Adapting As a Writer–Part 3–Fin

Last we spoke, I shared how the WIP I was writing was becoming an ever-evolving beast but I was getting it done, little by little. I’d gone from an outline, to pansting, to writing out of order, to piecing scenes into the book like a quilt. to minimal word goals of 1,000 words a day during the week.

When I wrote that last blog post I was at 90k words on the WIP. For the last couple of years that would have meant I was at a completed draft. I’d gotten very good at honing my craft so I could still set the scene but not be so flowery that I was pushing over the 100k mark. But not this beast. No, 90k and the end wasn’t quite in sight. But I was so happy to be writing and moving forward that I didn’t focus on that. I can always edit later.

My husband and I had a long weekend away planned for June 25th, so I told myself, I wanted to be done by the time we left. I didn’t call it a deadline because I was afraid I would jinx my progress. But in my mind, I knew it would be harder to enjoy our time away if the draft still wasn’t done. The point of the trip wasn’t a reward for this project, but there was no reason why it couldn’t double as one. That was also a weird change for me; I always did better with a deadline but now I was afraid of setting one.

So I kept opening fresh docs and writing from zero to whatever natural stopping point I hit for the day and copy and pasting those words into the main document.

Then, Monday morning I had an epiphany. I don’t know where it came from but it was a lightning bolt moment.

The story I’m writing is the idea of one movie from my childhood meets a movie from my teen years (yes, I’m being vague on purpose). Now, the love interest from the childhood movie is wildly problematic in this day and age (yeah, problematic back then too but… moving on!) and it had been nagging at me this whole time. How could I base a character on that character knowing he just wouldn’t survive (rightly), let alone sell, in today’s culture. But I still love his problematic face.

I love his problematic face because I understand why and how he was broken. I know his origin story so I can look past the problematic parts–of course that just makes my affection for him sound toxic, right? I know.

But having that information in my mind was helping me work out this problem. When we decide to write something new inspired by something we love, we’re trying to look at it from a different perspective. Maybe not make it better, or, hell, maybe we are trying to make it better.

And then, because I hadn’t been trying to force the story, the epiphany came. I knew why this character was broken. The reader needed to know too. The other character needed to know too. So often stories are frustrating for the reader or viewer because we know all that needs to happen to fix 90% of the problems is for the characters to talk to each other. But the writer avoids that at all costs. I decided to face that head on. Something so basic shouldn’t be a twist but it was and it worked. Because, just like my MC, the reader will likely be surprised too.

Then I couldn’t stop writing. The words just poured out of me. The character’s motivations, choices, the ending, it was all right there at my fingertips. It was bright and fully formed in my brain, I just had to get it out.

On June 17th, I crossed the 109k word and I wrote the ending.

I actually like the ending. I like the epiphany. I buy it. I think others will too.

Does it need work? Oh, oh yes. It needs so much work, I am sure. But I backed up my work and then I closed the document and I haven’t looked at it since. When I finished, I interrupted my husband at work and told him I finished before I told anyone else. And I cried. He hugged me and said, “See? You’re not broken.” I cried a little more.

Then we left the city and found fresh air, salt water, and ancient trees.

The words will come back to you. You may need to try a new method, you may need to try many new methods, you may have to try ones that didn’t work for you in the past, but the words will come to you again. If you keep trying. Keep adapting. The end of the book is in sight, you just have to keep going.

Adapting As a Writer — Part 2

If you’ve been following along with my posts, you know that I’ve been working on a new book and it’s been kicking my ass a little bit, as books are often want to do. So I started changing how I wrote it–with an outline, without one, adding in new scenes to the early stages of the book–doing whatever I needed to in order to get words done.

I had never written scenes out of order before this book. When I had a new idea for what this book was really about, I knew I couldn’t just keep writing because I was having the characters reference things that hadn’t happened but should have.

So once I had those extra scenes written, I had to re-read the book for the third time to figure out where those scenes fit into the book–often having to rewrite a little bit before and after in order for them to fit seamlessly. It was weird, but it was so satisfying to watch my wordcount jump almost 10k in one day.

Now, because I’m dealing with a whole new animal of a book and I no longer have an outline to work with, I’m writing little by little to get it done. I went back to what worked for me as a new writer: just getting 1,000 words a day, Monday through Friday. It’s helping me gradually figure out what this book is about and where it’s going and what the characters’ motivations are.

