Tag Archives: writing tips

Getting Ready for a New Adventure with an Old Friend

Like I mentioned before, after almost 8 years of silence, I’ve gone back to the one form of writing which really was my gateway into the creative world, playwriting!! I spent my senior year of high school in a playwriting course and I absolutely adored it!! I expected to enter into college, major in english or communications and spend my professional career as a playwright. Unfortunately things didn’t turn out exactly as I would have wished.
As I was driving to school for my last day of senior year I was t-boned. I suffered numerous injuries, most devastatingly a traumatic brain injury. All of my dreams for my future were shattered. I was shattered. Eventually I got back into writing but I never got back to playwriting. I think the time is right. 

Getting back into playwriting aka my first love!!

Right now I am writing a sort of experimental theatre piece. It’s difficult to explain, but I want to show the type of cognitive disconnect between the mind and body a person with TBI experiences. Right now i have it set up that there are two characters which represent one person. One of the characters is the patient who suffered the tbi, and the other is their inner self. For example during one moment the patient gets a shot but doesn’t have the mental capacity to voice their reaction, the other character acts as a characterization of the patient’s reactions to their experiences. 

In a sense this play will do two things, it offers me a way to write plays again, and it also gives me a way to write about my own experiences with brain injuries. I’ve tried to write about my injury before, but it was just too emotional for me. I was just too close to that story so I couldn’t write it without making it maudlin or over the top. By writing it this way it gives me a way to write my story subjectively. 

What I’m writing: Right now I’m drafting a possible plotline of my play and some character profiles. I’m writing diary entries for each of my characters so I have a more grounded idea of their mental states. I’m also sketching some ideas for the set so I have at least a vague idea of the world my characters live in.
What I’m reading: One of the things I wanted read this year was the complete Sherlock Holmes and I just finished Hound of the Baskervilles. I have to get through a few of the short stories and I will be finished!! Oh and I’m about halfway done with A Dance with Dragons, the 5th Game of Thrones book. After I’ve finished that I’m planning on reading The Godfather by Mario Puzo. 

Exercise of the Day: The Scar

A lot of people in the world have scars. I have a circular scar on my hand from when I burned myself baking a pie. Take one of your scars  and create a character who has the same scar, but create a new story for how the character got that scar. For example I created a character who had a scar on his hand just like my own, but they got theirs from a dog bite and not from baking a pie.  Did their scar change them? Did the scar alter their appearance or personality? 

Have fun with this and I will see you later!!!

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What are you reading/writing?

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted and, dang it’s good to be back!!! So what are you all writing and reading?

What are you writing?

I’ve started out the year by going through my yearly review. For the past month I’ve been going over all of my old notebooks full of old story ideas I had massed through the years. I gave the old idea tree a shake, and I found a few stories and outlines from years ago that I’d completely forgotten about. There was one story about a young girl who’s trying to solve a mystery in a Gothic mansion sometime in the 1800’s. The story as I had written it in college was a bit of a shambles so I think I might try to rewrite it as a play. I got started with creative writing during a playwriting course in high school, so I think it might be nice to get back to my roots. 

Getting back to my playwriting roots!! 🙂

What are you reading?

For the past few weeks I’ve been working through my ever expanding  to-read list. I’ve read the first 8 books in the Phryne Fisher murder mysteries series by Kerry Greenwood, Girl on the Train, and I’ve just started on Philip K Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle’. I’ve also started on my 2017 Reading Resolution List. Every year I give myself a challenge to read certain important books which I think I might have read but never actually have. This year I intend to read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, and Team of Rivals. I’ve become more interested in writing mystery stories so this year I decided to read the stories which laid the foundations for the genre. The Sherlock stories introduced a lot of the principles of forensic investigation (some of which are still in use today) and The Moonstone has been cited as the very first detective story ever written. 

Thanks for reading and commenting!!! I really appreciateI’ll see you soon!!!

