Music for Writing to

I’ve been writing for years, and most of the time I come up with soundtracks for what I’m working on. These soundtracks inspire me to write certain scenes, exemplify relationships or characters within whatever I’m writing. Sometimes, though, you just need some good background music for whatever you happen to be writing (or studying!) at the time. Most of the time I find these soundtracks on 8tracks, a website that you may create a free profile on and begin creating your own playlists, adding annotations, cover art, etc. These are some of the ones I’ve found that I really think stand out.

Hello writing, my old friend. This one is mostly instrumentals from all sorts of media.

get shit done. The soundtrack that led me to 8tracks in the first place.

Epic Score Playlist. What it says on the tin. These are all scores from pop culture.

nobody saves me but me. For those of you writing female-driven novels.

my mind is somewhere else. Instrumental again, beautiful to have in the background.

writing mix: medieval. For those of us who are writing medieval or fantasy genres!

it’s time to run. For those running scenes. Whether they’re running to or from something, they’re running.

Writing: Character Deaths. Again, what it says on the tin. You want a tear-jerker farewell to one of your beloveds? Listen here.

until the end. Apocalyptic/Sci-fi? We got your stuff here.

drive, darling. Indie romance paging you. We’ve delivered.

NaNoWriMo: Adventure. Wanderlust galore here, these will help you write your adventurous characters.

Have your own playlists for your projects you want to share? Have others that I haven’t listed that you think are awesome? Post them in the comments below for everyone to enjoy! Is it one song in particular that gets you ready to write? Put the youtube or soundcloud link below and I’ll take a listen! Most of all, though, enjoy writing.

Follow Your Pen

In this article I want to give you an overview about different genres that you might write for, or be interested in. I weigh in with the pros and cons of such genres and what it can be like writing for them. Romance, for example has a huge audience, but it’s often the same story over and over again but with slight variations to it. So how can you, as a Romance Author, stick out? I discuss this, and many other points below.

Romance is a tricky genre to get right. Certainly, anyone can write about the typical teen romance, especially if they’ve read a couple of them, but if you want to go outside the normal bounds of what is considered a romance, such as the LGBT route, Asexuality or any other differences, it can take some interesting writing to keep it within the realm of this genre. Not to say that LGBT or Aces are any less legitimate or compelling, just that it isn’t a usual choice. As it is, keeping a hetero relationship fresh and exciting instead of being “another Twilight” is difficult as well. Be prepared to bring new ideas to the table in order to keep your audience enthralled!

The Young Adult genre is not that hard to crack, my first novel was partly this genre and it gave me direction in the book that it otherwise might not have had. Finding yourself is a common topic and it never gets old—everyone finds different things out at different points in time, and the range of ages that this genre covers is a tumultuous time in many people’s lives anyway. They are simultaneously figuring themselves out as well as figuring out the world around them. The only issue is not having the main character figure everything out at the end, because most often this is not a fairytale ending sort of genre. However, feel free to make it what you want. Don’t be afraid to break the mold.

The enthralling suspension and twists and turns of a mystery plot can keep anyone busy—as the reader! Imagine what the author has to do in order to write these books. To be completely honest, much of the mystery genre is full of murder mysteries. The allure of this genre is the rough and tumble cop plodding his way through deception and the red tape that keeps cops on the up-and-up, who finally veers off course in order to solve the mystery. This may come back to bite him, it may not. Either way, the whole idea is to solve the mystery. It’s a beautiful genre, and if I had more patience I might even contribute to it; I personally do not want to invest much of my energy into researching murders and how criminals get caught due to one tiny piece of evidence and a gutsy detective. It may not be the genre for me, but I sure do enjoy watching crime dramas such as Castle unfold on television.

The largest genre out there is Fiction. This encompasses a lot of other genres, if you get right down to it—these days, however, this genre tends to take whatever is a fictional story that doesn’t fall into the sub-categories. At the moment this means books with the target audience of adult age, post-apocalyptic novels that don’t fit in with fantasy, teen or other genres and many, many others. This isn’t a terrible genre, in fact it’s one of the best! However, it does give you a lot more freedom, with hardly any focus other than ‘this didn’t really happen’. For someone like me, who finds it easier to write as an escape, this genre often deals with aspects of life I would rather leave behind. Because of that, I don’t venture too far into this genre.