That’s a big one: what do the characters want? I’m doing something different with this book than I’ve ever done before: I’m letting the teenagers act like teenagers. So often, YA books have us following the most ethical and morally centered people but really, when you were a teenager were you completely altruistic? Were you the most self-less, self-sacrificing person? Or did you some times fanaticize about what you would do if you had magical powers and maybe those fantasies weren’t for the greater good? Maybe they were petty and self-serving? Yeah, because that’s realistic.

I remember seeing Village of the Dammed with a friend and on our way home, in the backseat of my parents’ car, we talked about who we would use those powers on. Creepy, sure, but you have enemies in school and you think about winning your battles.

So I’m keeping that in mind as I write. And it’s kinda freeing and a little strange. Of course the characters are evolving but it’s nice to let them use their powers how Nancy used hers and not seeing them as the bad guy.

But, because I’m taking it slow, I’m giving myself the time and space I need to think about what’s coming next instead of seeing the whole story arc and that’s been kind of cool. I’ve kept up the practice of writing scenes on new documents and adding them to the book and it’s been a huge help getting my daily word goals.

When you have a document that’s over 80k words, watching your word count slowly creep up can be distracting, but if you have a fresh document open and tell yourself you just need 1,000 words, the word count tracker looks like you’re going much faster. Yesterday I was able to sit and get 1700+ words in one session and that was after a very bad night’s sleep. Which also means that I’m ahead of my weekly goal, so I can either keep going to get extra words, or I can give myself time away from writing to think about what’s coming next.

It’s been really nice taking the pressure off. Minimum word goals sometimes feel like you’re not doing enough but small goals are easier to achieve and eventually a bunch of small goals will add up to the main, major goal: a finished first draft.

So, you all knew me as the prolific writer who could normally do 3-5k words a day once I had a book idea fleshed out, but now I’m back to that 1k words a day, slowly but surely pace. I hope, if you’re like the rest of us comparing your accomplishments and abilities to others, and have felt like you’re not doing enough, knowing that we all have to change and adapt will give you some peace. It certainly has given me some.

Do You Re-Read Before Watching?

The big deal in the book world (at the moment) is the Netfilx adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s awesome series, Shadow and Bone.

I was lucky enough to discover this series early on and even got to meet Leigh at the Burbank Library just at the release of the second book in the series. And let me tell you, that author event was NOTHING compared to the release of the third book in the series when the events became actual spectacles like, at The Last Bookstore, where there were passed hors d’oeuvres by waiters dressed in Russian-inspired garb.

The library event was much more intimate, Leigh had more time to talk to those present and even do selfies with those of us brave enough to ask. Let me just say, as nice as Leigh seems online, she is better in person. She really is kind, approachable, and funny. If you get the chance to meet her, do it.

Blurry because my hand was shaking from fangirling when she complimented my jacket after I complimented her pants.

But, back to the series adaptation.

I think most readers are a mixture of excited and nervous when our favorite stories are picked up for screen adaptations. We love getting lost in these books, we love being transported somewhere different, we love imagining joining these characters on their adventures, so getting to see, hear, and experience them in a new medium is great! But what if they get it wrong? What if they edit too heavily? What if they pick an actor that doesn’t fit the character? What if what if what if!

I used to be the kind of reader who was very critical of adaptations when they strayed too far from the source material. After all, if the book was good enough to get optioned and make it to screen, why change it? And I had to really adjust my way of thinking in order to truly enjoy these new interpretations.

Because, that’s really what an adaptation is, an interpretation.

And, if you look at it that way, it makes it easier to let go of your need for something to be perfectly translated. Hunger Games did a great job of following closely to the source material. But as the Harry Potter films went on, they started to deviate and edit, much to the chagrin of longtime fans.

I remember staying up late into the night to finish reading Beautiful Creatures before seeing the movie the next day. The source material was so fresh in my mind that I knew every single detail they changed, both small and huge. It was incredibly frustrating trying to enjoy the movie because I kept focusing on how different it was from the book–and it was incredibly different. I think that was the last time I read something right before watching it.

I told myself, it’s not the book. And they can’t get every omnipresent detail in a movie like they can in the narration of a book. So they have to leave some stuff out and sometimes that means making changes. So it’s not an exact duplicate of a story, but instead, an interpretation.

