen, who is doing the official competition)
All that to say, I’m trying to do everything I can to stay immersed in the world and characters of All Right. Here are two tactics I’ve used to keep myself stuck in the world of All Right:
I have two playlists that I use to engross myself in All Right. The first is a general mood playlist: there’s a lot of country ballads full of themes I want to emphasize in the novel. None of these are a slam-dunk, 100% match with the story, but the overall feel of the playlist is useful.
I don’t use this when I’m writing, per se, but it’s a good companion when I’m brainstorming.
My second playlist is much more focused: one of my secondary characters is a concert violinist. As soon as I’d nailed that down about my character, I went and found one particular violinist whose playing I was going to “borrow” for the novel. Hilary Hahn is a fantastic violinist who specializes in Bach, and her music is simply incredible to listen to. This is my go-to music when I’m drafting All Right: I find that classical, with all its complex mix of sound, is a really good tool for getting my brain going when I don’t feel like writing.
Again, there are no rules here. I listen to violin when I’m not even writing parts of the story with that character. I don’t really listen to my main “mood” playlist at all when drafting. The point is, collecting and gathering music forces you to think about your story in a different way. The question “What music fits with the tone of this story” is very different from “What do I want to write next?” Tackling the problem obliquely like this tends to help me get words on the page.
Again, I’m hardly the first writer who will tell you this, but pictures are a great way to feel a connection to your characters and help you in description. Sorting and re-sorting through the pictures will help you find ones that don’t fit, and that tells you more about your character. Why doesn’t this picture fit? Why does this one? Who is this person?
I have dozens of pictures for Jessica (one of my two main characters), and I’m working on gathering some for Jacob (it’s always difficult, with a first person novel, to distinguish the narrator from oneself!). Finding and sorting through these has been a big tool in nailing down her character, personality, and even dialogue.
Some of these are pretty simple (I think the character looks like this), while others are focused on a stylistic tone (this character wears converse). Still others are thematic (loneliness, isolation, off-balance). I have plenty more of these, and they’re a very useful tool when trying to come to grips with a difficult character.
So as I ramp up to November and crazy draft days, these are some of the things I’m using to keep writing, keep producing, and keep myself in the world of All Right.
Have you found success with music/photos as inspiration? What else do you use to stay connected to your story and your world?