music


Currently listening to: Black Wave by the Shins*

Spent most of the day working on articles for work. I always leave this stuff until the last minute. At least it kept my day full & busy. Less time to really think. These days that’s a good thing.

So, I’m on the fence with what I’m going to be working on for NaNoWriMo. Part of me wants to go ahead with draft #2 of the WIP, with the caveat that it could take new twists & turns. The other part of me has this other idea bouncing around in my head. Unfortunately, it hasn’t settled down & taken shape. I can see just a sliver of it. Enough to start, but not enough to know where it would all lead. I’m not sure if it’s better for a short story. The only way to know is to actually work on it, to start writing. But I don’t know that I want that to be what I focus on during NaNo. I want to use the next month (actually 2–December as well) to really get a good handle on something so I actually have something to submit to the writer’s conferences at the end of the year. Urgh!!! Decisions, decisions. My plan is to take a big chunk of Friday to sit down & figure this all out, so that Saturday morning, November 1st, the first day of NaNoWriMo, during my writing group, I know what I’m writing. At least that’s the goal. I get this sinking feeling I will be staring at my computer for the better part of Saturday morning still debating with myself over which to go with. Joy! Don’t worry, I drive myself crazy too.

If nothing else, all this is a great distraction from everything else. At least for a few moments. I’ll take what I can get.

Still sucks.

* I’m bringing back the “currently listening to” feature just because I like it & I miss it. I guess it’s a way of getting back to a normal routine. Although, still forgoing the “mood” feature. You get enough of my mood in these posts without me trying to sum it up in one word.

Image: Daeveb via flickr

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Found this meme here. Of all the memes I’ve done, this is probably the most blog related. So, here I go…

1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?

Both. My paying gig is doing newsletter, brochure, and web site writing. And, I should be doing some freelance writing, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I write fiction for pleasure. I’m not quite ready to verbalize any professional aspirations there. Let me finish this novel & then we’ll talk. (By the way, I’m answering all the following questions based on my fiction writing.)

2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?

Yes. More of a writing notebook than journal these days. But there’s a little bit of both in it. I carry it with me everywhere, just in case I have a spare moment to write & am nowhere near my computer. But more often than not, I need it around because my short-term memory is horrid & if I try and remember some brilliant phrase or idea to write down when I get home, it will be lost.

3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?

I have an idea, but I’ve found that much of my characters’ personalities, motivations, etc., only come out once I’ve started writing. It wasn’t until about half-way through my 1st draft that I really could get a handle on my characters’ thoughts and motivations. Even now, going into my 2nd draft, I’m finding that I’m still discovering things about them.

I think plotting books can be helpful, but I wish I’d stayed away from them until I’d really developed my writing practice and my voice. If I had to do it over again, I’d say, stay away from the craft books until you’ve had some time to just write. And when you do get around to reading the plot books, I would recommend reading a how to write a screenplay book. I know it helped me really think about how to frame a scene & pacing.

4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

Procrastinator. Although, I do have moments where I just feel the need to write. I wish those moments were more common than they are. The good thing is, whether it was the procrastinator-in-me or the itch that got me to sit down, once I do, I tend to stay with it for a good amount of time.

5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

It depends. If I have time, I can write for hours with no problem. If I’m just trying to fit it in, then I can also do a couple hundred words to just make some progress on my WIP.

6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

Actually, morning or night, but night more than morning. The only way I can write in the afternoon is if I started in the morning & it’s carrying over into the afternoon. Or, if I’m out at a cafe or something with the intent to use that time to write. My afternoons would be more productive if I could just take a nap. Actually, most of my blog posts tend to be done during the afternoon because it’s the only thing that will keep me awake & seem somewhat productive.

7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

Most of the time, music. Instrumental movie soundtracks are the best. Sometimes there are songs that just help me get into a mood or into a scene, & I’ll play that song on repeat while I’m working on it. In essence, it becomes white noise for me.

I can also work in silence. That’s usually a result of the music having stopped & me being in such a zone that I haven’t realized that it’s stopped.

8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)

Computer for the most part. I only do longhand when I’m not near my computer or if I’m just jotting down some notes. But, I have found that if I’m having trouble writing on the computer–you know, a nice case of writer’s block–then switching to a pen & notebook can help clear my head. Just like a change of scenery is good; sometimes a change of method is good.