Sci-fi and Fantasy are my favourite genres to write in. I personally find them to be the easiest to write, as I can escape into worlds of my own creation, superpowers and things I wish were real but sadly aren’t. I feel so free to come up with whatever I want out of plots, sub-plots and varieties of people. However, there are some parts of these genres that can be quite hard to work around. In the Science Fiction genre, for instance, some modicum of knowledge about space is usually required. At the very least physics as we know it and science in general is a great foundation. At least in the Fantasy genre there’s almost complete freedom to ignore science. Not so much if you’re going for strict Sci-fi. If you’re up for blending the two genres, it then gets interesting. You have exceptions to rules more and more often. Needless to say this genre has boundless room for creativity and originality; however it can also be hazardous terrain if you’re not willing to put some thought into your writing.

While I do label Fiction as the largest genre out there, Non-Fiction also has quite a large scope. The unfortunate side, I find, to Non-Fiction is the creativity is lacking. You’re writing about either something, someone or an event that happened in the real world. Listing facts and coming to conclusions about things. It all seems rather boring; however these books also make great references. For example, self-help books can fall into this category. Helpful information can come in the form of encyclopedias and reference guides. While writing for this genre may not hold the escapist’s heart and soul, it certainly isn’t a genre that shouldn’t exist. This is the genre for passing on knowledge in the purest form; this is the most noble of the genres.

Erotica was a small genre—when I was working at a book store we had a tiny little four foot section that didn’t have very much in it. We often had to seed other books into it that didn’t really fit that description. By the end of my stint there, the section was nearly overflowing. What turned it around? More people willing to write for this genre. More people who don’t find it despicable or not okay to read. So this genre has grown to a size where mentioning it as a valid genre is relatively commonplace. So what is Erotica? It’s the sex books, right? Partially. Erotica isn’t always just about sex. That may be the whole reason for reading it, but there are plots and even though they are often predictable and just around as an excuse to write the sexy scenes, it still draws enough of a fanbase that it’s worth discussing. The downside to this genre? Often you’re a ghostwriter. Whether you are or are not, it doesn’t seem to matter because all of the characters are unimaginative, have a one-track mind and are often 2-dimensional. The upside? You get to write adventuresome scenes dealing with a topic that is so often only implied (if that) in other novels.

Genres are all up to the individual. Even though I would never find myself writing a Non-Fiction book that doesn’t mean that it isn’t someone else’s forte. I hope that this guide gives a somewhat helpful look into what writing for each one is like, so you might find it easier to figure out where your heart lies. For me, I love Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I dabble here and there in other genres so that way I don’t get sick of writing the same thing over and over again. It’s okay to not just stick to one genre—it’s okay to just write for one genre. You’re the writer, follow your pen!

Character Flaws: Everyone Has Them, Not Every Writer Writes Them

What makes up a character? Traits. What are traits? Good or bad points found in a character. Good character traits (meaning those that are positive), are easy to come by. We are taught from a young age to look at the perfections, the good in others. This includes our characters. Unfortunately this means that so often character flaws are left forgotten. Flaws are just as important as talents and perfections: they make the character much more human and easy to connect with.

What flaws are most commonly seen? Depression certainly is one, so is social ineptitude. Arrogance is seen here and there, as is trouble-making (see bad boys). These are by no means bad flaws, though they are seen often and can be seen as dull and cliche as opposed to finding something different: Superstitious, apathetic, overconfident characters are hardly ever seen. What if the character is paranoid? Overprotective? Illiterate? Every person has those traits that could stand for some improvement, whether they recognize it themselves or not. You can either go for flaws that make you think outside the box, or you can stick to known entities. The good part about sticking to the sometimes over-used traits (whether positive or negative), is that as a writer you have plenty of material to pull from. The flip-side is that you have to try to write it in a different light, or make it somehow original in your character (unless your story is about how your character is actually very average, which is one tactic you can use.

Flaws can be real or not real. A character can perceive a trait in themselves that isn’t actually there, or perhaps they just don’t see the positive of a trait (like practicality, which can be seen as a double-edged sword). These approaches to your characters can provide points to grow and develop from, which can create a great sub-plot. Never forget that flaws are fluid: they can either be tackled by the character knowingly or unknowingly, they don’t need to be resolved at all if you don’t want them to be.

New flaws can surface. After being incarcerated, for instance, perhaps your character becomes claustrophobic. Maybe they always scarf up their food because they don’t know if it will be taken away or not. Maybe they’re more outwardly violent now, or withdrawn. Any number of outcomes can come from a single plot point. Giving your character a reaction to the situations they have been put in means that they are human and easier to connect with.

Flaws can come in many forms. Physical, emotional, mental, etc. Phobias, mental illnesses, disabilities—these all count towards flaws. Your character doesn’t need to necessarily view them as flaws, they could see the silver lining in their predicament, if they’re even aware of the flaw. Flaws help to define and differentiate your characters. Diversify your characters and their flaws. Everyone copes differently, even if they have the same problem (depression, for instance). Write your characters with thought and consideration. They deserve it and so does your writing!