So, if you’re wondering, no, I haven’t mainlined Shadow and Bone yet. I’ve watched the first episode and then decided to save the rest. My husband and I are getting our second vaccine shots Friday afternoon and have already planned a whole weekend of nothing just to be safe so I decided it was best to save the show as something to keep us on the couch while we deal with possible side-effects.

And no, I haven’t re-read the books. I thought about it, but there’s been enough distance in my mind from when I first read them, that the show will be something totally new for me. I will admit, I am already disappointed by one casting choice–not because I don’t like the actor or think they aren’t a good actor, but because they don’t look like what I had in my mind (no, not Alina) and so it’s already coloring my opinion, the last thing I want is to re-read these books I so enjoyed just to sit and nit-pick at the show. I want to just enjoy the show as a separate part of this universe.

I don’t know if I always wont re-read before something makes it to screen, but I know I have had a much more enjoyable time with shows and movies now that I don’t.

So, do you re-read before you watch an adaptation? Or do you wait and see what it brings to its literary universe?

Adapting as a Writer

When I first started writing books I never outlined. I tried to outline my first book and found that, once it was outlined, I couldn’t get into the rhythm of writing the actual narration of the story.

It was incredibly frustrating and I felt like I couldn’t write. My lifelong dream of being a writer, going to college to learn how to be a writer, all my lofty goals would never be achieved because I couldn’t understand how to write.

Then I read a blog post by an author I loved at the time, she was a very prolific writer so I figured she knew what she was doing, and she said she wasn’t an outliner. She explained that she was a “pantser,” or “pantster” if you prefer, which meant she had an idea for the book and then just wrote freely, or “by the seat of her pants.” As she explained it, once she outlined a book it was as if her brain decided she’d already written the story and lost all sense of urgency to get the story down on paper. That was a lightbulb moment for me.

Maybe I wasn’t an outliner either. So I tried it her way. I was able to write my first three and half books that way. I wrote so much so fast, it was incredible. It really was like I was flying/writing by the seat of my pants. I’d found a key that fit my writer lock and I was so happy and relieved.

Then my hard drive became corrupted and ate tens of thousands of words from my fourth book. I was devastated to say the least. A magical IT guy recovered some of the lost work but I did have to rewrite a lot of what was lost and I had to try to remember what I’d written (I have multiple redundancies of back ups now–a hard lesson learned) and I started making notes, which turned into a very loose outline. And, thanks to those bullet point notes, I finished that book in record time.

So, when I started book five, I tried to outline again. And I found I was a new kind of writer. I started outlining books, long-form, by hand. But the incredible thing was, I didn’t lose my need to tell the story again. Instead I found it easier to leave off for a couple of days and come back and pick up where I left off. I didn’t need to remember all my cool ideas because they were all written down, waiting for me. And I learned I didn’t have to hold exactly to the outline, I could spin out and come back to it. Like an anchor in a storm.

Then, if you’ve been reading our blogs for a while, you know I burned out and took a break from writing. Then the pandemic happened and my life blew up, and I only started writing again very recently. And this book has been entirely different than all my other books.

I’ve worked with an outline with it and then, when I ran out of outline, I’ve pantsed some of it, and then inspiration struck and I got all these incredible plot twist ideas that made me realize I needed to change the whole book. That last bit meant that I needed to add whole scenes and characters to the book. Personally I’m the kind of writer who starts at the start and moves forward, in one document, until I reach the end, then I’ll go back and add/edit later. I never work backwards. But not with this book. Because I’ve had such a paradigm shift with the story of this book. I knew I needed to work through those missing scenes. I tried to just go forward, telling myself I’d fix the first half of the book later, but as soon as I wrote a line referencing the change in the story I knew I needed the ground work.

So I started opening new docs. As you can see I’ve written a few scenes like this.

It’s kind of strange. I feel a little like I’m making a quilt or puzzle pieces that I’m going to fit together later. I’m not even sure where these scenes will go, but I knew I needed them written so, as I write the second half of the book, I have memories of these scenes to build upon. I don’t even know what to call this style of writing.