9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write?

No. Honestly, I tend to only have my stories plotted out about half-way through. After that, it’s a total & complete freefall.

10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?

No. I’ve honestly never given it any thought. I just believe in writing well & having a good final piece that I’m proud of.

11. Editing/Revision – love it or hate it?

Hmmm…jury’s still out on that one. I’ve done professional editing and I don’t mind it. But I will admit, I’m not the best editor of my own work. I have a lot of trouble “killing my darlings.” Once I have a draft of this current WIP ready to edit/revise, I’ll be able to give a more honest answer.

Apparently, I’m all about new experiments this week.

A friend sent me this article today.* It’s about memoir writing, but it has some great writing exercises that non-memoirists can totally use. But what really resonated with me was what the author, Abigail Thomas, said about the importance of silence. She wrote,

“Don’t listen to anything but natural sound. Don’t look at anything you have to turn on. This is about the pleasure of silence. This is not meditating; this is reacquainting yourself with yourself. Something interesting might enter your head if you let it alone.”

Given my constant inclusion of what I’m listening to when I write these posts, you can probably guess that I listen to music when I write. Sometimes it’s to tune out other noises & distractions. Sometimes it’s for inspiration or motivation. I love music. But reading what Thomas wrote earlier today, I’ve been thinking about how I tend to neglect silence. If I’m in the car, there is music playing. If I’m taking a walk or on the metro, my iPod is on.

But it’s those moments when I don’t have anything on in the background that I have had epiphanies about my story or new ideas for another project. My ideas and thoughts tend to come together as I’m lying in silence trying to go to sleep. So, it’s made me think that I need to incorporate more silence into my life. I need to let my mind wander without distraction. Yes, music & noise serve their purpose, but I think in this case, I need to loose the distraction and leave my mind alone. So, let’s see is I can spend some of that time at the beach tomorrow in silence. Maybe something good will come out of it.

* Yes, I realize this article comes from AARP magazine. Although I’m about 30+ years away from being a subscriber, I’ve got to give them credit for a good article.

Mood: Perplexed (but in a good way) & apparently suffering from a bit of insomnia

Currently listening to: Grey Room by Damien Rice

So, got in 1158 words today. Not bad. Well over 1000. Good day. No crises to speak of. Continued in 3rd. Yeah me. Admittedly a little continuity issue in terms of the scene I ended yesterday and where I picked up today, but I’ll worry about that on rewrite. Had something in mind when I picked up and just went with it.

Oh, so the reason I’m “perplexed”…had some time to kill between meetings this afternoon so went to Starbucks. Earlier this morning, I’d had an idea. Of course, while in the shower. They never come when I have a paper & pen handy. So, luckily I managed to actually remember the idea when I was at Starbucks because it was the first time I’d had time to sit down and write. (My short-term memory is crappy, so this is a real accomplishment when I remember something 10-minutes, let alone 5-hours later.) Anyways, started working through the idea while there, and I’m not totally sure, but it might actually work, or at least be an answer to a nagging issue. So, the idea is to use a 2nd character’s view point for the story. I’d actually considered it way back when, but had let it go because I think it’s rare when a story works when being told using more than one character POV. Two novels that I’ve read, somewhat, recently where I liked it: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. One where I thought it was poorly used: The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud. I’d have to go pull Messud’s book off the bookshelf to be exactly right, but I’m pretty sure she used at least 5 character’s view points to tell the story. My problem with it was that a couple of the characters’ view points didn’t add anything, and seemed as if they were only thrown in here and there. The book could have survived with out them. I think if you’re going to use a character’s view point there has to be a balance in its use. There has to be some equality, if not in word count, then at least in terms of the weight that character’s point of view brings to the plot/story. I think Niffenegger and Krauss did it well. But it’s a risky endeavor. So, that’s why I’m not so sure about this idea. I got a couple pages in working through a scene using this second character’s POV today and it works. I can see how it would work well in the first part of the story. As for the later half of the story, I’m not entirely sure how or when I would use/need it. So, that’s why I’m hesitant to consider this some great idea or solution to any problem. And I have to be honest, it does get me away from the focus of the story which is supposed to be my main character coming to terms with what’s going on. It’s her story and if I bring in this other character’s POV, then I loose that–maybe not entirely, but it’s no longer just her story anymore.

