Five things I learned about creativity

Exactly a year ago today I started writing my Space Opera. The very first email my CPs got with my chapters said “this is not what I’m supposed to be writing” because I was in the middle of wrapping up the urban fantasy I’d been writing for NaNoWriMo 2014. But this book was one of those stories that hit me completely out of nowhere and poured out of me and just took over my life to the point where even now hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about that world or those characters. Recently, one of my favorite authors said that it’s not about falling in love (i.e. having that great big awesome flashy idea) but staying in love. And despite the numerous breaks I’ve had to take from that book over the last few months, I still always keep coming back to it.

So in honor of my first year spent pursuing writing seriously, I thought I’d talk about five things I’ve learned about creativity in the last year.

Be flexible

The most important thing I learned about the creative process is that you have to be willing to adapt to the situation, and you have to be willing to evolve. What works on one day, or for one month, or on one project doesn’t mean that is your Process-with-a-capital-P or that’s the only Process you’ll ever need. Every project comes out differently, and every day is a new day with it’s own set of challenges and requirements and external obligations.

My first novel that I wrote last November was a breeze. Any time of day that I wanted, I could sit down for an hour or two and knock out a predetermined number of words. I mean the novel itself wasn’t great, but getting myself to write it wasn’t a problem. My second novel was much harder. I would sit down for hours and write half what I was used to writing daily. So I had to start planning scenes and jotting down notes before I started writing each day. I had to change my approach—and that’s okay.

Takeaway: there is no one Process—figure out what you need to do now to get the thing you’re working on done. At the end of the day, as Susan Dennard says, “the writing is all that matters.”

Let it go

In the words of Queen Elsa (or Tina Fey), you sometimes have to Let It Go. People in the writing community very often hear that the saying “kill your darlings,” and while there are many varying posts about what that means, this is my take on the saying: think objectively about whether you really need something in your work (and I mean really need) and don’t be afraid to let it go if you don’t.

For example, I opened my novel with a point of view (POV) character who, while he had other chapters in his POV, wasn’t the main character. I was so attached to this opening chapter because I was so sure it conveyed everything the audience needed to know about my book: political intrigue, action, and general scifi-ness. But as more and more people looked at that chapter and didn’t connect with it, I had to accept the possibility that it just wasn’t working as an opening. It was a painful decision, but I decided to throw out that first chapter—along with every other chapter in that character’s POV. And you know what? The book is much stronger for it.

And this letting go applies to many things: actual parts of things you’ve created, relationships with other creative people, expectations of what it means to be a creative person—the list is endless.

Takeaway: don’t be afraid to try things—but also remember it’s okay to change your mind if you realize something isn’t working.

Work with other creative people

I’m pretty sure in the last year I haven’t been able to shut up about my critique partners (CPs) and there’s a good reason for that: without them I wouldn’t have been able to make even half the progress I’ve made.

They’re going to be the ones who will tell you when your opening sucks and you have to let it go or remind you of everything they love about your story when you’re getting ready to throw out half your book. They’ll be your cheerleaders, your People who you talk to when you have a crappy creative day, the people who are honest with you and push you toward creating the best work you can.

And that’s another way to be flexible with process: see what your creative friends are up to. Maybe they have another way of getting through a particularly rough part of the process and you can borrow their solutions.

Takeaway: meet people who do good creative work and learn from them even if you’re not exchanging work or collaborating.

You do you

Everyone’s path to “success,” however you define it, is different. It takes some people over a decade and 10 books to get published. Others do it on their first try. Some people get book deals from stories they’ve self-published. Others get there by traditionally querying agents. It doesn’t mean that one is better or worse than the other—they’re simply different.

There will always be someone out there who is doing what you’re doing better or faster, but just because that method of painstakingly outlining every single detail works for them, it doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly going to become better or faster by copying that. My process is a giant mess that involves next to no planning and just figuring it all out as I go. Is it an empirically great process? Probably not. But it works for me.