I will say, I am not a huge fan of it. I like to watch my word counts jump when I’m done for the day and this makes it feel like I’m not doing as much work. But I am. I know I am. One pro is that I can see I’ve hit my daily count much easier than doing the math . Another pro is that it does fee like I’m hitting small milestones so I can feel al sense of accomplishment that way. And I know, once I’m satisfied I’ve written all the missing scenes to pull the book together, when I got to copy and paste those scenes into the main document I’ll feel a huge amount of gratification when I watch my wordcount jump over 5 figures.

It’s just different.

And this far into the game it’s kinda weird to realize you can change your writing style again. So, if you’re new to writing, or old hat but finding you’re struggling to figure out how to do this thing called writing, maybe you just haven’t found your style yet. Sometimes a book is first person, sometimes it’s better in third. Sometimes you need an in-depth, thorough outline, sometimes you just need to write a scene that’s burst into your mind without knowing where it’s going.

Just like a story can evolve as the characters move through the plot, you as a writer can evolve as you get further into your career. You just have to figure out what is going to work for you at this point in your career and learn to adapt if one way of doing things isn’t working for you. All that matters is figuring out what gets the story written. Outline or pantsing. Morning sessions or nighttime. Small goals every day, or big wordcounts once or twice a week. There is no one way to write a book and you can learn from other writers so you don’t lose hope.

Art Can and Should Be an Escape

As artists we like to think our work is important. It doesn’t matter what your media is, you want your art to reach people, bring them some joy, provide some entertainment, no matter what that might mean for the consumer. I like to think of art as an escape and I do try to provide that when I’m writing. Probably why I like to write Fantasy novels.

As I’ve mentioned, my family went through some tough times in the last few months, beyond the pandemic. But even before that happened to us, we were dealing with the pandemic just like all of you. Trapped at home, feeling weird doing normal things like going to the grocery store or getting take-away, letting the days run into each other. And of course, a small bummer was that all of our shows were out of production for months, so we didn’t even have that as an escape.

Then the shows came back! Places were able to let production companies get back to work and we were all promised new content! Huzzah!

But, oof. What a disappointment so many shows were! What I couldn’t understand was how so many–SO MANY–shows decided to lean into pandemic and incorporate it into their stories. Like. WHY?

I know at the beginning of the pandemic it was still kind of novel; plenty of us were relatively untouched by it and sales of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books spiked. People were watching those kinds of shows and movies. It was like hair of the dog, right? Let’s see how much worse it could be instead of just realizing you’ve been wearing the same pair of pajama pants for three days and have probably downloaded one too many food delivery apps for that free first delivery fee. I understood it. Hell, I even did a live-stream story time of World of Ash for my followers.

But after eight months of it, I was definitely past that point and ready for a real escape. I wanted some levity, some feel-good, some normalcy in my entertainment. But every show had the damn pandemic in it. Or fucked up politics (I mean, we definitely had plenty of that too, right?) Even sitcoms, which should be a completely safe space for some stupid, predictable humor, had the pandemic in them. I mean. Shows that never mention real current events or who the real-life president still had the pandemic in their storylines. WHY? (I will make an allowance for Prodigal Son–they mention it, but skipped it. Like, the characters went through “quarantine” but we didn’t have to go through it with them. That wasn’t so bad.)

Then my world blew up personally and, when I had some precious time here and there to sit for a minute and check out, I was desperate for real, light, easy escape. I didn’t want to be reminded how ugly the world was. I didn’t want to watch someone have their world taken away from them. I didn’t want to see what I could see out my window on my screen. That’s not an escape. That’s rubbing salt in the wound.

I don’t actually remember a time where I needed something like books or TV to distract me from actual disaster. The last few months of 2020 were the hardest months of my life, so it was the first time where I looked at my sources of entertainment for some help checking out, even if just for an hour here or there. When I say I want my books to provide readers a little escape, I’m thinking of escape from every-day life. Something different. Something fun and dangerous but safe.

I’ve never thought about how someone might be going through the darkest part of their life and my books helping them escape, even if just for an hour or two. Now. I have had readers reach out to me with notes about how my books did just that for them and it really touched me. I don’t think about that when I’m writing because, let’s face it, that’s a lot of fucking pressure to put on yourself. So I just write the story I’m gonna write and hope someone enjoys it. If it turns out it helps them through a dark or terrible time, I am so grateful.