Exercise of the day- Clearing the Cobwebs

We all get into ruts at times. Our minds start feeling sluggish and it seems that the world is speeding past without us. What does your character feel or think when they get into that mindset? What situations made them feel that way? What would they do to get their minds back into fighting form? Write a journal entry for your character which answers these questions.

Have fun with this!! 

 

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3 Changes that Made my 2015 Nano more Successful than Ever!!

Nanowrimo 2015 has officially come to a close!!! Well I didn’t quite hit the mark. I got to 30,000 words, which isn’t quite as much as I wanted to write, but it’s way better than I have ever done before.

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Reading = Worth the stuggle

Change #1– Stop Editing! All I did differently was to write without a censor. In previous years I would write a bit then go back over what I had done to make sure it made sense. This year I looked at Nanowrimo in a new way. I viewed it like a very long rough draft. When I was writing research papers in college I would just use the rough draft I wouldn’t spend much time editing, I’d just try to throw some ideas into pile to try and see what my thesis could be.  So this time I tried shut the editing section of my mind off while I was writing. Now that I really feel like I have a grip on the form and shape of my story I am going to put the editorial phase of my story on hold until the new year. I’m using the next few weeks to rest my brain, get some reading done, and also get ready for Christmas.

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Sure it's good to clean up your writing, but hold off on it until you've actually written something. Write first, edit last.

Change #2– Sleep More- I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but sleep is one of a writer’s best friends. Well it would seem I needed a dose of my own medicine. In recent months with working two jobs I had let my sleep schedule get really messed up and I was trying to juggle everything on just a few hours of sleep. During that time I was also trying to work on my writing, but for some reason I wasn’t having any luck at developing ideas. Then one day I was going back over something I had written in a notebook a few years before. There in big red letters were the words “If you don’t sleep your brain does not work properly”. There it was!!! I wasn’t sleeping so of course I couldn’t think straight!!! I’ve told so many people that in the past, but I never thought I’d be the one who needed to be told that!! So now I make sure that I am in bed by 11PM at the very latest and I try to get a solid and consistent 8 hours a night.

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I felt such a dope!!! I've been telling people for year's how important sleep is to the writing process!!! A more consistent sleep schedule made all the difference!!

Change #3– Diary Entries- Before I had ahh thought of what my story was I started out with a list of my characters with some of their personality quirks. With that list as my starting point I wrote a short diary entry from each of the characters’ perspectives. It really gave me a fun way to envision who the characters are, how they think, and what they sound like.

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Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Just a few little changes to my thought process and writing techniques led me to greater success than I have ever achieved before. How did you all do? What did you do to relieve stress?

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Pet
For this exercise you are going to think of one of your favorite characters and imagine their pet. What type of pet do they keep? What do they name it? Does the pet’s personality reflect their owner?

I’ll see you around!!!

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Another Nano, Another Year!

Well another November has come and writers all throughout the world have joined together to attempt the seemingly impossible, to write a novel in a month. I personally have tried a few times before to complete a nano but found the process to be far too chaotic and stressful to work with my writing style.

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However, I never like to give up on anything without giving it my all so I’m going to give it another chance. This time I think I have acquired enough techniques to cope with the stress that nano had always placed upon me. I have a vague plot I’ve been developing in recent months which I’d like to use as the basis for my nano so the only thing I need now is time. That’s the real struggle isn’t it? I truly wish that the person who had originally thought of the idea of nanowrimo has selected another month.

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Prepare for battle!!!!

November and December are like my own personal Battle of Badon Hill except instead of a field of warring Britons and Anglo Saxons I will spend that time drowning in a faceless mass of holiday shoppers.

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They're heeeeeeeeere...

I hope that I have the fortitude and the strength to give my nano everything I have without collapsing. I am going to give myself a bit of leeway when it comes to the week of Black Friday though. I am planning to skip any writing on that week so I can rest up. I am already scheduled to work nearly 20 hours on Thursday and Friday combined so I am pushing the last week of my nano until the first week in December. That way I can get my writing in, but also avoid a complete mental collapse.