It’s really hard not to get caught up in envy when people are constantly boasting their success all over the Internet (and here is a great post on dealing with that), but it’s important—and frankly quite exciting—to remember that there isn’t just one path—there’s only your path.

Takeaway: there is no one Right Way to succeed in a creative field—just keep your eyes trained on your personal goals and do what you need to achieve them.

Be patient

This is probably the hardest thing I’ve had to learn. Whether it’s dealing with the creative process itself or everything else that comes with it, some things in life simply take time. It’s tempting to want to hurry the process up when you see friends talking about their creative successes, but it’s important to trust in your process and take the time you need.

I’ve always been a slow worker. In college I would go to class and take notes—then I’d come home, listen to the podcasts and rewrite my notes. And then I’d study. And I had to do every single step to get an A on a midterm or final. And unfortunately, that’s how I have to approach writing as well. I write terrible first drafts to figure out what I’m even trying to say, and then I fix the plot and world and characters, and then finally the prose itself. It’s a slow process—but so far that’s the only way I’ve been able to work.

And it sucks sometimes seeing people around me get through their revisions so quickly or know exactly how their plot fits together before they start (and here is a fantastic post on comparing). But I also know that it’s paid off to be patient—my book is getting better. Maybe not as quickly as I would like, but it’s still progress.

Takeaway: doing good creative works takes time—keep working; there’s no expiration date on your creativity.

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A Week in Paradise

I don’t know whether my tastes in vacation have changed, but I’m beginning to differentiate vacationing from traveling. When I went to Europe a few months ago, I had a blast getting to see a lot of cool places, but it was as far from a vacation as you could possibly get. I was stressed out of my mind for the entire two weeks I was gone, worrying about getting from one city to the next, about the friends I was with and whether they were having fun, about the next AirBnB and if it was going to be clean, and a million other things.

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Janella’s house was definitely better than all the AirBnBs in Europe. Rootbeer floats! Pirates! Cleanliness!

But this Boston trip was everything I could possibly want from a vacation. It was relaxing, it was fun, but we also did a lot of things. It wasn’t that I didn’t work—I worked a lot actually—it was that I could put aside my job and daily obligations and errands and step away to clear my head. I came back from my trip so recharged and ready to dive into more work.

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Quite possibly the best breakfast I’ve ever had

And of course the best part was that I got to spend a whole week with Maddy and Janella, even if that week went by wayyyy too quickly. It was so wonderful to just watch a ton of movies and TV shows and talk about books and life. The last time we hung out, we were in a cramped hotel room with no means of transportation and had a crazy packed schedule. This trip was so much better because we could spend half the trip in PJs and watch movies and eat a lot of cheese and guacamole and drink wine out of princess glasses (which is exactly what we did).

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Pictorial evidence of the cheese and guacamole and wine in princess glasses

We did get to go to Mackenzi Lee’s launch party for THIS MONSTROUS THING where we learned a lot of very interesting things about Mary Shelley. And I finally got to meet two of my writing friends that live out in the Boston area that I hadn’t met before!

At the TMT launch with fierce Janella and our signed copies
Our signed copies of TMT with fierce Janella, Maddy’s half-open eyes and my weird hair

And of course, the main reason we’d planned our trip for this week was so we could go to the Boston Teen Author Festival, hosted by the wonderful Renee Combs, and that was incredibly fun. We had a blast getting to hang out with a ton of authors and sit in on some wonderful panels. One of the best books I read this year was Melissa Grey’s THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT (seriously, it’s beautifully written) and I was so excited to get to chat with (read: fangirl over) her for a bit as well.

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The only picture of the three of us from BTAF (and Adam Silvera, who called me both an unwanted shadow and a creepy CP so there is that)

One of the highlights was getting to see Sara Raasch again and snag an early copy of ICE LIKE FIRE, which I’m SO excited to read! You can see me holding my copy below because I actually didn’t let it go the whole day (but really, I’m pretty sure I would have fought anyone who tried to take it from me).

