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?

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

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.

Up for air

I’m up for air. If you could see me, you’d be worried. I seem confused, lost. My hair is a mess and my clothes could do with a wash. The look in my eyes belongs in a spaghetti western, and my beard is unkempt. I have been so deep into writing that my surroundings, back here, in the real world, are unfamiliar.

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.

Characters – The Antagonist

Last week I introduced you to the Protagonist, Sean. Locking him up in a cardboard folder has done him the world of good. He has emerged more likeable, balanced and fun to be around. Time now to meet Jana.

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Characters – The Protagonist

Notebook II is filling up fast.

Several times, I have resisted diving into the manuscript and re-drafting. That’s what happened last time, and see where that got me.

I’m determined to put more effort into the outline, so that the characters don’t end up wandering off on tangents.

More importantly, I need to get to know my characters. They’re already much changed over the last couple of years. Their time in the cardboard folders has had radical effects.

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Structure

In my first ‘members post’, I promised to find the manuscript folders, and maybe even open them. I am delighted to report “Mission Accomplished.” Tempted though I was to dive straight into the narrative and start making tweaks, I resisted.

Instead, I scan-read the entire draft, focused on the story. Apart from the glaring inconsistencies, the plot meanders. In parts, the characters stumbled from one scene to another without rhyme nor reason, and in the next wandered off nowhere in particular, for entire chapters.

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.

Draft Wrangling

Book 1, draft 1, is 85,000 words. Book 2, draft 1 is 50,400. Both were written quickly (I won Nanowrimo 2015 with book 2).

I blazed away, focused on hitting word counts. If I faltered, I hit the forums, or Twitter, where well-meaning cheerleaders enthused and urged us not to worry about structure or plot holes. All of that could be fixed later. After all, didn’t Hemingway write, “the first draft of anything is shit”? Or was it Stephen King?

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My writing is supported by readers 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. Join now.

Members

Members

4 minute read

I’m building a new lifestyle, here in the sun. Mags and I packed up and moved to Cyprus at the end of September 2018. If you are interested in our journey so far, click on the category “Living the Dream” which catalogues our progress.

I do a few things to keep me busy. Nero’s Notes is a company that sells notebooks and stationery online. Lime Training and Consultancy Ltd  offers anti money laundering expertise. I like to hang out with my family, which for me, means Margaret, and our canine sidekick, Spice. I play golf.

Each pastime rewards me. With revenue, satisfaction, joy or a combination of these. Thankfully, I do not try to earn money from my golf; I would be very hungry if I did rely on it to put food on the table.

My real passion is writing. I love to write, both on paper or on a keyboard. I love talking about writing. Agonising about writing. Complaining about writing. Writing about writing. In February 2015, I confidently posted here about writing my novel. April 2016, I was going to publish.

Ah.

In a matter of hours it will be 2019. I still haven’t published a novel. That’s despite taking time off other work to write the book.

Why not?

The answer to that will run long, and will certainly run the risk of being defensive, and self-serving. I shall try to be concise, and honest.

Imagine starting a new job. You arrive, eager and excited.

A desk? You need a desk? You’ll have to buy one. With your own money. A computer? Yes, you’ll need to buy that too. Pen? Paper? Yes, that too. You need to buy it all.

You realise that these things actually cost a bit. A lot actually, if you like the good stuff. Undeterred, you rationalise that these tools are important. You will use them every day to work; to work at being a writer. You’re investing in your future. The earnings will cover it.

Earnings, yes. Those. How much will you earn? Well, for the first eighteen months, nothing. Nada. Zip. After that, you can self-publish and you never know, you might get a thousand or two in sales. That might translate to a few hundred after costs.

Hmmm…hoping for more than a few hundred? Fame? Fortune? It takes years to be an overnight success, you know.

It takes hard work, talent, hard work, luck, hard work, timing and hard work. Did I mention hard work?

And with all that, the chances are that you will never earn back the money you invested in equipment, let alone the thousands of hours of your time.

That’s why not.

Why now?

Having spent a couple of years “being a writer”, which did involve some writing as well as quite a lot of buying writing ephemera, I ended up with not one, but two, first drafts. I had even done some work on combining those two drafts into one timeline. Then I stopped. Nero’s Notes took much of my time, Lime grew. I decided that these two things had better earning potential.

While that was undoubtedly true, it was not the whole answer.

I don’t like the idea of editing or of trying to find a publisher, or self-publishing. I don’t like the idea of putting hundreds more hours into marketing, with huge portions of any revenue going to third parties.