What do you do during nano to help you handle stress? It can be a rigorous process so we all need to find ways to cope with the mental strain. I think this time around I need to create a greater support system for myself. I am going to spend more time talking to my writer friends who are also attempting nanos so that we can all vent our frustrations and perhaps even help each other with idea generation. I have to get back to work but I’ll be around later with status updates, etc. So long!!!

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Exercise of the Day: The Debate
For this exercise you need to select two characters who are enemies and imagine that they are both running for president. Write a statement for both candidate explaining their respective stances. You will need to think of what they believe, why they believe it, and also what they would say to convince voters to join their cause.

So long for now!!!

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Starting Again: This week’s work in progress

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So in the past week I made the decision to start working on writing a memoir. When I was younger I was involved in a really bad car accident which changed my entire life so my memoir will chronicle my injuries from the moment I woke up in the hospital, my recovery, and my life after.

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It's scary to start a new journey, but to grow as a writer I must face what frightens me.

It’s going to be a tough journey but even though I’ve just started I’ve been opened up to a new level of introspection. I’ve told my story to people before but I’ve never written about it before because it was too real. I guess it made me feel too vulnerable to open myself that much. I’m coming up on the 9 year anniversary of my accident so I just feel like now is the time for me to tell my story.

Ok so that’s what I’m working on, how about you all? What is rolling around inside your heads?

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Exercise of the Day: the atmosphere
For this exercise I want you to describe a place. I really want you to get in touch with your senses and to go into how the air smells, what is the light quality in the room?, who else is there?, if there are other people how are they dressed?, what are the decorations? Write a deep description of this place and then read over what you have written. Can you see picture the place you’ve described?

So long!!

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Writing Update and Plot Issues: My Problems Wordiness and Vocabulary

AT LAST I HAVE RETURNED TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Forgive me if I seem a bit overdramatic, but I feel like I have just come out of a three month long hibernation. After endless bouts of power outages, snow shovels and sub-zero temperatures I am ecstatic to say that SPRING IS HERE!!!!!!! *applause and fireworks*

WINTER IS OVER!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

WINTER IS OVER!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

When I was at college during my freshman year I got stuck for ideas when I was working on an essay and I gave myself five or ten minutes to work on a freewriting prompt which was completely unrelated to my essay. When my time was up after the first time I had about three pages of a story started, Through all of my years at college and the time after whenever I would find myself mentally stuck I go back to my old standby and add to it. This one writing prompt, which by this point feels like an old friend, has been slowly growing on my computer for 8 years. A few months ago I realized that my prompt was so long that it could be the starting block for a novel. So I’ve spent the past few months in editing, reworking, and tinkering around with it. It’s not finished yet, but the editing process gave me ample opportunity to exercise my brain during the winter freeze.

The writing prompt 8 years in the making!!! :)

The writing prompt 8 years in the making!!! 🙂

One of the problems I have found in my own writing is that I tend to use more, or in some instances more complicated, words than I need. For me half of my editing time consists either of cutting down words or going to my trusty thesaurus and trying to find simpler versions of certain words. As I mentioned in a previous post in the past reading was something I never wanted to do because it made me feel stupid. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen were really the first books I read that got me excited about reading. Because the beginning of my life as a bookworm started with those books I have always been drawn to books of that nature and I think that might have had an influence on my writing style. When I first starting writing some of my friends thought my style was overly wordy, pretentious and over the top and they were right.

The man in this picture= The sound of my writing style when I first started.

The man in this picture= The sound of my writing style when I first started.

The simple truth is that if you use too many words your reader may have the urge to yell ‘just get to the point already!!!’. On the other hand if you use words which are too flowery your readers will think that you are a conceited snob. The rules that I have made for myself are to make sure that I never use more words than I need to get my point across, and also to keep my vocabulary restricted that that it’s appropriate to the story and my characters.

Well I hope this will be the first of many more posts to come for this year!!! So long Winter!!!!!!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Sinking Ship

Create a story that begins on a sinking ship. Each of your characters is allowed to save only one of their possessions. Write about the item they choose to save and also what they are willing to do to protect their treasured item. Is it something sentimental like a photo album or something like an iPod? What goes through their head when they are trying to select which item to take with them?