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Discussing fountains and trees at Harvard while we give Sara an unofficial tour

But the true best moment for me was getting to meet Becky Albertalli. Another of my favorite 2015 books was SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. It’d been on my reading list for ages but I knew Becky Albertalli would be at BTAF so I decided to buy the book ahead of time, just in case they sold out of copies at the festival.

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An Unlikely Story: broomsticks and flying books!

I didn’t even leave the bookstore—I read the whole thing in like three hours sitting in one of their super comfy chairs while Maddy and Janella did productive things like revise their manuscripts. And oh my gosh, SIMON was so perfect and fluffy and happy and just the feel-good book I wanted it to be. And while I teared up reading the book, I totally didn’t expect to start bawling my eyes out when I met her. But Becky was the absolute sweetest and drew me a cute doodle of my oreotears and was just so lovely.

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All the oreotears!!
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Me and Becky Albertalli after I cried all over her

And then after BTAF came the best part of the trip: a mini writing retreat in Vermont. One of my favorite things about getting to meet a lot of authors is that I always come away feeling so motivated, and BTAF was no exception: I felt so ready to dive into my manuscript. I’ve never been to Vermont before so I was honestly entirely unprepared for how gorgeous of a state it is. The drive up was stunning while we blasted travel montage music. There was just so much open area and light and it was cold and rainy and perfect writing weather. We drank so much tea and spread out all throughout the house and spent most of the day working in silence.

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My ACTUAL view as I was writing
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Vermont is beautiful. The end.

I got so much more done there than I’d managed to get done in weeks. I’m not a big believer in inspiration—the way books get written is by showing up every day and writing—but I swear there was just something in the air there. I managed to work on a project I’d been struggling with for a couple of months and managed to fix so much of the plot. I write fantasy because the world we live in lacks magic, but if I lived in a cabin in the woods in a place like Vermont, perhaps I wouldn’t.

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Shamrock the unicorn

Trusting Instincts

The first book I wrote, last November, was a project I loved. It had complex plotlines and amazing characters and magic and darkness. But it was my first book. I’d been saying that I wanted to be a writer for a long time, many years, but even though I wrote a little bit every year, I’d never finished anything—I was worried that I wasn’t a “real” writer. But by the time November rolled around, I’d made this bold declaration. I told people I was going to write a novel, but I felt completely out of my depth. I had goals, I had spreadsheets, I had a plan. I had a very brief, very terrible outline. I had passion, a deliciously scented candle, and all the tea. But what I didn’t have was confidence.

I asked for help, which I thought was a good thing, but I asked for so much help that the story stopped being mine. My best friends are incredible—they were one million percent there for me, holding my hand through every single freak out. But all that did was inject their voice into my story. I was relying way too much on the people in my life, on writing blogs, on worksheets and formulas. Halfway through December it became painfully obvious that the story I wrote wasn’t the story I set out to tell. I had to put it away, most likely forever.

So when I started my second book, I promised that I would trust myself more. I had only one voice in my head: me. But it was a guided me. Maddy was there every step of the way, reading the chapters as I wrote them. I could get immediate feedback on what was and wasn’t working, and we could talk things through, but only after I’d written at least one version of it. It wasn’t a perfect story. Hell, it wasn’t even a good story. But it was mine. And I knew with a lot of time and a LOT of revisions it could be something good.

As some of you might know, revisions on that book have been kind of a nightmare for me the last few months. Since I came back from Europe in May, I’ve been struggling to get into the right mindset, and despite trying all the things I usually do to connect with my work nothing worked. I was miserable and unfocused and I’d spend hours and hours sitting in front of a blank screen and write nothing. Or worse, I’d force myself to write stuff just to feel productive only to realize that whatever I wrote had to ultimately be thrown out, not because it was badly written, but because I knew in my gut it wasn’t the right direction to take the story. I needed space to figure out what was happening, and more importantly, how to fix it.

