Monthly Archives: August 2012

Convention bound

My convention schedule feels packed this year. First up is Gen Con, this weekend. It’s a gaming con, and I’m not a gamer (I want to be, in a world where I have an extra three days every week), but they run a set of writing panels that was a lot of fun last year. Well, of course the fun part was hanging out with the other writers. I’m looking forward to seeing folks again.

Then there’s Worldcon, which is in Chicago so I felt obliged. I signed up for the writer’s workshop kind of randomly, and got the other two people’s stories to crit yesterday. That will be fun. Honestly, it’s just nice to have something definite on my schedule so I know I will have at least one hour where people will have to talk to me. And where I can’t just hide in a corner and listen. (I like cons, but they’re full of people.) Plus I get to room with people I don’t see very often, and it seems like everyone I know is going. I’m sure we’ll bump into each other in the halls. It’s a small con, right?

Then, after a long relaxing con-free break, World Fantasy. Conveniently located in my in-laws’ town, so it’ll be combined with a family vacation (though I will have to work for part of it, but that’s better than not going). I went to World Fantasy when it was in Madison, and all I remember is that I went to a bunch of readings rather than panels. Otherwise it blurs with my memories of Wiscon. I will be looking forward to it once the first two cons are out of the way. Up til now I’ve done very little thinking about it.

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Theme Music Part 3

Count me in as someone who almost always listens to music while writing.  Unless I’m proofing, in which case I have to have silence.  Go figure.  But yeah, sometimes it’s a specific set of songs for a certain book or just whatever band I happen to be obsessed with at the time I’m working on a project.  The Unbroken Chain series, specifically the combat scenes, were almost all written to the “Scorponok” track of the Transformers movie soundtrack.  It works great for chain fighting, at least in my head.  Ilvani’s scenes in The Darker Road were written to Sia because I love her voice.  There’s a quality in it that reminds me of Ilvani’s character.

For general background music, I love movie soundtracks and music sites like X-ray Dog Music.  X-ray Dog does instrumentals for trailers for movies like Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and tv series like Game of Thrones.  Basically anytime you need a soaring heroic theme or a pulse-pounding action sequence, you can find what you’re looking for.  I love clicking around and listening to their samplers.

I suspect that whatever project I happen to be working on this fall will be written to the new Mumford & Sons album because I cannot wait to get my hot little hands on that music.  🙂

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Theme Music

Following up on Kelly’s post from yesterday.

First off, let me point out that you’re doing it wrong. You have to listen to music when writing. How else are you going to block out the people chatting in the coffee shop around you, the old guy hacking up a lung in the library, or the kids as they tear apart the house behind you?

Or maybe those are just my problems.

Anyway, I always listen to music when I write. Even in those rare moments when I’m at home alone. I’m used to it now, and it feels strange to write without it. I don’t do the soundtrack thing though– too much work. I just have my ipod loaded up with a big mix of songs and listen to that. Everything from Florence + The Machine to MC Frontalot, Rob Zombie to Suzanne Vega.

I do, however, think of theme songs for my books. You know, the music they’ll play over the credits when it gets made into a blockbuster.

Here’s my current theme songs–

Chosen Wings– Learning to Fly by Pink Floyd

Little Dutch Girl– Bring Me to Life by Evanescence

All the Girls of Chicago– Zombie by The Cranberries

What are your themes? Because you guys do this too, right? Right?

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Set the scene to music

You know what I wish I did? Make soundtracks for my books. Lots of folks I know make ’em–they fire up the same playlist every time they write or have certain songs they listen to while writing a particular POV character, that sort of thing. They use the music as sort of a muse to help them imagine and shape their stories. It’s part of their process.

And I just don’t. It’s one of those ideas that I think is so cool but I just never seem to get around to doing it.

Do I listen to music when I write? Sure. Most of the time I don’t need the background noise, but if I’m having a rough session and can’t get out of my own way long enough to get a meaningful amount of words on the page, putting on some tunes helps. While I don’t use the music to shape a narrative or to help me find a character’s voice, I find it occupies my brain enough to allow the words to flow. For the most part I stick with movie soundtracks, especially instrumental-heavy ones, since music with words distracts me. Sometimes when I’m writing an action scene I’ll throw on The Last Samurai soundtrack. Every once in a while the Duplicity soundtrack finds its way into the mix, as does The Social Network and Batman Begins.