Hmmm…okay, so blogging this out is actually helping me continue to think this idea out…bare with me.

I can see how if I use this 2nd character’s POV, I could stay in 3rd person POV for the whole thing. It makes me more comfortable with 3rd–even though the stuff I’ve played with today using this 2nd character’s POV was in 1st person (but I can see how I can easily rework that in 3rd). But then, as I think about using it, the story would no longer be about my main character. It would be about both of them, and I’m not sure that I’m looking to tell his story as well…at least I didn’t think so. But maybe I am. And when I think about why I shouldn’t use his POV as well, it makes me more confident overall that the next draft has to be in 1st person POV from my main character’s POV.

Ok, so still not sure what I’m doing with this. For the time being, if something comes in this 2nd character’s POV, I’ll go with it. But I’ll continue moving towards the end of this current draft and then deal with it later. Not going to obsess with it now. (I know you’re probably happy to hear that!)

Anyways, so writing group is confirmed for this Saturday morning. I don’t think I’ve been since the end of June and I’ve missed it. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get some writing done. Even if I don’t during the meeting, usually I’m in a good writing mood afterwards and want/need to write those afternoons. Although, I’ve actually been pretty good with writing. But still, it’s always good to have a little motivation.

Ok, I really should be tired. It’s almost 1 AM & I’m wide awake. I guess I could read. Am currently reading Last Nights of Paris by Philippe Soupault. Just stumbled upon it last week at the bookstore. I’d never heard of him before. Apparently he’s one of the founders of the Surrealist movement and wrote this in 1928. The main reason I picked it up was because it’s written in 1st person POV, and I’m on a bit of a binge with books written from that POV. Seriously, I’d kill for a way to search on Amazon for books based on the POV from which they are written or some other characteristic. But alas, I’m left to wander the bookstores. Of course, never a bad thing.

Ok, maybe reading will put me to sleep. I need to try something. I should not be awake. Or maybe some music. Am a little obsessed with an album I just discovered a couple days ago–The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties by Emily Wells. Really, really love. A mix of classical, folk, electronica–very cool and interesting. She has another album that came out a few years ago, I haven’t really gotten that into that one. Maybe after I get tired of this one. Although, the album is probably insufficiently mellow to put me to sleep. I hate to say this, but the best thing when I can’t sleep is this BBC podcast called In Our Time. Each episode has a panel discussing a historical issue/event/person. Actually, I really like it and the episodes are really interesting. Hell, I actually listened to a full 45-minutes on the history of probability and found it interesting (I think that says a lot). But if I’m tired, most of the time, I’m asleep by about half-way through. Maybe it’s the British accents that lull me to sleep. Ok, think I’ll try that. I need to sleep.

Mood: Serene + Hungry

Currently listening to: Astronaut by Amanda Palmer (feat. Zoe Keating)

So, yesterday I found in my purse the last 2 chapters I’ve written of my WIP. I had printed them out last week to read so I could figure out where to go next. So, had time to kill at the mechanic…car wouldn’t start yesterday, so had to have it towed. Not fun. Luckily, it’s nothing major, but reminds me how much I’m over the whole car ownership/driving thing. I’d bloody kill for decent public transportation in LA. But I digress…So, I got to reading the last 2 chapters I’ve written, and low and behold, they don’t totally suck. I mean, seriously. I’m hyper-critical of my own writing, and I can even say, that while not perfect, they’re not bad. This is the first time in a while that I’ve gone back and read a significant portion of my WIP before moving onto the next scene. I tend to avoid doing that because I don’t want to start editing myself and obsessing with old stuff instead of moving forward towards THE END.

So, really, kind of feeling good about the whole thing. Shocking, I know. And I hate to say this, but the close 3rd POV kind of works. (I promise, I will refrain from subjecting you, my dear reader, and myself, to another POV debate in this post.) Not sure what this means long term, but I’m just going with it and moving forward.

While I haven’t been the most disciplined of writers since my last post, things are moving ahead, slowly. I’ve been better than I’ve been…which probably isn’t saying much, but nonetheless, it’s something. It’s progress.