So like any semi-obsessive person, I made a list of the pros and cons of taking a break from the story. It’s a luxury to be able to step away from a project without repercussions, but I was worried I’d get too complacent. It felt like I was giving up. But after just a few hours of clearing my head it was easy to see that the pros outweighed the cons: if I didn’t stop, I was going to burn out on a story I loved a lot.

So I trusted my gut again and decided I wasn’t going to touch this book for the entire month of September. And as luck would have it, I got the opportunity to work on a Super Cool, Super Secret project just days after I made that decision. It was perfect—I could spend three weeks working on that before diving back into revisions October 1st. But while making that leap from overworking myself to taking a break required me to trust myself to step away from a project, this new project had me struggling to trust my instincts in completely new ways.

Because this was a Super Cool, Super Secret project, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. And I mean anyone. Not my family, not my friends, not my critique partners. One of the biggest lessons I learned in the last year was how valuable critique partners are. They are the people I depend on for everything, whether its brainstorming ideas, ranting about writing life, or just plain nerding out over books. They are the first (and sometimes only) people to see anything I write. And for the first time I couldn’t show them my work or run potential ideas past them. I had to do it on my own.

I was writing without having any idea if what I was writing was actually any good. I couldn’t tell if the pacing was tight, if the emotional beats were falling correctly, if the scene was easy to visualize or if the characters had enough voice. I had to figure out which scenes to keep and delete, which interactions were meaningful. And it was terrifying and stressful and new but it was also oddly liberating. Raw, unfiltered Akshaya.

Which got me thinking… maybe the pages did turn out as bad as I worried they’d be—and maybe that’s okay. But maybe it’s more than that. I knew from the start that the Super Cool, Super Secret project was hovering at the edge of my comfort zone in more ways than one. It was going to push me creatively, sure, but maybe it was also a chance to take another leap of faith and step away from my security blanket.

This Super Cool, Super Secret project is an opportunity that could open doors, sure, but it’s by no means the only opportunity. But I’m choosing to see it not as an opportunity to further my career but rather an opportunity to further myself. I love having the support of my writer friends, but it’s easy to rely on them too much, to turn to other people to help me figure out whether what I’m writing is any good. Instead I’m using this as a chance to remember to listen to my instincts on where to put my trust: in myself.

Ten Books That Influenced Me

Another thing I was tagged in! I feel so popular and loved in my little writing community. I really do have a give a quick shout out to some of the amazing writers I’ve met in the last 9 months. I swear the reason I can’t stop gushing about them is that they are all truly amazing. wonderful people and I wouldn’t be anywhere without their support, friendship, and overall awesomeness. Thanks Janella for tagging me, and Christine and Erin for starting this. Be sure and check out their posts, as well as Maddy’s. Again, I will be tagging Katy, Ella, and Melody.

Here are the rules as provided by Erin:

1. No two books by the same author!

2. But, you can count a series as one book!

3. Also, this isn’t really a rule, but we’re listing our books in chronologically order, which I think is super cool!

I don’t remember the exact ages when I read these books but this is roughly in chronological order. It was impossibly hard to narrow it down to just ten books, but I really tried!

1. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew was pretty much my gateway into books. My parents suggested it because they knew I’d loved Scooby Doo as a child, so they thought maybe I’d read instead of watching TV if they bought me a mystery series. It worked a little too well because from the ages of 7-15, I didn’t watch any TV at all. Nancy Drew was really the first person I ever wanted to be (and to this day my dream car is a blue convertible) and I was always envious of all the adventures she and Bess and George went on. It may be why I incorporate an element of mystery into everything I write. It may also may be why I love giving my female character traditionally male names.

