Working Tools 20. – Music

“Music is the shorthand of emotion.” Leo Tolstoy.

I’m writing scenes set in Budapest in the early 1990s. My protagonist, Sean is in a bar. Everything is going his way. He’s invincible, unstoppable. The world is his oyster and everything is coming up roses, (ouch – talk about a mixed metaphor.) He is full of that impossible confidence of youth.

I want the reader to feel all of that, to be transported to a smokey bar, whisky in hand, rock music booming from the speakers, ready to party hard.

“Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.” E. Y. Harburg.

History

I lived in Budapest in the 1990s. Sean and I have similar tastes in music. To get inside Sean’s head, I decided to build a playlist.

Wow.

I’m back there. It’s all I can do not to pour myself a Johnnie Walker Red. I can smell the bar, see the faces. Memories rush back with every chord.

I messaged a friend from those days. We reminisced about basement rock clubs full of leather jackets, tattoos and sticky dance floors. He suggested some missing tracks. Listening to a playlist melted 25 years, taking us both back to those days. It was a joy to bathe in nostalgia and “feel those feelings” again. The question is, can I communicate those feelings to the reader, without the music?

Technique

I can’t use the lyrics. In order to quote Guns and Roses or U2, I need their permission, which can be withheld or charged for. That’s overhead that I can’t afford, neither in terms of money, nor time.

Still. I’m a writer. Communicating is a core skill, I hope. How hard can it be?

Turns out, really hard.

I’m going to invest some time in creating specific playlists for each character and each venue. At worst, I get to luxuriate in memories of my youth, and the scenes become much more vivid in my mind’s eye.

I’ll publish them in the members section of the site.

Now. Where did I leave that Johnnie Walker?

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Debut Novel Syndrome

Debut Novel Syndrome is, of course, well-known. You haven’t heard of it? Shame on you. Alright, I confess. I made it up. As far as I am aware, which is as far as the first page of the search I just completed, Debut Novel Syndrome is not a thing. It should be though.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Inspiration

Inspiration. Where does it come from?

They say that everybody has a book inside them. I say, “Of course everybody has a book inside them, many, in fact. The trick is getting the bloody things out.”

 

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Editing

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That is the Danube flowing between Buda and Pest.

I have two first drafts. Catchily titled “Sean 1” and “Sean 2”. The first was completed in a burst of writing in October. The second is my NaNoWriMo novel; blitzed out entirely in November.

I suspect that they are both quite crap. I am reassured that this is almost invariably the case and that the real work comes, not in producing a first draft, but in editing and rewriting until that draft becomes a polished bit of writing.

I have had a couple of weeks off and Sean 1 was done and dusted a month and a half ago. I have some distance. I feel ready to think about some editing.

I have been taking a course in editing with the fantastic Anne Rainbow. Well worth looking at her site for information on Scrivener (excellent software to write on) and Red Pen Training (Anne’s approach to editing).

The first question that I need to address is:

“Do I have two first drafts or, two halves of one first draft?”

I had intended to pose this question here in the blog, on twitter tonight at #writingchat, and by email to Anne. However, in looking out the photo above and writing this post, I arrived at the answer all on my own.

Buda and Pest were born as separate cities. As more and more bridges were built across the Danube, they became interdependent, until at last they came to be known as Budapest. So it is with Sean 1 and 2.

Right now, I have a big chunky first draft that needs some pruning.

Time to get to work.

Winner!

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On the first of November, I set out on a challenge to write 50,000 words of a first draft. All of the writing had to be done in the calendar month of November.

Today, the 24th of November, I validated my novel through the NaNoWriMo website and have been officially declared a Winner.

Officially, a Winner has a validated word count of 50,000 words or more.

In reality, the challenge is all about learning one’s own possibilities. A winner is one who can develop a daily writing habit. A winner is one who can sit before a blank screen with a blank brain and still churn out words.

Writing is hard work and graft. Just like any other human endeavour, a winner is one who has realised that perspiration and perseverance are as important, if not more important, than inspiration.

Now, I have two first drafts. I am going to complete a couple of tasks on the one that I have just finished, then print it and put it in a drawer with its predecessor. I have some corporate bits and pieces to keep me busy for a while and I will come back to the first drafts after Christmas.

I am going to catch up with some reading, some blogging and some chores around the house.

First though, I’m going to have another glass of wine.

Writing Again

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Patient things, characters.

Three months I had been away, charging about doing this and that.

Doing anything but writing.

I return to my manuscript and there he is, just where I left him.

I refer to the hero of my novel, Sean.

Given that I had left him in a bar chatting up a very attractive girl, its not really surprising that he was in no rush to move on.

I have posted elsewhere that I simply was busy and that this is why I was neglecting young Sean and not writing. It is true, there has been a lot on.

However, as Sean moved us forward on Monday, I came to realise that I might be a bit shy.

No, seriously.

You see, things in the bar were going well. Sean was ‘in’. All things being equal, Sean was going to get some bedroom action with Natalia.

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The Hard Rock Cafe Budapest – Photo Courtesy of Edith Medcalf.

I wrote a post on writing sex before.

I did, in fact, leave Sean and Natalia to it. He seemed pretty confident that he knew what he was doing. They went off to his room, I went off to mine and we all got together in the morning and moved on.

How very grown up of us.

Once again, life is throwing things at me, but this time, I am reluctant to leave Sean. I am anxious to learn where we are off to next, what we are going to get up to, what new people we are going to meet.

I am enjoying this writing lark.