And I needed that myself. I couldn’t really read. That seemed to ask too much of my brain. I was lucky and fellow Scribe, Lyra, had a WIP that she wanted beta’d and it turned out to be a light-hearted escape with drama I could mentally manage. It was a nice escape into a part of the country I’d never seen and there were no pandemics or politics. But TV? Movies? Nope. So, at the suggestion of my dear mom, I tried Psych.

So light-hearted. So funny. So vanilla but entertaining. A buddy comedy that’s not really about cops. It’s even set in the next county over from me. Yes, there’s plenty of murder in it, but it’s cozy murder mysteries, not blood and gore and terror. It was exactly what we needed–true escapism. Even the drama aspects weren’t too much to manage. We could watch an episode or two and feel our anxiety levels evening out. We could turn our brains off and unwind from terrible days so we could go to bed relaxed.

Realizing how little in the way we have of these kinds of shows anymore, Psych, The Librarians, Veronica Mars, Buffy, is disappointing. I don’t mean you can’t stream these older shows, I mean we don’t have anything like it now and these shows keep getting cancelled, even if they’re popular–good sitcoms are also axed left and right while trite and annoying ones are allowed to be renewed again and again. There is a glut of drama out there, for sure. But we also need shows that don’t ask too much of us. Light romance, extremely light drama, enough gentle comedy, all neatly tied up in a 44-48 minute bow.

There were times where I worried my Matilda Kavanagh Novels were too basic witch, too light, too quick. But I wrote them because they were fun for me. I enjoyed the episodic nature of the series–each book can be read on its own but there are over-arching stories tying them together as a series. I liked that the characters didn’t ask too much of me. Yes, there are some darker themes and Big Bads, but there’s a lot of fun and silliness in them too. I needed that and maybe, sometimes, you do too.

Art as escapism is as important, I think, as art as a statement. I hope, when we get on the other side of this, we get back to some fun escapism again. Not everything has to be high brow drama or slap-stick comedy. There’s some middle ground and I hope more TV and Movie writers and producers remember that.

I will say, since we’ve gotten to the other side of our ordeal, we have been able to give other, newer shows a chance. If you haven’t watched Bridgerton, I don’t know why. And I’m giving big kudos to Resident Alien because Allan Tyduk never disappoints and it is really, really funny.

And just one last comment. Can the new trope of the dead wife as the set up for the widower’s story please stop? Legit, there are at least 3 “sitcoms” with that plot on right now.

Anyway. What shows, movies, or books are your go-tos when you need an escape? Are there any out there that got you through a tough time?

Annnd We’re Back!

Blessed Imbolc, friends. And welcome back!

It’s been a minute since we at the Spellbound Scribes’ Blog have crept into your web history, but all of us are happy to be back and are so grateful if you’ve come back to join us.

We each had reasons we needed the break when we closed the blog at the beginning of September and, when I wrote that post, I was in a very dark place, myself. Things in mine and my partner’s lives had been turned upside down and we were kind of drowning at the time. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I could see into the different timelines, depending on which way things went, and so many of them were very scary and stressful. Sadly and not sadly, I was right and we went through some of the toughest months of our lives.

We lost our home, nearly lost our business, lost family members, all while trying to avoid the actual plague our world is fighting.

But. Five months to the day that we got the news our world was turned upside down, we landed on our feet. Or we swam up out of the abyss. Broke through the rubble and climbed to the top. Take whatever imagery you like, we made it to the other side. And, if I’m being honest, there’s a very good chance that this might have been one of the best things to happen to us. Check back with me in a year and we’ll see if that prediction comes true.

Imbolc is a time of renewal, the celebration of making it through the darkness and the light returning back to the world. It is so appropriate for our situation to finally be settled right as this moment turns on the wheel.

I know this is supposed to be a writing blog and me talking about my life and our world finally finding some normalcy doesn’t seem appropriate, but we’re all people first and I think it’s important to know that we all go through troubles. When we’re seeing people’s lives or careers online, it can look like their world is perfect and we have no idea what’s going on behind the screen. And it makes us question our own lives, comparing ourselves to what we see and feeling like a failure. I had to completely shut down my online presence to get through the last couple of months and it wasn’t because I didn’t want people to not know things aren’t always perfect for me and mine. It was a survival tactic. But I was so touched to have friends reach out to me to find out where I’d gone and wanting to know if I was okay.

