Friday, November 27, 2015

Château Soleil Update 9: What Are You Listening To?

Current word count: 90,672
Chapters done: 28/52
Projected length: 168,391 words

Every writer is different, but I'm one of those that likes to have music playing while I write. And I get rather particular about what music plays. I have dozens and dozens of instrumental albums, and I've pulled out the best two-and-a-half thousand songs into a playlist that's nearly five-and-a-half days long. Even then, I have my favorite albums that I'll just fall back on instinctively. The last major writing project of mine I wrote almost entirely to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack.

I started out this book the same way, but I soon discovered that it wasn't setting the appropriate tone. Instead, I started listening to Trouble Will Find Me by The National. Curiously, this is not an instrumental album, but I don't find the words distracting. It's up-tempo but still very melancholy, which is a much more appropriate tone for the book I'm working on now. And I'm familiar enough with it that I can tune it out, but then when I do pay attention, I'm able to replenish the well a bit.

So now I'm looking for other albums that will do that, because I've listened to Trouble Will Find Me twenty times in the last three months and I don't want to over-rely on it. Contenders will need to be up-tempo but downbeat. Distinct but not distracting. Rich and ignorable. And creatively engaging at basically every moment. Not a tall order at all.

Here are a few I've tried, with mixed results: Radiohead's In RainbowsNow Now's Threads, deadmau5's Random Album Title, Seal II, Led Zepplin IV, and of course Dark Side Of The Moon. That latter, oddly enough, failed utterly because the album is way too dynamic. To work, an album needs to sit at more or less one volume, otherwise it's just too attention-grabby. (Still a great record, though.)

Nothing else is quite up there, but the hunt continues. The hunt, after all, is half of the fun. Right now I'm trying So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club. So far, it's got potential.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Château Soleil Update 8: Major Milestone 1

Better known as: Why I'm Not Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

Current word count: 79,560
Chapters done: 25/52
Projected length: 165,484 words

So I finally finished off Book 1. I've got the novel subdivided into three "books". The first is the longest--obviously, since I'm nearly halfway through my outline. But this gets me to the first major breakpoint in the narrative. If you compare the numbers here to those in the previous update, you'll see that I've added one chapter and close to ten thousand words. So, did I just write a ten-thousand word chapter?

No. But I did flesh out a lot of what I'd written before. I'd thought that, if I could get a good pace going, I could treat Book 2 as a NaNo project, so I rushed through some chapters to try and get to the end of this stretch of my outline so I could try and get the first fifty thousand words of Book 2 done in November. The result was... I don't want to say it was disastrous, but I was very much not pleased with what I'd written.

It's not about editing. It's that what I'd written was too thin. I had some chapters that were barely a thousand words long, which is entirely too short for this project. Trying to get through the material quickly, I'd deprived myself of the joy of finding the story. My outline has the major story beats, but not nearly enough detail to justify my anticipated word counts. A lot of the writing of a chapter is moving people around, delving into (read as: inventing) their backstories and motivations, and finding those little moments that make a sequence come together.

I use this to set up character elements that will ultimately come back in the end to give characters a satisfying arc in their quest. But since I find them in the moment, I can't just skip them--because later, I'll need to already know what they are. So instead of pressing forward, I went back and re-wrote a lot of what I'd written, more than doubling some of those chapters, and finding more of those little moments and character elements that make it feel more fleshy and real, and that set up things I can use in the later chapters.

Writing this way is slow. For me. I'll be lucky to get thirty-thousand words done this month. But they'll be thirty-thousand words that I won't have to go back and re-write. I'll end up with a more polished first draft and then I can really spend the next pass focusing on wordsmithing and continuity. It also means saying bye-bye NaNoWriMo. Maybe I'll do it next year, but I'm starting think that NaNo needs to stay behind me. I can keep the pace, but I've never written anything for NaNo that I felt like I could do something with later. And since I'm trying to write something I can sell, and I clearly don't need the added motivation to get it completed, I'm probably better off eschewing the event and committing myself to a slower pace that fits better with my process.

C'est la vie, n'est pas?
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