Have fun and I will see you soon!!!!!

 

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Is it true that those who can’t speak, write?

We’ve all heard the expression “those who can’t do, teach”. That got me thinking about writers, and more specifically about why we write. I want to open this post by asking if any of my fellow writers out there have issues with speaking?

All through my childhood I had a slight lisp, a tendency to stammer when nervous, and a problem with diction because of an injury to my tongue. Most of the time I avoided speaking because I found that I was never able to communicate my ideas successfully. I was also one of those people who could never think of something to say. I never liked getting involved in debates because I wouldn’t be able to think of an appropriate comeback until days later, and by that point it was useless. Writing offered me a method of communication which wasn’t dependent on my speaking ability, so I think that was one of the things that first appealed to me.

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The stresses of speaking

How about you? Do you have any speech problems? If so, do you think that it was one of the things that first got you interested in writing? Do you think that having a problem with speaking can help writers?

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Exercise of the Day: Freewrite
Write for 5 to 10 minutes without editing using this as your starting point.
“Some say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but it doesn’t. Absence makes the heart grow numb.”

To make things more interesting, after you’ve done your freewrite pass on what you’ve written to someone else and have them continue the story. This is another version of a game we used to play in my creative writing class called “writer’s tennis”. Have fun!! I will see you around!!

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10 Reading/Writing Resolutions to Kick-start 2015

 

Welcome to a new year!!! Gosh, it has been a while since I posted, but with working retail during the holiday shopping season I went into writing hibernation and have just now started reemerging into the writing scene. I found that I was getting so batty with work, that when I tried to write I would write a page or two and spend the rest of the night nursing a migraine and a bad attitude. But, the holiday shoppers are on their way home and it is time for me to get back to work! YAY!!!

RETAIL STRESS!!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

RETAIL STRESS!!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

The time has come, once again, to make resolutions and set goals for the next 365 days. Instead of making resolutions about losing weight or some other such nonsense I like to make a list of books that I am going to at least try to read in the next year. Last year’s list included Dickens’ Bleak House, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and a few others. I actually ended up finishing my entire list!!! Now it’s time for a new list and this year I’ve decided to read books that I had started but never got around to finishing. Like I’ve mentioned before I have a tendency to be a bit of a distracted reader but I am really working on overcoming that habit. I am hoping that working through this year’s reading list will offer me plenty of chances to conquer my reading problems.

So here’s my 2015 Reading Resolutions List

  1. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy – I’ve read the first two or three books in this series but I never got around to finishing.
  2. Finish reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy – I just recently finished re-reading The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring but I haven’t finished the rest of the series yet.
  3. 1776 by David McCullough
  4. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  5. I have to read the 4th book in the Millennium Series (title unknown) – I am not sure what the series will be like now that Steig Larsson is dead and the series is getting passed on to a ghost writer. I am not sure I will like it, but this is one that I have to read.
Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Every writer needs to be a reader, so I decided to give myself a reading and writing resolution list for the new year.

Writing resolution list for 2015

  1. Turn off the internet on my computer when I write to cut down on distractions. The internet can be very helpful to writing when it comes to gathering information for any research that you need to do, but it is also chock full of distractions. Best idea is to save your internet usage for research/editing time not writing time.
  2. Write more. I know this seems a bit obvious but it’s really something I need to do. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it can make me become a better writer. I think the best way to accomplish this is to work on at least two new writing prompts per week.
  3. Create more diverse characters. I’ve noticed that my characters have become a bit one dimensional so I think I need to work on making them more diverse. I don’t think that it is enough to make them more culturally or racially diverse, I must also make them more psychologically diverse as far as their ways of thinking.
  4. Explore different plot and genre elements. Research the plot elements and plot differences between different genres of literature. Going back to the basics when it comes to plot has helped my before when I’ve needed help generating ideas. A bit more research couldn’t hurt.
  5. Finish something. One of my major problems hasn’t been starting new projects is has been finishing my old ones. I need to make a better effort to finish my projects.
Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Most Prized Possession

A character of your own invention finds a note which reads

Hello you slimy piece of filth,

I know who you are and what you did. I have taken the thing that you value most in the world. Either bring me what I want or face the consequences. You have one day.