And now I really am doing okay. In fact, I’ve even opened up the manuscript I started working on for NaNo ’19 that I’d shelved when the pandemic started and you know what? I don’t hate it. I might actually start writing again and finish the damn thing. I cannot tell you what a monumental moment that was for me to realize I might want to start writing again so soon. But I do.

If you’ve been around for a while you know that I’ve posted about how many words I’ve written over the course of my writing career. So maybe you thought I was able to write through all the turmoil. Maybe you thought I could just push through the chaos and keep working. I mean, that’s what it probably looked like. You saw people posting like their lives and quarantines were going great, right? All sourdough starters and puppy adoptions. But there you are in your tattered sweatpants not getting a damn thing done. Because you were depressed. Because you were tired. Because you were scared. Because you were uninspired. Because. Because. Because. Whatever it was. And how many times did you see that meme about what Shakespeare got done during his apocalypse?

You know what?

Fuck all that noise.

Maybe you wrote your life-changing project. Maybe you did jack all like most some of us. Either way, you did exactly what you were supposed to.

I didn’t get anything written and I’m okay with that. I’m going to start again. I’ve done it before so I know I can do it again. And so can you. If you’re not ready yet, that’s okay too. The words will always be waiting.

And I’m so glad you were waiting for us. We’re here for you once again.

Farewell For Now, Not Forever

It seems like everyone has something difficult they’re going through right now, even if it’s “just” the pandemic. Everyone has something that’s happened or happening and it’s going on at the absolute wrong time. And we’re not immune here at the Scribes.

Even just living through this time is a drain on the creativity, inspiration, and life energy.

Each week we’ve striven to bring you helpful, inspiring, and new content to help you on your writing journey or creative outlets. But for the last few months that’s become harder and harder on all of us. That, coupled with some personal issues a few of us are going through right now, has finally come to a head for us.

So, for now, we’re taking a break from the blog. I was dreading this for a while, feeling it coming, hoping the tides would change in our favor, but it’s just not. This isn’t forever, at least, we don’t think it is, but it is for now.

We plan to regroup at the new year and see where everyone’s headspace is and if we feel better and ready to bring you renewed content and, if we do, we’ll be back!

Thank you all for reading with us over the years, every like and comment and share has been a gold star on our days and I’m sad to see it end. But remember, you can find each and every one of us on your virtual bookshelves if you miss us and want to show your support.

Music Makes Me Write

We’ve all talked in the past about what kind of writing rituals we have, ones that we just enjoy to give ambiance to the experience and others that we have trained ourselves to use to make writing easier.

For me, I have my preference of when and where to write (mornings, in my office), but if I have to make adjustments to that (my office gets unbearably hot in the summer), I can adapt and write at different locations and times if I need to get my words in.

But my trained ritual is music. For every book, I take time to curate the start of a playlist–a soundtrack–for the book. I do try to get at least forty minutes of a playlist before I start so that it doesn’t start repeating on me too soon. But repeating is part of the magic of the right playlist too. Like the chanting refrain of a spell, hearing the same key songs again and again will help me get the story on the page.

If you get the music just right, it will conjure the characters and/or location of the book in you mind when you hear specific songs even outside of writing. Sometimes I even put one song on repeat for an hour because it has the magical words that are working when no others are.

I like to keep building on a list if a book is a series, so I can hear the different voices of the different characters in the cast. I also like to throw in some instrumental tracks to help when I’m building tension in different parts of the book.

I managed to get my Ash and Ruin Soundtrack up to two hours and forty-five minutes.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4TUKR4rCv8Av2k2rRqhxkd?si=Pj9bw5frSJmOi-s6WPE1aA

I can open that and am instantly transported back to my post-apocalyptic world teeming with black-cloaked monsters.

Surprisingly, my Wytchcraft playlist is shorter than my A&R soundtrack. I say surprising because that series is much longer, but that world is much smaller in a way as it’s not a journey story like A&R. And, while there is a cast of characters even bigger in this series, it really is mostly about my MC, Mattie, so the music is mostly for her and to be in her head.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3epr0YSBEjn7ccUvQgOfTA?si=CUIvy8fZQAq1BSUfNoX5hQ

I have shared that I also have a pen name, Leila Bryce Sin, and under that name I write completely different stories (coughcoughveryadultthemescoughcough). So I definitely make sure that music is different, but one theme you’ll find throughout my playlist is strong female voices. I love a good power ballad sung by a woman that I want to be for five minutes. It’s a special kind of storytelling and I fucking love it.