2. The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

I went through the Nancy Drew original 50 yellow books so fast that my parents were at once excited I was reading and (rightfully) concerned that I’d just traded one story obsession for another. I’m pretty sure most people haven’t even heard of Enid Blyton, but she was an English author who was popular in India. Because my dad had read her books as a child, he gave me his favorite ones: The Famous Five. This was another mystery series, but I read a lot of her other series as well, including ones set in boarding schools. I remember being very upset with my parents for refusing to send me to British boarding school for years after I read her Malory Towers series.

3. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

I’ve been pretty vocal about my love of all things Harry Potter so I’ll talk about my favorite memories here. I loved growing up with the books. I loved that after the first four, I had to wait for the books every year. I remember staying up all night to read the books the day they came just so I could avoid spoilers (and this was before social media!) I remember being so sick with a cold and fever in India when the sixth book came out. My grandfather surprised me by going to the store in the morning to buy the book for me. Then my grandmother had to confiscate my book so that I would rest. I finished it on a train to visit family in another city and cried when Dumbledore died—the first time I ever cried over a book. I remember having so many conversations with friends about whether or not Harry was a horcrux. But my favorite thing of all was that it inspired me to write. It’s because of Harry Potter that I realized a truly amazing book for me isn’t one that makes me say “wow that was great” but one that makes me sit down and write. And I can tell you that Harry Potter does that for me every single time I read it.

4. Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan

When I was in middle school I went through a very, very brief thriller/horror phase, probably triggered by my close friend Monika forcing me to read my first ever Christopher Pike book, which utterly traumatized me– though evidently not enough to deter me from the genre all together. I read all of Lois Duncan’s books one after the other so it’s difficult for me to say with any degree of certainty which one I liked the best. I chose this one because right after I’d finished I Know What You Did Last Summer, I picked up Down A Dark Hall at the recommendation of a friend who passed away earlier this year. My memories of this book will always be tied to discussing it with her.

5. Animorphs by K.A. Applegate

There are very few things I remember from middle school (mainly because I blocked most of it out) but one of those things is binge reading Animorphs with my best friend. We would spend our lunches in the library only because we loved books so much, and would fight over who got to check out the next Animorph book first. Mega was the faster reader, so she’d argue that she should get to read them first, but I was the brattier one so I got my way more often. I never actually finished the series (someone spoiled that one of the MCs dies at the end and I got so angry I stopped with maybe 10-12 books left) but that was the first time I got so into a series I was willing to read over 30 books set in that world!

6. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Oh Inkheart. The thing that blows me away about Inkheart is the reverence for books that’s in the entire series. Just thinking about the book gets me so emotional. I used to reread this book so often because I felt like no one else understood my love of books as much as Meggie and Mo and Elinor. I always wanted to be read into a book—or meet people who were read out of books. One of the first worlds I created as a child was a world in which you could visit other story lands—a direct result of my Inkheart obsession.

7. Queen of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

So yes, I’m calling this Queen of Glass, not Throne of Glass, because the book that influenced me wasn’t the book in it’s published form, but rather the one I read on FictionPress. I have really strong memories associated with the parts of the book that eventually became Heir of Fire. To be fair I don’t remember a lot of specific details, which I’m sure have been changed anyway, but I remember being so utterly blown away by it that for the first time I decided to try my hand at writing my own fantasy. It was absolutely ridiculous and didn’t make any sense, but even though I never got past the planning phase of that story, I did go on to plan other stories that I did write. It really sparked my love of writing original stories, and is in part the reason I pretty much only write fantasy today. I was so excited when years later, I looked her up on a whim, and it happened to be the week before Throne of Glass was published.

8. Princess Bride by William Goldman

I’ll admit that I watched the movie before I read the book—in fact it was because of the movie that I picked up the book. Again, this is a memory I associate closely with my best friend, Mega. We watched the movie together and laughed so much that I promptly went out the next week and bought the book. As an immigrant, it’s often difficult to know when I have a gap in my pop culture knowledge. I can talk all about the last decade of pop culture really well, but stuff that came before that, stuff that is “common knowledge” in America, is often something that I struggle with, since I simply wasn’t exposed to it. This was such an influential book because reading it and watching the movie was such a big milestone for me. It was one of the first moments I felt really American because I could finally understand all those Princess Bride references.

9. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

This wasn’t my first Neil Gaiman book, or even my favorite Neil Gaiman book. I read Neverwhere because I’d loved Good Omens so much. But while Good Omens was a fun read, Neverwhere had an impact on my writing. It was a perfect blend of subtle British humor, fantastical things based on literalness (i.e. metro stop names), and of course the magical elements within a completely normal city. It was the direct result of this book that I came up with the first version of the plot for my own urban fantasy novel (see below).

10. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Oh gosh, I can’t even begin to talk about this one. Like I said earlier, my definition of a truly good book isn’t one that makes me say, “wow this is incredible,” or makes me cry (both of which These Broken Stars did, by the way), but one that makes me get up and write.

I read this book last year, at the recommendation of Melody. I’d just finished my first NaNoWriMo in November and I was so excited to have gotten my 50k words done on my urban fantasy that I celebrated on November 30th by taking the night off writing and reading this book. I stayed up until past midnight reading this book and literally sobbing in bed at how utterly beautiful the romance was. And then after I finished it, I simply couldn’t fall asleep. So I got out of bed at 1AM, got my laptop, and ended up writing what would become the first chapter of my scifi novel. Other than being the same genre, my book has absolutely nothing in common with These Broken Stars, but to this day, just thinking about the book puts me in that very mindset I had when I drafted that first chapter.

7/7/7 Challenge

So I’m doing something very different (and very terrifying) today: I’m going to share an excerpt of what I’m working on!!

Tangled Dont Freak Out animated GIF

I’ve talked about writing in general, how Heroes influenced this book, and the music that I listen to when I work (and if you’re really dying to know more, you can find my Pinterest board here), but I’ve never really discussed any real details… until now! It’s a short excerpt, only about a 100 words, but you’ll get to learn the name of one of my main characters and as well as about a pretty important moment in his life. General disclaimer: this is still a work in progress, so these lines may be edited or even cut out completely. Thanks to the wonderful Maddy for the nomination. Hope you enjoy!

Guidelines for the 7/7/7 challenge:

  • Go to page 7 of your WIP (Work in Progress)
  • Scroll down to line 7
  • Share the next 7 sentences in a blog post.
  • After the excerpt tag 7 other writers (or however many you’re able to) to continue the challenge.

From my current WIP – Untitled Scifi

Context:

In this scene, the main character, Porter, is watching an interview of himself that was conducted several weeks earlier when he saved a young girl’s life.

Excerpt: 

The Porter on the screen ducked his head and smiled politely, rubbing the haptic tattoo on his neck. Porter also instinctively reached up, running his fingers over the raised contours of the pattern etched on his skin. Even then, he’d hated the attention. He’d only done the interview because the president’s public relations team had thought it would be a good idea— he could help boost President Camden’s ratings during an election year. He didn’t think the PR department appreciated the irony of how it had actually turned out.

“So, what were you thinking when you ran in and saved that little girl? What was going through your mind?”

My nominations! Share a 7/7/7 of your current WIP (updated to include links to their completed posts!):

And there it is! Hope you enjoyed this short snippet– and as always, let me know what you thought in the comments!

Heroes Reborn

I wasn’t actually going to post anything this week, but I couldn’t not say anything after I saw that Heroes Reborn trailer from Comic Con yesterday!

Season one of Heroes is probably my favorite season of any show EVER, and hugely influential in my writing. Like I’m not joking about this. It completely changed the way I think about narrative and weaving together multiple plot lines and character arcs. I actually rewatched the entire first season a few months ago and took notes on it because it is that good.

And given the way that the seasons after the first one went, I was pretty wary when they announced the reboot. But this trailer may just have changed my mind.

