18 February 2013

Got the Muse/Music in You?

Many of my writer friends like to inform each other of their writing production each day, perhaps more so if some writing program like the National Novel Writing Month is on. It helps to motivate them. I've never done that because I've always liked to think I was beneath that. I write when the muse grants me her favor and not before. Also, I don't really think a word count tells much about one's progress; I often delete as much the next day as I wrote the previous day.

Anyway, I had an unusual weekend, which fell, as it usually does, at the end of a stressful week. That muse phantom got into me somehow and I was jazzed up enough to write almost steadily for 24 hours. Mostly it was on the third volume of the sci-fi trilogy THE DREAM LAND. Book I and II are complete; Book I is available now for Kindle (print coming soon) while Book II is undergoing its final tweaks and is expected out in late spring.

Book III, however, has been left on backburners for a while due to other projects. It is plotted out; I know what happens, what will happen. But spoilers aside, all I can say is there is a comet involved. Now that we've had our asteroid of the year and Russians had their meteorite, its seems portentous that the comet I planned in 2011 may yet occur later this decade.

[Update: my indie author colleague Connie J. Jasperson has begun riffing on my meme! Check out another perspective.]

Back to the word count. I was happy and boastful and I posted my number: 3663. Others congratulated me, felt embarrassed, or complained that I was raising the bar too high. I live with that stuff every day, so it did not faze me.

To be fair (and long-winded), it all started about Valentine's Day, when I was home alone and not even my Hollywood crushes were responding to my 'likes', tweets, and emails (too busy with awards shows and movie premieres, I suspect, so I'll give'em a pass this time). That was on top of the ABNA kick in the teeth the previous day and the HarperVoyager slap in the face the day before that.

One week and so much rejection! I was overwhlemed.

So I decided to indulge myself by collecting some more music like what I already had been listening to and being inspired by for a few months now. It seems to be called "epic music" or "heroic music" like what is used for movie trailers or video games, mostly orchestral and big in scope or small and delicate for the love scenes. It is high energy music which usually plays as Conan does his exercises, swinging swords around, or with a little electric guitar and drum set, you get what Rocky worked out to. I started calling it "muscle music" because in fantasy films that's what was happening: flexing muscles in preparation for battle or it's the battle music itself. On the other side of the genre are the achingly sentimental instrumental songs that rip the tears from your eyes--when the hero loses his sidekick.

Names in that genre you may have heard of include: Two Steps From Hell, Thomas Bergersen, Jo Blankenburg, Brand X Music, The Immediate, Future World Music, and Audiomachine. Probably others, as well. (Click the names to see some selections; play around and find what you like.) I downloaded a few tunes in mp3 versions via Amazon a while ago. This weekend, I returned to see what else there might be. In the end I loaded up on 10 mp3 albums plus a few individual songs from 3 other albums of the aforementioned artists. I bought the full albums because, as it was set up, it was cheaper to buy the whole album than to pay individually for half the songs, most of which were in the 2 to 4 minute range--long enough for a movie trailer.

(For example, this track from Two Steps From Hell was used in the trailer for the 2012 film Anna Karenina, starring Kiera Knightley.)

Of course, I listened to them, made a massive playlist, playing them one after another, as I continued final editing of my manuscript for THE DREAM LAND Book II "Dreams of Future's Past". As I worked and listened, I started to feel things move. The glacier was sliding forward, ice sheering off, revealing a crudely formed, ancient writer-thing frozen in time. Fingers cracked, then curled, dropping onto the keyboard, and swiftly began pouncing to and fro!

I felt scenes playing in me, as though I was cranking the reels at will. I quickly shifted over to the manuscript file for THE DREAM LAND Book III "Diaspora" and wrote out three scenes, each with one of the major characters. My initial plan was to give each of them a chapter to both introduce them and catch readers up on what's been happening. Up until yesterday I had not been able to find a way to get myself into the scenes for these three. I let other matters, other projects distract me. And then I found the key!

Working late into the night, I eventually allowed myself to go to bed. However, I could not sleep after that. Oh, I was unconscious for a while, but not deeply. In fact, during my dreams characters came and sat down beside me, telling me their stories, asking how they could get out of their individual situations, and asking how everything was going to work out in the end. All I could tell them was "We'll see."

Awakening several times during the night and early morning I decided the words were too heavy in my head to continue the boudoir ritual, so I reluctantly rose and began writing again. Before breakfast, or checking email, dabbling on Facebook, dealing with personal hygiene, watching TV, and almost before any coffee. I started the coffee after the first few paragraphs, confident that the momentary respite would not stop the flow of words, then returned to writing until the coffee was ready. Made a cup. Then back to writing--pushing myself until I had ended the scene. Then on to the next one!

When I had reached my goal for the sequence of chapters, I spent a couple hours reading through pages of notes I'd been making on all the subplots, motivations, etc., collected across the previous couple of years. I rearranged the sections/scenes in a logical order after that. And I realized that in many of the scenes, my characters were not accepting their fates. They were in self-denial. They were telling lies to themselves and to others. I was shocked!

And yet, I have been verbose enough for today, perhaps for the entire week, and so I shall save a discussion on characters who are liars for another day, another blog.

Thanks for your patience with me! See if you can beat 3663 words in 24 hours. I double-dare you!

[Update: my indie author colleague Connie J. Jasperson has begun riffing on my meme! Check out another perspective.]

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.


  1. I look forward to seeing what you have to say further about your characters who tell untruths!

    I love watching how you create. This is a good post that I just may incorporate a link to from my own spot in the blogiverse!

  2. Link away!

    (I think about ten years ago there was a product called Linkaway, but that's not what I mean now.)