My Brimstone War Trilogy was set in Las Vegas so it needed music to evoke that special city for me and it featured a war between heaven and hell, so it needed a lot of angry music. It’s quite the hodgepodge, I know, but it worked for me through three intense books.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/142r4gSfvwqPwS0z7jeVGm?si=KxYY45UeSjWnloq64F2oRA

Now, I have two playlists that aren’t tied to any one book; they’re soundtracks I can go to no matter what book I’m writing and it’ll help unlock a door in my mind like no other playlist can. Sometimes you  just need intense emotions and music, pushing you forward as your characters run for their lives or fight to the death. Or the right creeping melody to help you curl your spine and sink into  the cushions, hoping to drag  your reader into the tense, scary darkness  you’re weaving.

Soundtracks: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5F26qJIXsZ87hIx2q62shz?si=ruUaORORRnKMJfjU6VwC2A

Instrumental: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/24uUYnObN6uUBZR4suO8Ig?si=EiL6GDS8Qmy6UX_RnrcoYA

You probably notice there are the same artists on the different lists, even some of the same songs, and that’s because those artists really speak to me. I do tend to write slightly damaged, a little bit angry women as my main characters, so a lot of the same songs work for all of them. Or for me. Whatever. The Pretty Reckless, Kaleo, Ellie Goulding, Halsey, and Florence and the Machine are some of my touchstones no matter what I’m writing. Finding those voices for yourself could really help you if you find yourself stuck in getting through tough scenes.

Personally I love to find new music. It’s something I’ve always loved since I started figuring out what music I like. I can spend whole days getting that playlist started before I put fingers to keys, creating the vibe and ambiance I want to portray in a story. Ritual really is the only word for it. So, I hope sharing some of these lists with you, helps you find new sounds and voices that help you with writing.

(P.S. I did have this all set up super cool where you could see the playlist in the post but for whatever reason, WordPress is being a complete butt. So if you can’t see the playlists, I’ve included links. Not nearly as cool, but what are you gonna do?)

I Have An Idea

If you’ve been following along with my writing saga for the past year, you know I’ve been struggling to figure out a new book idea or even just to get inspired to start writing again after writing so much so fast for so long.

I’m a big believer in refilling your well and rewarding yourself for milestones so it doesn’t just feel like an endless trudge through the words, from one book to the next. It’s really hard to be a writer, especially a self-published writer, because you really are the only thing that keeps you go. Yes, if you have a contract with a publishing company, you have agreements to meet, but sometimes that’s not enough to inspire someone.

For me, I’ve been struggling to find that spark again. I started working on a new book last NaNo, and I won NaNo with it, but that’s been it. I’ve only gotten to the 50k word mark. I had to walk away from it and when I came back, I had to re-read the whole thing and make some notes, but no new words have happened. And the weird thing is, I like this book idea. But I do think, maybe I have too much going on in the book? I may be trying to make a salad out of it and I need to pull back. I dunno. But, like I said, I like the book, but I haven’t been able to figure out why I can’t finish it.

So I took a break. I’ve blogged about this. And, of course, the end of the world happened and, while that should have given me plenty of time to write, being inspired when you’re stressed the fuck out, isn’t easy. So I haven’t finish it.

And every time I think things are getting back to normal and maybe I can start working again, things in our state change and I’m back to no spare bandwidth to write.

But then, last week, I got an idea.

A new character walked into my mind and glared at me.

I don’t know her name yet. But I do know what she is. I do know what she is doing. I do know she’s interesting.

And I want to write her story.

The idea is super new and fragile right now. I have no idea what the point of the book is, other than following this character around and writing down what she’s doing, but it has sparked something inside of me. I haven’t tried to figure out her name yet. I think I actually already have her playlist built (maybe she’s been forming for a while). I don’t know what the Big Bad is, or if she’s the Big Bad (!). But I know that the idea is really cool and different than what I’ve done so far.

