The Sound of Silence

Back in August of 2012, an idea for an erotic novella trilogy came to me. It was both exciting and intimidating since my go-to genre is romantic suspense. This idea, however, came nearly fully-formed. Well, when I say, ‘fully-formed’, I mean it was an idea with a bit of depth that felt worthy of deeper exploration.

It took nearly two months for me to fully plot the first story. I was ready to start writing it yet thoughts of how I would write Books 2 and 3 haunted me. What if, after writing Book 1, the others wouldn’t take shape? What would I do then? I had to force myself to focus on the story I was actually writing, not worry about the next two. I would deal with them, I told myself, in due time.

Well… it’s time. And for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been coming down hard on myself because the plotting/writing of Book 2 isn’t going as well as I would like. I have experienced highs as I’ve completed one tiny bit of plotting work. And I have felt incredible lows when I’ve tried to move forward… only to stop cold as the muse, for no apparent reason, grew silent.

I’ve always considered myself one of the world’s slowest writers but now wondered, since this new story was so hard to get onto the page, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

And then, just this morning, I read an article about a Simon and Garfunkel song that has been chosen (and more than deserved to be) for preservation in the Library of Congress. The song? The Sound of Silence.

While I love that song – and Simon and Garfunkel – it’s not the song, necessarily that made me feel better about the sluggish pace of my plotting and writing. Instead, it was this fact I discovered about Paul Simon’s writing of The Sound of Silence:

“Paul Simon took 6 months to write the lyrics, which are about man’s lack of communication with his fellow man. He averaged one line a day.”

He averaged one line a day over six months for a 217-word song.

Maybe I’m not the slowest writer after all. And maybe, just maybe, speed isn’t want matters.

Creating the Mood

I always use my laptop to plot and write my stories. It just makes sense to do so since I type faster than I write by hand. Also, the words never flow quite right on the first run and revising via computer is a whole lot easier – highlight/delete – than revising with pen and paper.

Still, there’s an attraction to a new blank journal that I cannot ignore. Something  about the crackle of a new journal’s spine as you open it and smooth the pages flat. Something about the flourishes, the blank space, the actual feel of it in your hands as you re-read what you’ve written there.

I still have journals from years ago – from my teens and before. I often look at them, read them, and reconnect with the girl I was. I remember her well. Though I’m glad to know a big part of her has been left in the past. Now, when I journal, it’s live and public – and often 140 characters or less – and not quite as soul-searching or revealing as it had been. That’s okay because I’m not sure I want to reveal myself the way I used to. I’m not sure I even remember how to be so open. Even to myself.

However, while journal-ing may not be a favorite pastime of mine, writing still is. Though it’s more than a pastime, for sure. And so, I bought a new journal, with a cover meant to inspire even the most stubborn muse. And I have a new perfume oil to compliment the image on the journal. Add to all that, the right music, and my muse will sing like she’s never sung before. I feel it. I want it. I’m ready for it.

Yes, music and scent. They create a mood. An atmosphere. A sense of being somewhere new, secret, mysterious. Where the muse is safe and free to create. Sure, I could sit at the computer and ‘think’ myself into another place but it’s not the same as being as immersed in it as possible.

The music is always the hardest part for me to select. I want something I enjoy, of course, but also something that fits the story I hope to write. That will enhance the mood, yet fade into the background. Something to help add dimension to the words, in ink, on the page.

The scent I’m using for this story is named perfectly, in my opinion. It’s from a company called, The Poison Apple Apothecary and they call it, Parlor.  I can’t get enough of the scent. I put a few drops on a cotton puff and place it in a glass bowl that sits beside me as I write. Lovely.

Poison Apple describes the fragrance this way: The heady scent of sweet pipe tobacco wafting through a large parlor with dark oak floors and imperial furnishings.

I wish I could dab a bit of it onto the screen so you could smell it for yourself. 🙂

As for my inspiring journal, it’s from Peter Pauper Press and it is simply gorgeous. Just look at this cover –

Isn’t it beautiful?

And now to the music. For this current story, I chose something seductive, something meant to lull me into the moment where a sultry summer night breeze carries these soulful and soothing strains…

I’d have you listen to it – in fact, I posted this sexy saxophone piece originally – but since then, the artist sent me a rather abrupt and threatening message demanding I remove the link to his music. So, rather than further distract or upset an artist with my tiny online presence, I’ve obliged. And I’ve chosen new music as a backdrop for my work since I need and enjoy a more positive vibe than this piece would, from here on, provide.

You know, being a writer can be a truly wonderful thing.

Sometimes. 😉

Day 4

I am finding my stride here as I reach Day 4 of my Book-in-a-week marathon. I’m finding – or rediscovering and reinforcing – what works for me and what doesn’t.

The whole idea of this is to just write. Get the story down without worry over details. If you need information on the fragrance notes within a specific perfume, just leave yourself a note in the text and continue on. Don’t worry about a specific word or a gripping emotional reaction. It’s about story. Layers and details can be added later.

I see how this process works because it keeps the muse active and in the story moment. The yet undiscovered plot points, the little twists and turns a pantser like me has yet to figure out, flow from the muse to the page in a natural – and still exciting and surprising – way.

However for ME – and because every writer is different, I believe we need to modify methods to fit our needs – not getting those perfume details or emotional reactions actually stalls the writing process. I can’t move on unless I know how the fragrance layers of that perfume smell because those notes will affect either the rest of the scene or a scene later in the story.

