A little writing music

Music is a perfect pairing for writing. It can provide inspiration, pace and block out annoying noises. But it’s gotta be the right music.

The key pre-requisite for me is NO LYRICS. Words distract me and sometimes randomly appear in my manuscript.

This is what I listen to while writing.

Soundtracks

Soundtracks for films and television are a great background for writing. So long as the music is not too familiar, otherwise I get distracted and start humming along. My favourite composers here; Clint Mansell, Two Steps from Hell, Hans Zimmer, Yann Tiersen, Nils Frahm.

Modern Classical

“Old” classical can be too familiar to me (see above re: distraction), so I really enjoy the experimental “modern” classical music. The Scandinavians and Icelandic seem to dominate in this genre; Olafur Arnalds, Dustin O’Halloran (not quite Scando), Hildur Guonadottir.

Gaming Music

Like movie and TV soundtracks, gaming music can provide pace and the right mood. Especially for action and fight scenes.

Not Frogger.

Ambient

I don’t mean Ambient EDM/techno, I mean proper ambient with no bass. Soundscapes and aural wallpaper. The big guy here is Brian Eno.

hqdefault

Nature Sounds

Sometimes I get into the zone with nature sounds; forests, birds, wind, thunder, rain.

White Noise

White, pink, brown – who knew there were so many colours of noise. This is great for sealing out the world, although I do have nagging concerns about being brainwashed with the theta waves. Maybe I’ve watched too much X-files. Excuse me while I go all Manchurian Candidate.

Meditation music

Meditation music is my current favourite for writing. Lots of bells, chanting and new agey stuff. The music is calm and repetitive, also the tracks are really long (up to 60 mins). So the music doubles as a timer.  When the music stops, take a break!

What music do you prefer when writing?

Writing spaces – ideal and real

In an ideal world, my writing space would be in a room overlooking craggy cliffs.

The floor to ceiling windows would open out to the sea, where I’d watch the ever-changing weather roll in and the waves crash against the rocks. I’d be inspired by the power of nature, the wild and moody weather.

suicide_cliffs__okinawa_by_inifekt-d4xiol4
Unfortunately named “Suicide Cliffs” in Okinawa

The room itself would be plain and white, with no distractions besides my computer and my creativity.

Imagine the science-fiction I could write from this room…

stylish-minimalist-home-office-designs-11

Or something monastic.

Perhaps my latent historical fiction would come to life here.

cathusian-monk-cell-mount-grace-priory
Mount Grace Priory, Yorkshire

But in reality, my writing space is like this.

IMG_0154

Messy yet functional, surrounded by books and CDs (yes, Gen X), post-it notes, a thesaurus, water, a comfy op-shop chair, story outlines and writing structure reminders.

My only mandatory items are the laptop and the headphones. I wrote the first drafts of Return to the Monolith while my house was under renovations, from the kitchen counter (with headphones on blocking out the noise of power tools) or the local library. I found I could write anywhere.

So the ideal writing space is not necessary for writing but it’s nice to dream.

What’s your ideal writing space?

 

 

The 7/7/7 snippet challenge

Writing Challenge participant Natalie K challenged me to the 7/7/7 Snippet Challenge.

The rules are:

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress
  • Scroll down to line #7
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

Here are the 7 lines from the 7th row of the 7th page of my recently “completed” manuscript, Return to the Monolith. I’m stoked to announce, I’ll start querying agents with Monolith from early January. Hoorah! But here’s a sneak peek.

Dawn peeked through the pink-fringed grey clouds, lighting up the sky in the east. The snow-tipped mountains loomed in the distance.  Alga’s heart pounded. This was the first time she had ever walked away from her mountains.

Her stomach had stopped rumbling. Her tears dried up. She tried not to think about her Sisterhouse and what she had left behind.

snow-black-and-white-mountain-ice

Now, I am passing on the fun to seven more writer bloggers. Consider yourselves challenged;

Looking forward to seeing other 7/7/7 Snippets.

When did you feel like a “real” writer round-up?

In early December, I ran a series of posts asking writers…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

I was lucky enough to get responses from Gail Carriger, Val McDermid, Joanne Harris, Ben Aaronovitch, Victoria Schwab, John Scalzi, Kim Newman, Neil Gaiman, Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Barbara Freethy and Kate Elliott.

