Let Music Set the Mood

photo by Brandon Giesbrecht

I know some people can’t listen to music while they write. If that’s the case for you, then I fear there’s nothing for you here today. Sorry! As for the rest of you, settle in. We’re going to talk about tunes.

Sometimes you’re not feeling it, right? But you need to write, otherwise you’ll get out of practice. You’ll lose the momentum you’ve been building. I’ve found a great way to set the mood is to find music that transports you. There are classical pieces by Chopin that when I close my eyes, listening to them, I can see the couples twirling, the men in their black formalwear and the women in ornate gowns. I couldn’t write an action scene, listening to Chopin.

This may seem like pretty basic advice, but I’ve discovered how powerful music can be all over, writing this new YA project. I’m doing it for my daughter, but it has taught me a great deal. I spent an afternoon putting together a playlist for the hero, who’s a musician, and his choices speak volumes on what kind of person he is, his current state of mind, and how he’s dealing with adversity. Furthermore, when I listen to those songs — his music– I get to know him even better.

Music, when it’s properly played, should make us ache. It should move us, make us angry, or make us think. And that’s what we want our books to do as well. Auditory and olfactory memories are powerful things, you know? If you smell a pumpkin pie baking, maybe it takes you back to grandma’s house. And if you hear Born in the USA, you remember a hot summer night, getting up to no good in the back of somebody’s car. (For me, it’s not Springsteen, but John Mellencamp, though he was John Cougar back then. Hey, I grew up in Indiana! And the song is Jack & Diane.)

I’ve actually found that listening to music can help me get past something that’s bothering me in the book. Sometimes, songs tell a story. So if you listen, they can help you with yours. I’ll start searching for songs with symbolism similar to what I’m working with, and occasionally, just listening to them pushes me to some epiphany, then once I identify the problem, I can keep writing.

There’s a song for every book, a melody for each mood. For example, Bodies by Drowning Pool gets played pretty much everytime I write an action scene. (Along with others).

What are some of your favorite bands / songs, and what moods do they set of you?

 

 

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About Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre is a bestselling, multi-published author with a degree in English Literature. She is a prolific writer, with nine releases planned for 2011 alone. She writes romantic science fiction and urban fantasy under her own name. As Ava Gray, she writes high-octane romances. She also writes "hot paranormal apocalyptic action" with fellow author Carrie Lofty under the pseudonymn Ellen Connor. Follow her on Twitter.

Savor the Now

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photo by by abnormalbeauty

No matter where you are in your career, this is good advice. If you’re querying a novel, you think maybe if you compare your book / voice / appeal to a certain bestselling author, this will make you more appealing to agents. Then, down the line, you start lining up your accomplishments alongside someone who debuted around the same time you did. This is a dark road, my friends, and I recommend steering away.

See, nobody comes out of that a winner. The agent who reads the query that says, “This book is the next Twilight,” (or whatever the current hot title is), has probably seen that a thousand times. It doesn’t make your work standout. And then, once you do sell a book and you’re conditioned to compare your career trajectory to others, you can’t stop looking at what other people are doing instead of taking pride in your own achievements. Granted, it’s not an instant transformation, but I know writers who would be considered wildly successful, and yet they’re incapable of being pleased by anything they accomplish.

Why?   [Read more…]

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About Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre is a bestselling, multi-published author with a degree in English Literature. She is a prolific writer, with nine releases planned for 2011 alone. She writes romantic science fiction and urban fantasy under her own name. As Ava Gray, she writes high-octane romances. She also writes "hot paranormal apocalyptic action" with fellow author Carrie Lofty under the pseudonymn Ellen Connor. Follow her on Twitter.

Changing Your Process

I’ve been asked repeatedly about how I stay so productive, about how I changed my process and my work habits, usually on Twitter. It’s an impossible subject to cover in 140 characters, so I decided to do that here. Since lots of people are writing like busy bees this month, it seems like the perfect time to articulate my thoughts.

First, let me dispel one myth. Process is not a permanent, indelible thing. People say, “I can’t do that. My process dictates that I…” Well, no. You control your work habits and your brain. Maybe it turns out that you did most of your “good” writing on the hood of a car. Does that mean you can only write that way? No. You’ve trained yourself into a dysfunctional style, and it’s possible to rewrite the way you work, just as you can revise a novel.

My process used to be this:

1) Come up with shiny new idea.

2) Write furiously.

3) Lose faith.

4) Spend 9 months rewriting the first half of the book.

5) Lose heart.

6) Come up with shiny new idea.

7) Repeat.

That was my process. And I hated it. Some people can finish books while tinkering with them. I’m not one of them. I find it to be a really inefficient way to work. HOW can you perfect the first chapters until you finish the draft and you’ve seen the big picture? It seems to me that it makes sense to hold all your revisions until the end. It can be hard to keep that internal editor in check; that jerk wants you to be perfect out of the gate and won’t shut up until you address the issues. I’ve found that making a list as I write of things I know I need to address in the first revision or the second keeps me focused enough to continue writing. And then at the end, I have a checklist of issues to tackle.

