Monthly Archives: November 2011

Get it done

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People don’t typically ask how you write. They seem more concerned with the content or what drove you to write, but how a writer accomplishes their task is just as interesting. The writing process is so different for each person that I am always interested in learning how others “get it done.” I have found there are a few writing stereotypes that I fall into.

The Procrastinator: I love to write, but sometimes I have to complete everything on my to do list before I can get my creative juices flowing. The dog needs a walk, it’s lunch time, my room is too dirty, the excuses abound. It isn’t until everything is perfect that I can start to craft my stories. It’s difficult to encourage creativity when your brain is going in a million different directions. To fight the procrastination monster I try to keep the distractions to a minimum. So turn off the TV, give the dog a bone, and put on some soothing music… I’ve been enjoying Adele and the new Decemberists’s album. The key is to remove tempting distractions and get down to business. Also, I always make sure I have a drink and a snack near by–just in case.

The Homebody: More often than not I try to write at home. I love the comfort of my bed and a big glass of Diet Dr. Pepper to encourage me, but it seems like whenever I write in my home my characters aren’t as interesting, or my scene ends up flat. As much as I love writing in the comfort of my own bedroom, I know that I do my best work writing in the company of others. I love hitting up a Starbucks or Barnes and Noble and just occupying a chair for a while. The people are great creative fodder and having rows of books surrounding me keeps me focused on my goal. I can just imagine one day having my name grace those shelves.

The Determined: This happens to me a lot. I want to write a scene so badly that I force it. I am determined to finish a chapter so I rush through the details. I am so involved with fitting my writing time into a block of space that I forget to let it happen organically. The need to complete a page or section is a powerful motivator to get things done, but it all happens in good time. I try to carve out a chuck of time for my writing–say an hour everyday– but some days I just need more time. I have a busy schedule, but writing is my passion. It is important to not confine creativity. I struggle with rushing through paragraphs, so to slow myself down I think about all the time I will be spending editing that same page. Knowing I am going to need to fix it later and probably spend more time doing so really drives me to take the time and get it right.

Do you fall into any of these stereotypes? Do you have any others? Speak up! It is always interesting to hear about other writing processes.

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Recreating Holiday Cheer

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Have you noticed that as the fall leaves begin to change, store fronts are looking more and more Christmas-y. It isn’t even Thanksgiving, but that hasn’t stopped Starbucks from decorating their cups with Christmas trees. It hasn’t stopped Macy’s or Barnes and Noble from decking their stores with wreaths and lights. It seems Christmas is coming sooner every year, and with it the old holiday classics.

Holiday favorites like Dickens’s Christmas Carol, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and many more have been remastered time and time again. They’ve been remade in print as well as on the silver screen. It is obviously that some of these remakes are sub-par, so how do you successfully recreate a classic?

The best tip I can give is creativity. Everyone is familiar with the plot and storyline of these classics, but unique characters or settings can really revamp the traditional aspects. If you are re-creating the Grinch, try something outside of the box. Your new Grinch could be a beautiful, wealthy, young heiress or even an alien. You could create a whole new world rather than who-ville. Maybe it takes place 8,000 years into the future or maybe the main characters are animals not humans. The world is your oyster, use your imagination.

Be unique when you are revising a classic, but remember sticking to key points is important. You want the reader to recognize the original story in the frame work of your piece, but you don’t want to plagiarize either. The need for aspects like the three ghosts of Christmas in A Christmas Carol, make the story easily recognized, but it could be something rather than a ghost. Just making a specific nod to past, present, and future portions of your Scrooge’s life will link the two.

Also don’t be afraid to stray as far as you want from the script. You can change anything. It may be fun to alter the ending completely. You can give the readers a twist that they would never expect and in turn maybe make an improvement on all other remakes. Your goal is not to be hidden amongst a slew of awful interpretations, but stand out like a unique gem.

These tips can be useful for any sort of remastering attempt. I recently read a book by Sharon Shinn called Jenna Starborn. This novel was a unique take on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The science fiction novel is set on a foreign planet with creative advancements and interesting side notes. The plot stays true to the original, but the new setting and creations make this a fun, original take on a classic.

All in all writers are always getting inspired from previous work, but it is important to remember that your creative ideas have to be present as well. You can’t just take someone else’s idea and not improve on it. So keep thinking and writing, new spins on classics can be great ways to practice you technique and creativity!

Music and Lyrics

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As a musician that writes the music and the lyrics a question that often arises is what happens first?

Sorry to disappoint, but there isn’t a specific answer to that question. The truth is both occurs, and on a regular basis. Often times I write a poem or some couplet of words that I think would make a good song, and then strive to find a melody to match. The whole process is so dependent on the mood I’m in that it’s hard to be consistent, but my advice on the matter stays the same.

First come up with some concept that is close to your heart. Music is all about heart, the same goes for poetry or writing of any kind. (All in all writing music is very similar to writing other forms.) If you aren’t emotionally connected, how can you expect the listener or reader to be? Being emotionally connected doesn’t mean your lyrics have to be sad or depressing. It can be a fun up beat emotion or some happy memory. Just make it something that means something to you!

Next jot down everything that comes to mind. You never know what you’ll want to use. This comes in handy no matter what you’re writing. If you think you will remember it, don’t kid yourself. Trust me I know from personal experience. It will tingle at the back of your mind, rest on the tip of your tongue, but you will most likely never recall that fleeting idea. SO, WRITE IT DOWN!

Now that you’ve written everything down, take the time to rearrange the lines and words until the appropriate flow appears. This is also a good time to start working on simple chords that could be attributed to the lines. Once you have the general rhythm it will help structure your lyrics too.

Also play an instrument that you are the most comfortable with. My personal preference, the guitar, makes it easy to try out notes and sing while you play. If you don’t have experience with an instrument you are going to be focusing more on how you play rather than what you’re playing. Start simply, once you have the general rhythm add a bridge or a solo, you can even over lay your recording with some fancy finger picking or a harmony.

Additional Tip: If you have a computer with a video or a recording device on your phone, record yourself messing around. This way you can play back any genius chord sequences or lyrical riffs that you may have forgotten along the way. 

Finally, play everything over and over again. Tweak it until you love it. Play until you are comfortable with how it sounds, then set it aside. Wait a day or two and play it back again, if it is still as wonderful as you previously thought, you’ve got yourself a song.

Now all you need is a back up band, a recording studio, or an audition for American Idol and you’ll have it made!