But mostly, I write to silence. Or some sort of sports game playing in the other room.

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Shorts vs Novels

I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time on short stories the past couple years. I just counted, and I’ve worked on twelve this year (some of which were begun before then, and some of which are going nowhere). Sometimes I wish I’d started writing with short stories instead of novels. The learning curve feels faster, since I can actually finish a piece quickly and work on things without getting mired in the plot. I can experiment with different genres, characters, and settings more frequently. I don’t even mind revising them (much), unlike novels.

(Of course I couldn’t have started with stories, because back then I read mostly novels, didn’t like short stories much, and all my ideas were for novels. So starting with short stories would have meant forcing myself to write boring things that I’m sure would have been met with “This sounds like chapter one of a novel”.)

The best thing about short stories? They’re a nice break from the long slog through a novel.


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The Naming Game

I don’t mind admitting that as a writer I hate coming up with names.  Hate it.  Hate.

Almost as much as I hate coming up with titles, but that’s a whole other blog post.

It’s been particularly hard figuring out how I want to handle names in my YA steampunk book.  There were several I knew I wanted to use, but I came up with others at random in the rough draft, and someday soon I’ll have to finalize which ones I want to keep and which ones I need to change.

I’m dealing with a secondary world with humans and fantasy races but heavily influenced by our world and its technology and cultures, so I would like to use a combination of fantasy names and common real world names, which you would think would make things easier because it sounds like the sky’s the limit, right?  Except that I want a good balance and some kind of pattern that makes sense in the context of the world.

I’m also interested in names that associate with characters’ professions.  One of my secondary characters, Gee, is a shortened form of green-eye, which is his nickname and a reflection not just of the character’s eye color but his role on the railroad.  “Green eye” is railroad slang indicating the way is clear.  Probably no one would ever notice that detail, but it delights me no end.  Okay, maybe I like playing the naming game a little bit.  Except it also means I have to give in to the cliché of my male hero having piercing green eyes.  Hmm…

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Boosting the Signal

Plug post!

A story of mine is up right now at the Intergalactic Medicine Show. It’s called Riding the Signal, and I like the editor’s blurb about it so much I’m just going to shamelessly rip it off here–

When a secret group of high-tech mercenaries get attacked with a variant of their own long-distance animal-robot devices, their only chance of survival rides on two things they’ve never had to do before: work together, and get their own hands dirty.

I wrote this one a while ago, and have been tinkering with it since, mostly reworking the ending and tightening it up. One of the last passes was through this group, so thanks for the crits, guys.

Now I can stop worrying about trying to sell this one, and can start obsessing over its reviews.


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There’s no one way to do this thing, yo.

As evidenced by Elizabeth’s last post, she and I have processes on the opposite ends of the spectrum. She is quite linear in her thinking; I’m, well, not as much. She likes structure and order and (for the love of God) outlines. I’ve tried outlining; I can make one without a problem, but using it is something else entirely. Elizabeth uses Scrivner and all its many tools to help keep details straight. My method of organization is twenty post-it notes stuck inside a notebook filled with notes. We’ve laughed about our differences a lot over the past few years.

So who’s right?

Both. Or neither. Take your pick.

Here’s the thing. The creative process is different for everyone. Some outline the heck out of a novel and make detailed character sheets before ever typing “Chapter One.” Some say, “huh. I have this idea. Let’s see what happens when I write it down,” and off they go. Some do a combination of the two. Some write 1K a day every day without fail; others do binge-writing weekends. Some make a dozen drafts; others do two or three. It doesn’t matter. You know what does? Writing. Finishing what you write. Submitting what you’ve written. Starting over. The best advice I could give any writer is this: figure out what your process is, and once you’ve found it, respect it. Plan for it, work with it, adjust for it. Don’t listen to anyone else. Respect your process.

Well, okay. Maybe there is one way to write: the way that lets you finish.



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