So, update on the summer reading. Finished The Bell Jar a couple weeks back. Really liked it. Not sure what that says about me. I’d always heard the book referred to as depressing and not a book that anyone with thoughts of suicide should read. I didn’t get that. Maybe I’m looking at it from a more technical point of view–good character development, good use of 1st person POV, great detail. But then I was talking to Sara, who recommended I read it, and we came to the conclusion that if you are in your early 20s like the main character and at that stage of your life where you don’t know where you are going or who you are, then it could be depressing, etc. But, since we/I are in our 30s and have a vague idea of who we are and what we are doing and have had some accomplishments in our lives, it resonates in a different way.

Next I read Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach. Quick read. Well done. I love how he does so much with a story that essentially is set within the first couple hours of a couple’s honeymoon. Now, I’m on to Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Only about a fifth of the way through so far, but must say, I like Hemingway’s writing style. I like the use of declarative sentences. The rhythm of his writing keeps it from getting monotonous. It’s so bad that this is the first thing I’ve ever read by him. Apparently, I didn’t know what I was missing. Although, maybe I should withhold judgement until I’ve finished the book.

In addition to some good books recently, have come across some new music finds that are keeping me sated.

  • The new Sigur Rós album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, is officially my favorite Sigur Rós album. I tend to favor them when I’m trying to work or write. Great, beautiful background music. Also incredibly good if you’re looking for something to chill out to. So, if you love a little Icelandic rock, check it out. Also, must add, they are great live. Saw them at Coachella in 2006. Early evening, under the desert sky–nothing better. Loving the song Illgresi.
  • Peter Gabriel’s new album/project, Big Blue Ball. I’m a sucker for anything the man does. In the early 90s, he brought a bunch of world musicians together at his studio for recording sessions, and this is what came out of it. It’s taken more than a decade to finally release it.
  • Just came across the song Astronaut by Amanda Palmer last week. Was checking out one of my favorite music blogs (stereogum.com) and they mentioned it. She’s part of The Dresden Dolls out of Boston. I’ve never been a major Dolls fan–a little too cabaret for me, but I’m loving her solo stuff. Her album doesn’t come out until September (it’s going to be a long wait), but she has a couple of songs, including Astronaut, on her myspace page; so, something to tide me over. Also, can I add that she worked with Ben Folds on this album. Love him as well.

Ok, so it’s a lovely day, even if is supposed to hit 100 today. Have work to do, but part of me is feeling the need to blow it off and go get some ice cream and hit the bookstore. Actually, what I need is lunch, or to be more precise breakfast. It’s noon and I haven’t eaten yet. Time to go forage.

Make Music PasadenaDecided to pursue one of my non-writing pastimes today–a little live music. Today was the first Make Music Pasadena festival. MMP is based on the annual French music festival, Fête de la Musique, which I attended several years ago in Paris. This was the first year for Pasadena. I must say, I was rather impressed that the hometown managed to draw some good acts.

I didn’t stay too long, but did enjoy a little Autolux and Raveonettes. The 100+ degree heat was a little unbearable. Admittedly, I’ve braved 3-days in the desert in similar weather conditions for Coachella, but this was a little rougher for some reason. Maybe I wasn’t mentally prepared, or maybe it was the asphalt which just seemed to soak up the sun and bake my shoes. Still, Autolux was good, despite some audio issues. Saw them last fall at the Detour Festival and have to say they were much better this time around. At least I thought so. Had never seen The Raveonettes before. Missed them at Detour. I liked. Apparently, the lead singer was a replacement since the usual one is pregnant; so, am wondering how my like will translate to their album. But still, am checking it out.

Hope this becomes an annual event. Curious to see where this could go.

Must add: I actually took the bus to get there. Admittedly, I don’t live that far from where this all went down. But still. I will take the Metro in LA, but have not taken the bus here in over 15-years. (But in my defense, I lived on the East Coast & Europe for 10-years and never drove once while there–metro & buses all those years.) Decided to be environmentally friendly, plus, wasn’t sure about the parking or traffic situation. All in all, not bad. Might be willing to take the bus from now on when I want to go to Old Town.

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