So, what is the point of this post? Maybe it’s to inspire you if you’ve been beating your head against a block wall because you haven’t been able to write or even think of an idea to write about. Maybe it’s to remind me that, when I thought maybe I’d run out of ideas, there is still some water in the well to draw from. I don’t know. But I’m excited.

This idea is both dark and shiny. Like a glittering, black diamond. It’s precious and formed over a long time and under great pressure and I’m clutching it close and going over every pane trying to figure it out as it mesmerizes me.

But I’m not going to rush it. I know, based on my past experiences, I can’t go too slow–once I have an idea, I need to keep up with the urgency to tell the story or I’ll lose it–but I’m not going to kill myself trying to get the outline written in a few days and then start pumping out thousands of words a day. I’m going to sit with this idea until I know where it’s going, what’s at the climax of the story, then I’m going to start working on it.

I don’t know if that means I’ll start writing soon or sometime next month. But if you’re struggling, I’m here to tell you to breathe and let the ideas come to you when they’re ready. Or when you’re ready. I was really trying to force it and it just wasn’t working. That’s how I got to my first series, now that I think about it. I was trying for a long time to force one story out of me, but I couldn’t get it to take off. When I finally let it go, I was able to write almost 10k words of my first book in one sitting. No, I don’t recommend doing that. But it was one of my first self-lessons in writing and I’ve clearly forgotten that.

The right idea will come to you if you let.

It is so hard to let go of stories we’ve started. Trunk novels hurt too (I’ve got one of those during this time too). Time not writing sucks. But sometimes we gotta go through all of this to finally be able to say, “I have an idea.”

New Release: Hate Jacket by M. Andrew Patterson

Hello my darlings, I hope you’re all staying safe, wearing your masks, and washing your hands. Please don’t end up an infamous internet sensation because you won’t use curbside service or wear a mask. But, if you’re here, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you. Moving on!

So, this week, we’re lending our blog to help boost the voice of a friend who has their debut novel coming out! So exciting!

We’ve got an awesome cover reveal, blurb, AND pre-order links to share with you today. Is it tacky to say the cover is awesome if I helped create it? Well, if it is, then I’m tacky af.

I gotta say, I’ve had quite the creative block for some time now and when I Kool-Aid-Man’d my way into helping Drew with his cover (no, he didn’t ask, yes, I just said “HEY LOOKIT I MAKE THINGS! DO YOU LIKE IT?”) it really shook something loose inside of me. I actually enjoyed making something again. So as much as I wanted to help a debut author, because goodness knows I’ve been there, I am grateful I got to do this for myself too.

I remember Lyra once talking about getting past a creative block by doing something other than your normal art and you know? I think she’s on to something!

Now, without further ado, I give you, Hate Jacket by M. Andrew Patterson!

Coming August 11, 2020 — Pre-orders available now!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Julius Monroe hates his life. He hides the truth of his father’s abuse with careful lies and a kick-ass jacket that keeps everyone at bay. But Julius’ careful facade crumbles after a run-in with the school administration puts him on a collision course with his best friend’s sister and her jealous boyfriend.

But escaping the school bully and his father’s abuse isn’t his only worry. The worst monster is Lela, whose manipulations threaten to expose every secret that Julius is so desperate to hide.

When his worlds collide, Julius must make a choice. Live with the monsters he knows, or take a chance on being free.

About the Author

Andrew didn’t realize he wanted to be an author until he wrote his first words on his step-father’s Apple IIe. Fast forward 30 years and that story still isn’t finished. He keeps claiming he’ll write it…just after he finishes the four hundred other ones in his head.

Born in California, on a now decommissioned army base, Andrew then spent the next four years in Germany before moving to Kansas where he has been ever since. Coming from a long line of librarians, Andrew didn’t expect to continue the family trend. Instead, he received his bachelor’s in Music Theory from the University of Kansas in 1997. It was during that time that he ended up working in the university library as a student. He found he liked being around the old books and has been hanging around dusty old tomes for the entirety of his adult life.

After 20 years, he decided that he wasn’t leaving the world of libraries and received his Masters in Library Science from Emporia State University in 2015. But life changes and Andrew took a leap into the real world and now works as a software developer for a digital marketing firm.

When he’s not working or writing, Andrew is an avid gamer, reader, and occasional maker. He currently lives in Olathe, KS with his wife, their combined six children, and a tortoiseshell cat named Lili. She’s a princess.