Signed,

You know who

Using this note as your starting point write a story. You must decide who your character is and the reason for the note. Who wrote it and why? What did they take? What are they planning to do if their needs are not met?

So long for now!! Hope to hear from you soon!!! Please feel free to comment with any questions or concerns.

Author’s note- I might be MIA for the next few weeks. We’re expecting now in my area for the next few days and when there is snow I have no internet. I will post as much as I can though. Later!!!

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The Importance of Will Power for Writers

This quote from Neil Gaiman sums up why writing is so freeing and also so frightening. There are no rules.

This quote from Neil Gaiman sums up why writing is so freeing and also so frightening. There are no rules.

Some people will have you believe that there are rules or steps you must take to write a novel (in a lot of cases they’ll tell you that so you’ll buy their self-help book), but the plain fact is that there are no rules. The lack of rules is part of why writing is so hard. There are no real or concrete rules you must abide by or lines you must stay within to be a writer, or to be a successful writer, and so you’re only limited by your own will power and imagination. We, as writers, can’t look at the establishment and complain that it’s trying to “box us in” or “strangle our creativity”. Most of the time when we fail it is our own faults. That’s why writing is such a struggle to begin with. No matter how much anyone else tries to help us, in the end it is in our own hands whether or not we fall or accomplish our goals. There are, as I have pointed out before, certain steps you can take to help your editing or brainstorming processes, but there is no such thing as a roadmap to success when it comes to writing. It is a hard road but the only thing you need to do is to find the story you want to tell, and tell it with conviction.

Will power trumps fate, luck, and chance.

Will power trumps fate, luck, and chance.

I know this post has been a bit different from my others but it’s just something that struck me the other day at work. I’ve been working at Under Armour for the past few months and right now one of our product lines is called the “I Will What I Want” line. The whole line of shirts has sayings that are based on getting what we want through will power and determination. My favorite one was a tank top that said “Don’t Wish for It, Work for It”. I know the product line was intended for athletes but the sayings they had apply to writing as well. If you’ll excuse me I am going to do some freewriting, the writing equivalent to a 50 yard dash!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Local News

Go to the local section of any newspaper and pick three separate stories. Using a person from one story, the setting from another and the conflict from a third create a story. For example I found a local newspaper and wrote a story using Harold Johnson, who lived in Lubbock, Texas, and the conflict in the story was over a lover’s quarrel. Have fun with this and I will see you later.

dont-wish-for-it-work-for-it

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Writing Update and a Bit of Character Work

AKA - Me whenever I try to do a nanowrimo

AKA – Me whenever I try to do a nanowrimo

 

 

Well another November has rolled around and again writers all around the country are getting their plots lined up and trying to reach that seemingly astronomical word count of 50,000!! For my own part I don’t really get too invested in this yearly event. I like the concept of having a measurable goal to hold myself to, but in practice it’s just never worked for me. I’ve spoken about this before but for me whenever I have tried to do a nanowrimo I go a bit daft and start putting too much thought into the number of words and less into whether or not they’re the right words. If writing this way works for you then HAVE AT IT!!!! All writers have their own systems and things that work for them, if nanowrimo leads you to productive writing and good stories well then I wish you good luck!!!

Slow-Progress-Is-Better-Than-No-Progress

I am still working on my Gothic mystery story, but the progress has been slow. That doesn’t really bother me because even slow progress is progress. Last month I really started getting stuck on who Liz, my protagonist, is and how her mind works. If I as the writer can’t get a clear picture of who my characters are then my readers aren’t going to be able to either! That was a major problem and to fix it the only thing I could think of to do was to rewrite my entire story from Liz’s perspective as if the whole story was her diary. Because I wanted my story to have a Gothic vibe, it made sense for mw to imagine what the plot would look like if I wrote it out in epistolary format, where the story is told via letters and journal entries, because that was really popular in Gothic lit. Dracula, one of if not the most famous Gothic novel of all time, was written like that so I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a go.

Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

To be truthful it was grueling and slow work to change the format of my entire story, but in the end I had a very distinct picture of who Liz was and how her mind worked. Using that knowledge I went back to my original manuscript and added bits of narrative from Liz’s diary into it so that I could flesh out her character. I think that the next time I write I will try to keep a running diary for all of my main characters so that I can keep better track of their character and psychological development. I know this post is a bit short, but  I have to dash to my day job now. So long!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Aversion Exercise

For this exercise I want you to think of a character who in absolutely repulsed by something which is considered to be harmless or innocent i.e. handholding, puppies, a child skipping, toy sailboats. Why does your character have such a negative view of something so innocuous? How would their aversion show itself? Would your character become agitated or violent?

Think about that and I will see you later!! If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or just want to vent have a go!! I’d love to hear from you!

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Discussion: Do you listen to music as you write? Why or why not?

Just as I do not recommend writing with a fever, reading through jetlag and turbulence = NO!!! LOL

Just as I do not recommend writing with a fever, reading through jetlag and turbulence = NO!!! LOL

So happy to be posting again!!!!!! I know my posts have been a bit sporadic lately and I apologize for that. I’ve just spent the past few weeks job searching and also working in some time to travel cross country. I spent 12 hrs yesterday in airports, on planes, and in turbulence…yeah my stomach did not like that. I tried to get some reading done but it’s a bit nauseating when the book you’re reading is bouncing in your hands every second. Since I finally got to my destination I’ve gotten some writing done, but didn’t get the chance to post. Now I have returned!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!

For this post I’d like to open a discussion. Do you like to listen to music as you write? Why or why not? If you do like to listen to music as you’re writing, what kind of music do you listen to?

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

For my part I usually listen to music as I write but I have a very specific playlist that depends on my mood and what I need. For example I am an easily distracted person so I only listen to low key things when I write, otherwise I’ll get so wrapped up in the music it will pull my attention away from what I’m writing. It also helps if what I’m listening to is tied to what I’m writing in some way. For example last year I wrote a ten-minute play that was centered in West Virginia, and so to get into that mindset I created a Pandora station that played a mixture of old southern gospel songs and bluegrass. The music was reminiscent of what I was writing so it helped me to envision the world of the story, and the songs themselves were slow paced ballads so they didn’t pull my distraction away.

Listening to some old Bluegrass and gospel on Pandora got me into the right mindset for my play, oh and it's also really good music!!! :)

Listening to some old Bluegrass and gospel on Pandora got me into the right mindset for my play, oh and it’s also really good music!!! 🙂

As I mention a few posts ago I was working on turning an old freewriting exercise of mine into a novel. Well the novel itself is set some time in the 1800’s in England so it really helped me to picture how that world looked by listening to classical music from that time. By listening to the same types of music that would have been popular during the time period in which I set my story it gives me a way to envision how that world might sound. I already had an idea of how the world looked, but the music gave me a way to picture how the world would sound, offering me a tool to engage the readers’ senses.

For me figuring out the types of songs my character might hear on a daily basis gives me another way to understand their worlds.

For me figuring out the types of songs my character might hear on a daily basis gives me another way to understand their worlds.

So that’ my rigmarole! Do you have specific music that you like to listen to when you write? Or do you like to write it total silence? Why? Post in the comment section below the writing exercise!!! If you have any questions or concerns feel free to let me know.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Moving Box Exercise

Imagine that you’ve moved into a new home. You know nothing about the previous owners. When you enter the house you see a box on the floor that belonged to the previous owners. Open it and describe what you find. From the items you find inside the box create a story for who the previous owners might have been.

 

Have fun with this exercise and I will talk to you again soon!!! Bye!

 

 

 

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