List of Mental Illnesses

Character Flaws

The Usefulness of Character Sketches

Character sketches and character profiles are often confused for one another. The best way to tell the two of them apart is to see the profile as more like a questionnaire that has been filled out by the character about themselves. A sketch, on the other hand, is more like a scene revolving around the character: how they view the world, how they view themselves, how they believe the world views them. This sounds rather complicated for a single scene, doesn’t it? Let me break it down.

Focus on one world issue. Sexism, racism, ageism, etc are all issues that are current and good to start with. But perhaps you are set in a different time or in a fantasy or science fiction world. Do these issues still apply or is there some other point of contention that has your characters split? In that case go with whatever applies to your world and your characters. If you don’t have all of that sorted out, then go with something current. Trying to find something that your character is opinionated about—or strangely not—can be a difficult task, but once you have a controversial issue to write about, the character sketch comes rather easily.

The next aspect you need to take a look at is the setting of the character sketch. Remember, you’re actually writing a scene here, so where they are is key. Don’t spend all your time worldbuilding, as that would be a waste (unless you really need to flesh out the world your character lives in). Right now you’re concentrating on your character and their point of view. You can choose action—your character is running from something or someone, you can choose dialogue—talking to someone they have a conflict with is a great way to represent your character’s view, you can choose to have a benign scene where they watch something happen to someone else as well. The sky is the limits as far as setting is concerned, but make sure it counts for something.

This can be in answer to a challenge: using a specific word in your sketch, writing a certain amount of words, etc. Explore your character through this one scene, see what it is about your character that you might not know. Like whether or not they are brave, whether they keep a level head in stressful situations, if they think ahead. All of these can be pulled from many situations and can be shown multiple ways. Don’t be afraid to write something out of the box!

Filling out questionnaires about your character may fulfill the same need, but in order to do that you need to ask the right questions. This can be insightful, certainly, but sketches are like taking an adventure in someone else’s shoes.

It’s All About Perspective

Points of View (or POVs) are important to figure out before you really begin writing your story. Rewriting from a different point of view is a pain in the ass and a waste of time, especially in larger segments. Trying out different POV’s, however, is a good way to get a feel for your story and the characters as well. This is when character sketches are helpful. This way you can try out, for a single scene, what the world would look like from that character’s eyes. So what points of view are there?

First Person is when you say “I did this; I thought that.” Basically your novel will turn into a big I statement. For some purposes this is the best option—getting inside the head of the main character and having the reader privy to the character’s thoughts and feelings brings the audience closer to your story, as long as you can maintain that connectivity with thoughts and emotions that the reader would also have to similar situations. One downside to this is there would be no overlap with other characters’ emotions or thoughts. Your main character could assume or believe that another is feeling a certain way, but in reality that character could have any number of thoughts or emotions running through them that your main character knows nothing about. Therefore, this point of view is rather limiting, but it does offer the closer relationship with the main character.

Second Person: “You see this; you do that.” Most often times this point of view is not used in stories. This is either because it doesn’t work with many types of characters, but there are some notable media types in which it does hold water. “Peep Show”, for instance, is a tv series where it is implied by camera angles and the way characters interact with the viewer, that you are actually a character in this story. If one were to otherwise use this POV, the story telling might seem awkward or out of place. It certainly is a difficult point of view to grasp, having the audience be a character in your story. This would suppose that the author knows what the reader or watcher is thinking, feeling, etc. If the writer doesn’t get this correct, then it breaks the immersion and thus the illusion, and so the story doesn’t necessarily go on for that audience member.

The art of writing Third Person is one that many people prefer. Third Person is designated by “He said; she did.” While this POV doesn’t necessarily give insight into characters’ thoughts or feelings, it makes it easy to tell the story, being from an outside perspective. The writer, and thus the audience would have to realize that this means that during the story they would only be able to suppose what the characters deeper motivations might be, but this may just be the point of view you need to get the ball rolling. Just because a lot of story tellers use this doesn’t mean that it’s too cliche. Sometimes the easier route is the best to take, as it conveys the set of circumstances the best.

There are Omniscient POVs as well, which are also widely utilized. These are also termed as God points of view, as the author is telling the story usually from a third person perspective but with the added ability to know the characters’ motives, feelings, etc. This does give more depth and prospective connectivity between characters and the audience, acting like a sort of middle ground between third person and first person. As there are more characters with this depth, there are more chances to rein in viewers. This is a popular point of view, and one I use myself.

