babarnett: (farscape aeryn genius)
In a previous entry, I babbled about listening to music while writing and how I usually stick to two general playlists, cleverly named Writing Music 1 and Writing Music 2.

"Demon Dreams" was one of the rare stories where I started writing to a very specific playlist--and subsequently found it difficult to work on the first draft without it. As an experiment, I put on one of my general writing playlists partway through the first draft. My brain rebelled. It just folded its arms, shook its head, and went "Nope, I'm not working under these conditions." So I put the original playlist on, and voila! My brain went to work without complaint.

By the time I had finished the second draft and was starting the editing/revision phase, though, things changed. Suddenly the original playlist was a distraction and conversations with my brain went something like this:

ME: Um, brain? You want to help me out here?
 
BRAIN: Shhh! I'm listening to the pretty music.

So I switched to one of my general writing playlists, and this time it worked. My brain got down to business.

On Sunday I started writing a new short story inspired by the town of Longyearbyen, part of Norway's Svalbard Islands. I went with my usual routine of putting on one of my general writing playlists and sitting down with my AlphaSmart to get to work on the first draft. But as I started to settle into the story's voice, barely a few hundred words in, I realized that the music was all wrong for the setting and the whimsical, slightly fairy tale-ish feel I was going for. From there, the math went something like this: pondering my musical options + a brief discussion of Norwegian folktales with AsYouKnowBob over dinner = light bulb going off

I was writing a story based on a Norwegian town, so how about a Norwegian composer? It just so happened that I had an excellent recording of Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes playing music by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg at the composer's home, Troldhaugen, and on the composer's Model B Steinway piano dating from 1892. So I put it on after dinner, and ta da! It worked. I don't know if I'll continue writing to that particular recording (I unfortunately haven't been able to work on the story much since Sunday), but it certainly helped put my brain in a place that gave me a good start.
babarnett: (farscape aeryn genius)
Since I babbled a little about this in a previous entry, I thought I'd babble about it some more in an entry of its own.

I'm not someone who has to have music on when I write.  I've written in silence, and I've written in noisy places without benefit of music--or sometimes in places playing music I didn't care for, which meant I tuned the music out.  But I prefer to have music (that I like) on when I write.

I usually can't write to music with lyrics, though.  I'll get distracted and start singing along (I'm a singer, after all).  But there are exceptions.  If the lyrics are in a language I don't speak, then I can usually listen to the song while writing.  (Usually.  If it's a song I've performed myself, then I'm probably familiar enough with the lyrics that they'll become distracting, regardless of whether I can speak the language.)  Or, sometimes a song is just so perfect thematically or atmospherically for what I'm working on that the lyrics become more inspiring and focusing than distracting.

As for what music I do listen to while writing: I'm a big film and TV score nerd, and those are generally what I put on while writing.  Of course, scores were written to accompany/help tell a story, so it probably makes sense that I'd find them good for writing.

(Side note: this all goes out the window when writing something other than fiction. Lyrics generally aren't a problem for me when I'm writing things like blog entries and stuff for my day job.  Actually, scores can be distracting when I'm doing non-fiction writing, probably because they make me want to go work on my fiction instead.)

While I mostly listen to film/TV scores while writing fiction, sometimes other music sets the right mood.  For the short story I'm working on now, Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble have been the perfect accompaniment.  Some other non-film score music on my writing playlist includes Lisa Gerrard, Emma Shapplin (despite being familiar with Italian, I can usually tune out her lyrics when necessary), and a fair amount of classical music from various periods, from medieval music to modern composers like Philip Glass.  Of course, Lisa Gerrard and Philip Glass both do film music themselves, and some of the Emma Shapplin tracks I have are from the soundtrack for Red Planet, but that's not all I have from them in my collection.

I'll occasionally make a specialized playlist for a story or chapter. For a novel scene in which there was some dancing going on, for example, I made a playlist with dance music appropriate to the setting.  I have a playlist specifically for battle and fight scenes.  But I usually stick to two playlists, cleverly named Writing Music 1 and Writing Music 2.  Just for fun, here are the first 10 albums to come up when I put Writing Music 1 on shuffle:
  1. Doctor Who (Murray Gold)
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Harry Gregson-Williams)
  3. Torchwood (Ben Foster)
  4. Merlin (Trevor Jones)
  5. Battlestar Galactica (Bear McCreary)
  6. The Last Unicorn (Jimmy Webb)
  7. Schindler's List (John Williams)
  8. The Last Starfighter (Craig Safan)
  9. Red Planet (Graeme Revell)
  10. Romances for Saxophone (Branford Marsalis)

So how about you fine folk?  Do you prefer silence while you write? Music? White noise in the background?  And if you do listen to music, what type?  Are you someone who creates specialized playlists for projects?  Do you listen to specific albums for specific stories?  Or do you just put iTunes on shuffle and see what happens?
babarnett: (farscape aeryn genius)
As expected, this past week was rather weird for me schedule-wise.  Adjusting to the whole part-time from home day job shift was sort of like pulling on an old pair of pants; you're thrilled they fit again, but it's been so long since you've worn them that you're trying to remember which tops look right with them.  As a result, the time I spent trying on metaphorical tops meant I didn't do much fiction writing during the week.  At least until yesterday, when I finally got my ass out of the metaphorical dressing room.

After doing a small amount of research and photo scrounging on Thursday, I finally started the prequel-ish My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel short story.  Well, I had already written a first sentence or two and jotted down some notes a while back, but yesterday was when I finally sat my butt down and started writing in earnest.  The Silk Road Ensemble was kind of a "duh" soundtrack choice for working on a story set at a caravanserai, especially when one of the albums I have from them has a track called "Night at the Caravanserai."  And I threw Loreena McKennitt's "Caravanserai" onto my writing playlist for good measure.

After working on the short story for a bit, I switched gears slightly and did an hour writing exercise with some online folks for the first time in forever.  Recently, I've imposed all these huge expectations on myself as a writer, which often has the unfortunate side effect of making me petrified when I'm staring down a blank page.  This was a good way to tell those expectations where to shove it.  I turned off Serious Writer Brain and just goofed off for an hour by writing something silly that will probably never go anywhere beyond the exercise.  It was also my first time playing with Write or Die, which was a great help in turning off Serious Writer Brain.

And finally, on to the reading front:

Readerly update under the cut... )

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December 2013

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