Okay – so as evening creeps in I’m sitting down to write my post. I had begun to write one yesterday but have scrapped it as I’m not feeling that one today. It’s hard to find the tone. Because I’m here blindfolded really because my book still isn’t finished. Who am I to preach?
So let’s talk about trial and error.
I spent most of this week on a new framing device for my story. And then I scrapped that too. I had jostled around my first 5 chapters, playing with the order and seeing how it felt. And it was good. Chapter 3 is now chapter 1 and better written. I scrapped my prologue too. I don’t need it now that the events of chapter 3 are kicking things off. You know pretty quickly as you write what your favourite or best chapters are. There are ones you know work and there are ones you know don’t and need more fine tuning (or deletion!).
But the more you tinker, the more your book inevitably changes and problems pop up. My first two chapters now have characters in perilous situations, not entirely dissimilar. And so I stormed my brain for ways of solving it. I went back to my notes and re-ignited an already set aside framing device to see if I could resurrect it and fix the problem.
My litmus test is always my husband. I asked him to read it and he didn’t get it – didn’t understand how it related to the book at all. I learned very early on that though my husband is not a big reader, he’s the king of common sense. If he thinks somethings not right it generally isn’t. His criticism has been invaluable since this started. The first time he gave me negative feedback I was genuinely hurt (why, I had worked so hard!) but when I re-read a piece after his comments, he’s always right. It’s good to have someone that will tell it like it is even if you don’t want to hear it.
So my new framing device has gone back on the shelf. While this is a blow to the process, it’s important to not be afraid to waste your time. I’ve sometimes gone with an instinct in writing a character that’s worked out really well so it’s very much luck in terms of what sticks.
Time spent carving and creating a new setup only to realise it doesn’t gel can be very deflating but if nothing else it’s shown me that the core of what I have is okay – it just needs a bit more tlc to iron out the creases. There are two major things that always help me get back on track.
When I’m stuck I like to write out exactly what I’m feeling. It’s a great way of venting it and can give you answers sometimes when you think there’s no solution but to set a match to the whole thing. Something happens when you start typing even if it’s …..’What the hell is wrong with me today? I can’t do it. Why did I ever put these characters in the same space?’…and then you find you answer yourself…’well because I wanted there to be sparks and this is why?’ And before you know it you’re back in the game! My mind can be swimming with all sorts of thoughts and this helps me focus and always digs me out of a few holes!
The second thing is music. When I was working for 20th Century Fox back in late 2013, James Dashner was in town for a Q&A and book signing and as we had The Maze Runner coming up I went along. I also wanted to know how successful writers do it. And I was so thrilled when he said he listened to music as he wrote. Movie soundtracks mostly, a lot of classical too as it helped him get in the headspace and helped the creative juices to flow. Finding the right music to set you in the mood for writing has been essential to me. When I was working fulltime, I had my little laptop on the train and I’d write to and from work. As I walked up the platform every morning the music would go on. The one track that never ever fails to put me in the mood to write is Ian Brown and UNKLE’s Reign. There’s something about that song. It has atmosphere and mood but drama too and I love Ian Brown’s voice. Endlessly. The lyrics are simple too but evocative. It paints, in my mind.
Music has guided me and lifted me to where I need to be to write. I’m not a big music head – I don’t know much but I know what I like. I remember when I was 16 sitting in my friend’s granddad’s car outside her house, across the road from our school and listening to Depeche Mode’s Violator for the first time. That tape cassette nearly wore out with the hours and days and months we listened to it and it kick started in me a love of their music. It was 1990, the sun was splitting the trees and the world was ours. Two years later I saw them live and I’ve never lost that excitement of being in that room on that night. So they inspire me. Dark, sultry, bluesy, angelic, other worldly music. Heaven is a current favourite from Delta Machine.
I’m off on a tangent but music is a vital key to unlocking your imagination. It doesn’t have to pump in your ears as you write but playing in the background it can guide you and help you get where you need to go.
To any creative minds out there – do you listen to music? What are your tracks – what flicks the switch for you?
So I’m back to my drawing board on my slightly echoing events of my first two chapters. But I’ll get there. I’ll type my problems, play some music and the clouds will disappear. Despair, trail and error – all part of the game.