At this point, you might be saying, I can’t do that. I’ve always written this way. Well, that’s just wrong. You can do anything you want to, anything you set your mind to. If you don’t really want to change your process, then stop reading.

The rest of you? You can do this. But you have to believe you can, just like a person has to believe he can stick to a fitness regimen or a healthier style of living. Read this if you have any doubts. Back now? See? Roxanne St. Clair wrote 30 books my old way, the slow, tinkering way. And now she’s a convert. This really works. [Read more…]

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About Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre is a bestselling, multi-published author with a degree in English Literature. She is a prolific writer, with nine releases planned for 2011 alone. She writes romantic science fiction and urban fantasy under her own name. As Ava Gray, she writes high-octane romances. She also writes "hot paranormal apocalyptic action" with fellow author Carrie Lofty under the pseudonymn Ellen Connor. Follow her on Twitter.

Puppies Are Evil

Dixie

Okay, that’s a lie. Puppies are not evil. They’re adorable. But they’re also a massive time-suck. And I have a brand new one. This is super ironic, as I’m not even a dog person, but my husband fell in love with her and he asks for so few things that I didn’t have the heart to say no. I wish I had, a little bit. See, in the past six months, I’ve written three books, gone on tour, gotten very ill, and moved. Now I have a new puppy, am still recovering, trying to settle in, furnish and decorate a new house. While writing another book.

I imagine most of you could list a similar collection of events that are impairing your creativity, eating into your time. Many of my posts are advice-driven. I tell you what’s worked for me, and you go away thinking, “Hey, that’s not bad, maybe I’ll try it,” or possibly, “Wow, that’s incredibly stupid. Only a polar bear would fall for that.” (It’s a well known fact that polar bears are far more gullible than pandas.)

This time, however, the post is different. You see, WU has assembled an amazing panel of experts and a great audience who checks in regularly to see what’s cooking. That said, I need y’all now. It’s time for you to shine!

Help me develop some new coping strategies. Feel free to include puppy management tips, too! Or home decorating ideas. I’ll take anything you can offer. Right now I’m just too exhausted for my usual method of pure determination to carry me through. It’s not that I don’t want to write; I love writing. It’s my dream job and always will be. At the moment, however, I feel buried under my current workload. I understand admitting it is the first step to fixing it.

So what do you guys do when you’re feeling swamped? What tricks have you developed? I can’t be the only one on the interwebz feeling overwhelmed so hopefully this will help others, too.

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About Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre is a bestselling, multi-published author with a degree in English Literature. She is a prolific writer, with nine releases planned for 2011 alone. She writes romantic science fiction and urban fantasy under her own name. As Ava Gray, she writes high-octane romances. She also writes "hot paranormal apocalyptic action" with fellow author Carrie Lofty under the pseudonymn Ellen Connor. Follow her on Twitter.

An Interview with R.L. LaFevers

PhotobucketToday’s interview of author and WU contributor Robin LaFevers was born out of fan-girl love by WU contributor and author Ann Aguirre. It’s fun, freewheeling, and packed with writerly insights.

Robin was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry. It is not surprising she grew up to be a hopeless romantic. She has also spent a large portion of her life being told she was making up things that weren’t there, which only proves she was destined to write fiction. She is the author of fourteen books for young readers. Her most recent book, GRAVE MERCY, is a young adult romance about assassin nuns in medieval France. Her books have received numerous state awards and have sold in over nine countries. Though she has never trained as an assassin or joined a convent, she has been on a search for answers to life’s mysteries for as long as she can remember.

Robin also co-founded the popular Shrinking Violets blog, a marketing resource and support group for introverted authors.

Enjoy!

Ann: Hi Robin! I’m allowed to call you Robin, right? We’re totally besties since we met for 45 seconds (I was timing it) at RWA, and I have successfully wrangled the second book in your amazing Assassin series. I regret nothing. I’ll allow our readers to groan and gnash their teeth for a few seconds. Now then… onward to the juicy stuff.

Robin: (Introverts—let this be a lesson to you. Introducing myself to Ann was a total ‘outside my social comfort zone’ moment—but I recognized her name from WU and was trying to convince myself that part of the point of going to conferences is making an effort to meet new people. Not only did she not bite, but she was charming and gracious. Lucky me!)

Ann: You write the most amazing books. I know that’s not a question, but I can only do interviews fan-girl style. So for the sake of clarity, imagine I’m bouncing up and down because I love your books that much. That said, I was particularly captivated by the gritty realism and the historical detail in your world. How much of that did you draw from actual historical precedent? [Read more…]

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About Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre is a bestselling, multi-published author with a degree in English Literature. She is a prolific writer, with nine releases planned for 2011 alone. She writes romantic science fiction and urban fantasy under her own name. As Ava Gray, she writes high-octane romances. She also writes "hot paranormal apocalyptic action" with fellow author Carrie Lofty under the pseudonymn Ellen Connor. Follow her on Twitter.