Figuring out which of these commonly used points of view to use for your story can make or break it for your audience. You need to have the ability to connect, draw in and keep your readers for the duration of your novel. I do recommend trying each of the POVs in order to ascertain which of them is best used in the long run for your plot and characters. Every novel is different, don’t be afraid to step outside the box, but always keep in mind what it could do to your fan base.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

When NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins on November 1st, are you ready to sit down and begin your novel? Is this your first time participating? Is it your fifth? Do you not have any clue as to what you’re actually planning to write? That’s okay, I have a checklist to make certain you’re caught up in the preparation process.

Plotting a pacing out your novel will help you to keep on target. Getting through the introductory portion of the novel, I feel, is the hardest. But the middle can be quite the slog, especially if you have no idea when your novel is going to pick back up. What helps me to get through that? Having the book planned out chapter by chapter. This also makes certain that the lulls between action doesn’t last too long, making the audience bored.

Having character profiles and, in some cases, sketches sorted out ahead of time can greatly benefit you as an author. If you already have these ready to go then you won’t get stuck during writing (at least for not very long!), because all you’ll need to get going again is to look over your character profile to make sure you got his eye color or her height correct when you referenced it just barely. This helps you to understand and visualize your character easier, thus not stopping to figure out whether he’s got brown hair or blond, or whether or not she has freckles.

Untitled novels can still be completed, but it’s a lot harder to tell someone about your novel if you don’t have a title for it. During November there will be countless friends and family members asking what you’re up to. Another plus, other than ease of communication, is that potential audiences will remain interested if you have a title. If you tell them about it, they ask what it’s called and you stutter and stumble over saying it doesn’t have a name yet, they think it’s further from completion than it actually might be. You can monopolize on their interest with a title, making them think it’s closer to being on book shelves than it actually is. It’s handy and it makes talking about your story that much easier.

Summarizing your novel into one cute little synopsis (like NaNo suggests) is actually a really great idea! If you can figure out what your novel is about ahead of time it will keep you writing until the very end—more people will ask questions about your novel and want to know about it. If it’s a well written synopsis then it will draw people in to say it sounds interesting and they want to read it (when can they read it?). It always helps to spur you on knowing that people want to read it even as you’re writing it.

A book cover isn’t a necessary element, but as statistics have shown in the past NaNo’s, books with covers become winners 60% more often. If you’re interested in both completing your novel during NaNo as well as having a pretty cool cover to show everyone (it’s almost like your book’s already out!) I suggest investing the time (and in some cases) the money in it. There are a couple of ways to go about it: creating one yourself which may mean getting permission from models, photographers or artists to use their work in such a way, or it may mean going out and taking your own pictures, drawing your own piece, etc. This way takes a lot more time and energy on your part in which you might lose interest or not have it done before NaNo begins. Another way is to pay someone else to create a book cover through graphic design, photography or their chosen art medium. You have plenty of people and prices to choose from this way and it’s a better means for people who aren’t artistically inclined in such a way or don’t have the time to invest in it.

Hopefully this checklist has helped you to figure out where you’re at with NaNoWriMo. If you have questions or just want me to cover one of the topics more in depth, feel free to comment below. I love hearing back from my readers! Good luck with the 2014 NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo: You in?

I know, I know–you’re trying to write and you want some info. Well this week it’s all about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which happens to start at 12:00 am, midnight, on November 1st. What’s all this now?

NaNoWriMo is a website that, for the month of November, you may track your progress towards a 50,000 word goal on your next noveling project! Sounds fun, right? This means the target for daily writing is 1,667 words. Does it sound like you might need help? Good thing there’s forums so you can talk with other NaNo writers as well as “writing buddies” so you can be each others’ accountibili-buddies!

There are some rules, however, like having to verify your word count in order to get the goodies between November 25th and November 30th. You can write over 50,000 and win, but under does not qualify. You should be writing on a singular project, although NaNo Rebels do exist that work on several projects and combine their word counts to reach the 50,000 word requirement. Anything written before midnight on November 1st should not be counted toward your overall word count. There are many more that have cropped up in response to questions by participants, but these are the most basic of rules.

Sign up is free over on the NaNo website, so feel free to join today and get your writing on come November 1st! I’ve been a member for 4 years now, working on my fifth NaNo. Want to be writing buddies? The link to my personal profile will be down below!

Links to Cool Stuff

NaNoWriMo Official Site

NaNoWriMo Facebook page

Parkyr’s Personal NaNo Page

Will you be joining NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what will you be working on, or do you not yet know? Have you done this in the past? How have you liked it?