I tend to think that I do not have a writing process. I am comfortable curling up or sitting down pretty much anywhere with a pen and paper, or even the memo app on my phone, and writing. I even have a horribly dangerous habit of pulling out my pen and a pad of Post-its while I am driving and scratching out an idea. (This morning: “The Stand – My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” I might explain later.)
The one constant I have is music. Whether I am using it as a shield or a tool, I prefer to have music playing when I write. I don’t need it per se, but when I don’t have it, I am easily distracted or I encounter moments when the silence (or, at least, the lack of music) is blaring. Hence using it as a shield.
Music as a writing tool is something I’ve seen discussed on Twitter often, and I am asked about (which makes me feel kind of awesome: People are coming to me. For writing advice, not just grammar. Mind. Blown.). I use music in a variety of ways, and I’ve also stolen several others’ suggestions:
Music for tone.
If I have a tonal or atmospheric goal for a scene, I will try to listen to a song or a playlist that fits that scene.
For example, I have a scene wherein my heroine is attempting to cheer herself up after a long depression. She had just bought a black dress for a funeral, and she is being pulled in two opposite directions emotionally: She’s sick of feeling down and she looks darn good, but at the same time, she’s preparing for a funeral. I use Sara Bareilles’s “Little Black Dress.” I wanted to actually include this by name, but I had to abandon that idea when I kicked the setting back ten years.
Using this method, I will create a playlist in iTunes for an entire book and download it to my iPod to listen to while I write. Each scene has an accompanying scene.
Music for pace.
I have trouble setting pace in a scene. It’s either long and plodding or short and too sparse as far as detail is concerned. I will rewrite and smooth while listening to music that fits the pacing.
For example, I wrote a pursuit (I love pursuit scenes), and used Apocalyptica’s “Hall of the Mountain King” to set the pace.
Listening to a specific song will also help with re-writes. I had to re-write the climax of COLOSSUS, and I wanted to make the tone more grave. The original song that I wrote to was Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone,” which fits the pace, but not the tone. However, I just downloaded Radiohead’s OK Computer a few months ago, and I heard “Exit Music (for a Movie)” for the first time. The tone and sheer level of bitterness of the song fit the scene so perfectly, they aligned as I was listening to it for the first time. I re-wrote the scene while listening to the song, and the tone simply flowed.
Music for voice.
This is something I did for an abandoned project, but for some reason did not do for MNINHS. A fellow NaNo camper reminded me of this method: Assigning characters theme songs. This will help writing the character with a consistent voice.
I had a character named Faulk who was grim and guilt-ridden. He had a lot going on inside his head that never left his mouth. He fought to be hard-hearted. My character model for him was Viggo Mortensen. His character’s theme song is Modest Mouse’s “The Whale Song.”
If I had to assign a theme song to Rhodes, I think I would choose one of the remixes for Nine Inch Nails’s “Mr. Self-Destruct” (this came on my iPod on random play the other day, and it conjured such a clear image) or “The Ruiner” (My original nickname for him was “Ruiner,” but I thought the epithet was too clunky and erudite for teens in 2006).
I may post my full playlist for COLOSSUS or SERIAL KILLER, RET. once I get home.
If you liked this post, comment with a few songs you would choose for your book soundtrack and why, for shoot over to Twitter and tweet an artist and song (or a link to a video) at @JettimusMaximus with the hashtag #booksoundtrack.