I know it’s just a trailer, but this looks every bit as good as that first season. I mean it has everything I wanted/loved: high stakes, diversity, HRG, complex characters, super powers, Hiro, that music. I swear if there had been a shot of Peter Petrelli (or Sylar), I probably would have burst into tears.

Of course, there’s no way of knowing just how good Reborn will be until it airs, but I’m choosing to stay hopeful that it will deliver. The best part of the show was the beautifully complex characters, and it’s clear from the trailer (and my unabashed stalking of their Comic Con panel tweets) that they’re really emphasizing that in the reboot.

I could actually go on for days about why Heroes is a must-see show for story lovers and creators alike, so I’ll leave off there. What did you all think of the trailer? Let me know in the comments below!

heroes animated GIF

Music

CONGRATS TEAM USA!!!! I can’t tell you how amazing it was to open up my Facebook and Twitter and see all these people watching and talking about the Women’s World Cup. Partly because soccer is the only sport I follow, but mostly because it’s awesome to see people support women and women’s sports. Well deserved win for the USWNT!

So I’ve talked a bit about books and TV shows that inspire me… but what about music? Music is a huge part of my writing process, whether I’m daydreaming/planning, drafting new scenes, or revising and trying to reconnect with my characters. I have a lot of scenes and characters in my novels that are heavily influenced by specific songs, so this week I though I’d share 5 from my scifi novel’s playlist (which you can find in its entirety here). I am pretty eclectic in my music tastes, but I tend to mostly listen to instrumental music (film/videogame soundtracks, epic trailer music etc.) just because lyrics often distract me while I write. That said I pay more attention to the feel of a song, so some of my other novels do have playlists that are heavy on lyrics.

Across the Stars by John Williams

This song is arguably the most important one in my playlist because this was the song that inspired my entire novel. The first time I listened to it, almost two years ago, I could just visualize my two main characters, and the entire story sprung from that one scene. It’s mind blowing that a five and a half minute piece of music is the reason I ever finished a novel. This may just be my favorite John Williams composition for that reason alone, and maybe one day, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to talk more about the scene it inspired ;)

Final Frontier by Thomas Bergersen

I’m a fan of Thomas Bergersen and Two Steps From Hell, but this song is… I don’t even know. It is especially tied to the opening of my novel– the first scene I ever wrote all those months ago. Even though my opening has changed a bunch of times, every time I hear it, it takes me right back to that moment and puts me in my main character’s head.

Somewhere Only We Know by Lily Allen

While the last two songs have been important to scenes, this song is one that is deeply tied to character. It’s not even the lyrics, but rather the emotions it evokes, that really gets to me. It’s so sweet and nostalgic and always makes me think of one specific character. I only listen to this song when I work on her scenes so every time I hear it, it gets me into her POV within seconds.

Empyrean by Jesper Kyd

Oh my god, this song. THIS SONG. It’s probably my favorite one in this playlist. It’s not really connected to a moment or a character but more the vibe of the entire story. If I ever take a break from my manuscript, even for just a day, I come back and listen to this song and it immediately reminds me of everything I love about the story and the world and gets me excited to work on it again.

Courtyard Apocalypse by Alexandre Desplat

And if anyone wants to know what I’ve been listening to obsessively for the last few days, it would be this. A few days ago I had a dream that I met J.K. Rowling (in hindsight I should have known it was a dream since if I ever met her in real life, I would be sobbing too uncontrollably to get any coherent words out) and naturally, my coping mechanism was to listen to the two Deathly Hallows soundtracks on repeat for several days.

Bonus: Casper’s Lullaby by James Horner

And I kind of cheated, because I had to add an extra one to make sure I got James Horner in there. I was devastated to learn of his death. He composed music for some of my favorite movies– The Land Before Time soundtrack is one of my all time favorites, but this song from Casper is one I recently discovered and fell in love with.

So there it is: what I listen to while I spend hours and hours holed up in my room procrastinating writing. And as always, if you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments below!