So, for those of you wanting to try this but are worried you won’t be able to accomplish it as it should be accomplished, I’ll say this – whatever you accomplish this week will be a reward for your muse. Just staying in the moment for more hours per day than you normally would, without household distractions (because you took care of all that stuff before you started) and with constant reminders to yourself that this is your first not final draft, gives you the freedom not only to create but to have fun doing it.

Onward! My muse awaits!

Day 2

I shouldn’t be here because I’m supposed to be offline and working this week. However, I had to check in on Day 2 of my Book in a Week, and say I’m struggling.

It’s my own fault though. I’m not following the rules. Instead of sending my inner editor packing, I’ve allowed it to sit in on the marathon with a promise of silence. Well, that promise has not been kept. Instead, the inner editor – whom I shall call Persky (short for persnickety) – snorts at my ideas before they even make it to the page. My little muse isn’t thrilled with Persky, either. Li’l muse was promised a week of play and day one was only so-so.

Starting today, I’m going to work extra hard to banish Persky and to trust my muse. It’s not something that just happens. It’s something that requires effort and concentration. Kinda  like writing. :-?

BIAW (Book in a Week)

Yup. You read that right. Book in a Week.

I took a workshop by that title about two years ago and it was one of the gems I refer to with each new project. The main gist of it is this – write. Yeah. That’s it. Write.

For a writer, that’s a powerful word because it means so many things. It means the obvious – write. But it also means – don’t look back, don’t judge, don’t worry. Write.

The fabulous Nora Roberts said something every writer should remember. She said, “You can’t edit a blank page.” The Queen of Book in a Week-dom, April Kihlstrom said something else every writer should remember. She said, “The first draft is for your eyes only.”

So what if it’s crap? If it is, refer to Ms. Roberts’ comment and be happy you have pages to edit.

I have the tendency to write a sentence, study it, disect it and revise before going on to the next sentence and starting the process again. I’m a slow writer because my inner editor is a bitch. Nothing is ever good enough and so I always go back over what’s been written and wonder if it can be written better. You know what? It can always be written better.

Enter Book in a Week.

What’s the point? To get the words – the story – down with the least amount of distraction. To keep the story moving forward – not just on the page, but in the writer’s mind. Once the events are down, in pretty prose or shorthand, and ‘The End’ is reached, THEN the writer can go back to page one and add layers and texture.

April Kihlstrom was gracious enough to agree to an interview on this blog. In it she helps ease some concerns over the BIAW process. Take a look at it here and see what she had to say.

The hardest part of BIAW, I think, is banishing that inner editor. Writing is fun. And since it’s a creative process, there is no ‘wrong’ way to do it, despite what the inner editor says. That’s why it’s vital to lock it away.

And so, next week will start the BIAW marathon for me. I will have a very rough draft of my entire story by this time next week. It’ll be my muse’s chance to play. And when playtime is over – and only when it’s over – I’ll release my inner editor from solitary and let her have at it.

I picture Lucy and Ricky, with my muse being Lucy – all playful and mischief-making, and my inner editor being Ricky – all gooey-eyed over his partner yet logically cleaning up much of her mess. They meld together beautifully but look how much fun they are independently.

Writing is fun. Keep it fun and the story will flow. It has to because there will be no doubt. No looking back or revising. Writing is play and I intend to play with my writing this week.

Muse and Editor? Kiss goodbye. You’ll meet again a week from today and not a moment sooner.

Plotting and the wayward muse

It’s taken a while, but I’m back on track with my story. I’ve been away from it for quite some time now. When I started this story, I was consumed. I’d sit each day and the words would simply fly from my fingers and onto the page. And then… nothing. When my writing quits like that, it usually means I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere in the story. Weeks ago I thought I’d figured out where that wrong turn occurred. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

I have plotting tools – though I’m a pantser. I love these new-to-me tools – the W-Plot and the Storyboard. Problem is, as a pantser, I tend to grant my characters more freedom than my plotting tools allow. And so… three chapters ago, my heroine decided to break with plot and stay home while my hero paid a ransom. That was in Chapter 9. And that was my first big mistake.

Plotting is a funny thing for a pantser. Details and flow must be there, but not so much as to bludgeon the muse’s enthusiasm or bind the muse’s creative soul. However, the muse should not be allowed to flitter from one shiny and attractive idea to another. The muse must stay focused and dedicated. The muse must pick a theme and an emotion, and run with it in fresh though logical new directions. S/he must follow through to the end, stay excited through the long hard middle and feel that second wind effect as s/he nears the end. The muse must do all this while staying on track and being true to the characters – giving those characters real challenges, real changes, real chances. The muse must do all this in exciting and unexpected ways.

And so I’ve discussed this with my muse. The result? Quite simply, he’s not having it.

Yes, my muse is a he and his name is Freddie (Beth? Care to guess “Freddie” who? 😎 ) 

He’s a stubborn one who tends to ramble. But he’s talented and compelling, and if I really listen and steer clear of  the asides, I see there’s interesting logic in the ideas he has. My job as writer is to skim off the froth and dig into the hearty brew beneath.

The idea is an exciting one. The actual process… not so much.

I have hard copy of my chapters now and will use this new approach to revising – editing on paper not computer. Literally cutting and pasting this story back together to make it one both my muse and I can be proud of.

Pssst… btw… I placed 4th in the Black Diamond Synopsis Contest. 4th. Not 1st, 2nd or 3rd, but… hey. I placed, yes?

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