Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writing when it doesn't matter.

Yesterday, I finished the book I was working on.  I sped like all hell through the final conflict and the resolution, typed up a scene I'd pictured taking an entire night in about half an hour, and closed things up with a tiny spark of hope in an otherwise downer ending.  I saved the file, closed it, and determined that no one would ever read that thing.

It's a weird thing, to finish a book and be utterly done with it.  This is the first time it's happened to me.  Most of the other books I've written, when I finished, I was utterly enthusiastic about them, all too eager to start editing and give them to friends for beta-reading.

But this book?  This hundred and three thousand words of a month-long learning experience?  No.  I'm done with it.  Utterly and completely.  I've finally proven to myself that the idea behind it, that I could apply a plot to an old slice-of-urban fantasy life series I did, will not work.  I've accepted that I captured a certain way of writing a character two years ago and further attempts feel like pale imitations.  I've come to understand that an 80-minute DDR megamix is not ideal music for writing any kind of tension.

Okay, that last one is kind of situational.  But hey, at least I learned it.

Toward the end, when I knew I was going to dump this book as soon as I finished it, I found myself in an odd state.  Writing something I knew would never exist outside my own computer felt very foreign.  I knew what I was writing didn't matter.  But I kept at it, because I knew if I didn't, I'd always wonder if it could have turned out better, if I could have saved it.  Now, I know.

I'm relieved in a lot of ways.  Writing is usually a draining experience for me, but it's not supposed to be a stressful one.  When sitting down to write becomes a chore, it's a sign something is wrong.  I never had trouble once I sat down, it was getting myself to sit down that was the problem. And I think we all know that a lack of desire to write leads to crappy writing.  So finishing that last page, writing those last few words, was a huge weight off my shoulders.

For now, I plan to relax for a week, and make the final preparations for Dragon*Con.  Then, I'm going to spend a month or so giving Skyborne another good hard thwack with the Editing Stick, since I haven't gone over it in several months.  Then, I'm going to start on one of my other two plotted books.  I expect either one of them will go better, as I've had them planned out for quite a bit longer than the thing I just wrote, and it's when I know the plot and characters intimately that I do my best work.

Soon, it will once again be time to start writing and see how it goes.  I'm already looking forward to it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Waxing lyrical.

I want to talk a little bit about music and writing, mostly about the influence that music has on a work in progress and also about finding a song that reflects the work.

I've heard people say they can't write while listening to music, and for some reason, I can't understand that.  I feel like having music playing quiets the other things going on inside my head so I can concentrate on the story.  More specifically, music quiets the parts of my mind that wonder if I have any new e-mail or if anyone's said anything interesting on Twitter.  Some people say to write on a computer without an internet connection, I say I'll be fine as long as I'm listening to something.  Mostly.

It's kind of a two-way street, now that I think about it, when it comes to music and inspiration.  It's someone else's creation working for you, allowing you to make something of your own.  I tend to find a few pieces of music that work for a story, and listen to only those when I'm writing and editing it.  Sometimes, it's just that the music in particular captures some of the feel of what I'm doing, while other times, there's such a strong connection between the music and the scene or character that I have to have the music to make it work.

Thankfully, that last one doesn't happen all that often; if I only got to listen to one song over the course of an entire book, I think I'd get bored with it pretty quickly.  Six years ago, I wrote a scene that had two characters dancing to a song, and so I played that song on repeat while writing that scene.  To this day, I still expect that song to start over again every time I hear it end.

And then there's the flipside: music I enjoy that I just can't listen to while writing, because for some reason, it just doesn't work.  Much as I hate to say it, one of my favorite new albums is like that, Garbage's "Not Your Kind of People".  Absolutely love the band, the album is amazing, but damn, trying to write to it ends in failure.  Which is why it struck me as so odd that the second song, "Big Bright World", fits Skyborne so perfectly.

Some of it's the mood of the song, but most of it's the lyrics; these two lines might as well be the two main characters talking to each other:

You're mysterious, you make no sense
I love you 'cause you're innocent
You fell out through a hole inside the sun

And then, the lines after that utterly and completely suit how they are together, and why they become so important to each other:

So magnify the best inside me
Fill the parts that you can't find me
The parts that won't give out when things get hard 

The best part, though, is that the song ends with three simple words that bring everything together for them, words that fit to end the book as well:

I'm with you.

For them, that's what matters most.