There were a few themes running through the responses

  • Doubt and the imposter system persists (regardless whether you’ve sold millions)
  • Sometimes it’s your first big deal or success
  • Sometimes it’s not until you reach magic book no. 5

But mainly, you are a real writer when you write….

Now it’s your turn, when did you feel like a “real” writer?

 

Who is your favourite villain of all time?

Villains. We need them.

We need the villain to threaten our hero. We need our villain to be strong and clever. We need her to give our hero a hard time. Villains add colour and complexity to our stories, they bring the complications.

But when I thought about villains, only the scary characters came to mind. Those men and women who send shivers down my spine. And one man jumped into my mind.

This is not my favourite villain for his intelligence or his outwitting of the hero. He brings no witty retorts. He just scares me like no one else can.

I bring you.

Bob from Twin Peaks.

theres-bob

Excuse me while I go and hide behind the couch…..

Who’s your favourite villain?

4 resources for naming my characters

How do I approach naming my characters? Today I’m answering a few questions on character names from AJ Lundetrae.

Chanel, Dior, Lagerfeld, Givenchy, Gaultier, darling. Names, names, names!

Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous

 

How important are names to you in your books?

Names are very important to me.

I was a strange child and completely obsessed by boarding school books (especially the Chalet School). Using my illustrated atlas and a reference book of names and their meanings, I created my own school rolls. Lists of girls names and their exotic home cities.

2-6-roll-call-class

A name tells you a lot about a person’s past, their heritage, their social position. Names are infinitely fascinating. Especially in writing (rather than making your own children) when you get to choose the first and last name. In writing, your names can be descriptive of the character’s personality or mannerisms. And it’s just plain fun.

Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

A little of both.

For my Monolith series, I have been obsessed with length. For my main characters, they all have names with four letters; Hana, Alga, Lucy, Erin and Mora. The lesser characters tend to have names of five letters.

Alga is an indigenous Northerner from a goddess worshipping religious community. For Alga, I searched for a four letter names with Estonian and Latvian heritage. I have also made up names for other characters but using foreign language name lists as inspiration.

I really struggled with the right name for Mora for over a year. Mora is the wise feisty grandmother. At one point she was named June, then Vera but now I have settled on Mora. Slightly inspired by the feisty playful Australia artist Mirka Mora.

For my steampunk novellas, I had great fun finding silly place names from the United Kingdom. I didn’t need to make them up. They are all real villages, hamlets or towns from various counties. I also searched for historical popular names on the census.

But in the end, the sound is most important to me.

And a tip I picked up somewhere – avoid names ending in “s”. This makes it messy when adding the possessive noun.

Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

My manager at work caught me looking at baby names lists recently and asked me if I had anything to tell her. So, yes, baby name lists from pregnancy sites. I have also found names by number of letters, for my obsession with four letter names.

I also search for foreign names and place names.

Here’s a few examples

 

As you can see, I have finally found a use for my obsession with names. If only I’d kept my list of names for my fictitious boarding school. I could finally find a home for my school girls.

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part 6

Back again with another two writers answering the question…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today we have two successful women with the same perspective.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 7.31.21 AMScreen Shot 2015-12-09 at 7.31.21 AMScreen Shot 2015-12-09 at 5.35.33 PM

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 7.31.40 AM

You’re a real writer when you write!

Words of wisdom!

I have one more answer up my sleeve, which I will post with a wrap-up of all the comments.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the pithy insights so far.

 

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part 5

After feedback from Melanie Bernard, I’ve taken a slightly different angle today and asked my question to indie-published writers too.

The question again…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today,

  • Joanna Penn – non-fiction and thriller writer. And one of the best writing podcasts around.
  • Mark Dawson – super successful indie published crime-thriller writer.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 6.02.17 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-07 at 6.02.03 PM

The number 5 again? Does something magical happen at Book 5?

I would start feeling like a “real” writer too, if I had Mark’s success.

Tomorrow, another two authors answer my question.

When did you feel like a “real” writer? Part Three

Two more great writers answer my question…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Today

  • Victoria (VE) Schwab – writer of multiple fabulous YA/MG series and my fave, A Darker Shade of Magic
  • John Scalzi – Hugo Award winner and prolific twitterer

 

VE Schwab

 

john scalzi

Two different perspectives here. Do you need money or being published to feel like a “real” writer?

Tomorrow, another two authors answer my question.