Those things too, are undoubtedly true. They are not the whole answer either. Yes, the work is daunting, Yes, the return per hour will be tiny.

The real obstacle is fear. Pride. Imposter syndrome. For many reasons, I measure success in pounds and pence. Publishing will crystallise the loss. Somewhere, I will have a spreadsheet that starkly demonstrates that writing is a waste of my time.

Now. I’ve told you. You know the truth. That’s a relief.

I’m going to edit the drafts. I’m going to publish – first to members, and then to the wider-world.

Membership – A new model

As I publish books, they will be for sale through all the usual channels, with all the usual cuts being taken by the middle-men. However – members of this site will already have copies as part of their membership.

Members will pay £12 a year. A pound a month.

Members will get access to subscriber only posts, on writing, publishing and productivity, direct access to a members chatroom, where I will hang out, and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year, before it is available on general release.

Members act as both the carrot and the stick. Revenue (after payment fees) comes direct to me, not to Amazon or Apple. Having people willing to commit upfront creates a huge incentive to repay that faith, to overcome imposter syndrome and to publish.

This approach is not new. I subscribe to several websites with similar models. The Pen Addict for one. I was inspired to write this post by Matt Gemmell, who has an excellent membership scheme and website. He has also written two superb novels, Changer and Toll, which I heartily recommend. Buy them, or even better, become one of his members.

How to join

If you would like to help, then become a member of stuartlennon.com, or give a membership as a gift.

I will still be publishing many posts on the site for everyone, after all, I want people to find me. However, a proportion of posts will be exclusive to members. Non-members will see the following message.

“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.”

Naturally, there will be a link to become a member.

I don’t anticipate a tidal wave of people signing up. There are already many, many demands on our wallets. However, if you do feel able to become a member, then I’ll do my very best to give you value for money, and you will be helping me to live the dream.

A great read.

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What Ho everybody!

Gratuitous photo of the Christmas tree and Nero the Schnauzer at his devastating cutest.

Mrs L has decided that the tree should be in a new spot this year. Mostly, I think that she enjoys watching me move furniture about. In fairness, the tree does look great next to the fireplace and the move has created a little nook, ideal for my armchair.

This morning I sat in that chair and read. A book. A real one. You know, with pages and everything.

I spent three hours finishing off an excellent novel with the dog at my feet. I suspect it is only a matter of time before Radio 4 becomes the soundtrack to my life.

The novel was ‘Rather be the Devil’ by Ian Rankin. It is the latest in the immensely successful Rebus series. I should disclose that I am a massive Rankin fan. I’m not quite stalking the man, but I did attend a book signing in Guildford recently and whenever in Edinburgh I accidentally fall into a pub from one of the stories.

In this latest instalment, Rebus and his old adversary Cafferty prove useless at being retired and skirmish again across Edinburgh.

For hardcore fans like me, this novel is bittersweet. Rebus is showing signs of mortality, reminding me that he is getting a bit long in the tooth and has not exactly lived ‘clean’. Still, he’s off the cigarettes and has cut down the booze and takeaways, so perhaps he is going to get a second wind. Gloriously, he remains maverick with a determined, pathological distaste for authority.

A great read.

I know that I have read a great novel when I feel sad that I must leave the world of the book. In my head, the last few days I have been hanging out in Edinburgh pubs, trying to piece together clues to the mystery. Now, the mystery is solved and I must return to the real world with sulky regret.

Writing

writing image

Most of you have forgotten, but I am writing a book.

I’ve forgotten from time to time.

Fortunately, I somehow snared a writing buddy (Amanda Fleet), who reminds me.

Amanda and I have been discussing a character in my novel. We’ll call her Natalya. As her name is Natalya that seems the simplest thing to call her.

She is quite a looker and smarter than the average bear. Amanda wanted to know what made this woman tick. Had I worked out where she was from? Did I know her backstory?

I began typing an answer to the question. I stopped for a cup of tea. Then I typed some more. And more. Yes, I did know where she was from, what made her tick. To my own great surprise, I know a hell of a lot about her.

This taught me two things, which I now share with you for free. (Don’t forget to buy the book when I publish it)

  1. When I’m not sure about a character, or a plot, I’m going to write down the question, and then start writing the answer out. It’s amazing what’s in the head, waiting to come out.
  2. You do not need a writing buddy to write a book. But having one makes it a hell of a lot easier.

Amanda has not mucked about as much as me – you can buy her book here.

When not toiling away at the book, I have been preparing for my wee walk which is a scant six weeks away now. Stu and I are, in turns, terrified and excited. How bad could it be?

Right. Off to polish Natalya. (Ahem…)