Tag: Writing Process

On Writing, Music & Character Playlists

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that “without music, life would be a mistake.” I believe there’s a lot of truth in that. Music has done its part in getting me through plenty in life so far. But as important as music may be to my life, it’s just as important to my writing.

Every character I’ve ever written (every main character, I should say) has had his or her own playlist. These playlists go through changes and are always evolving as I write through a story and develop the character. I’ve found, over the years, that it’s difficult to develop a character without taking his or her favorite music into account, and I attribute this to my own borderline obsession with music. It’s truly a lifesaver, and while that’s another story for a different day, that same life-saving music obsession is found in every one of my main characters. The process of developing characters and their playlists is one I very much enjoy, even when the process is at its most meticulous stage.

My Process for Character Playlist Creation

Depending on your own process and such, the process I’m about to lay out may seem convoluted or complex, but I assure you that it really isn’t as bad as it may look. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I tend to devote a lot of time to early details to ensure the later steps go as planned.

And so, here we go.

1. Conduct a Character Interview

While this is technically a character development step, it’s an important part of character playlist creation, too. Conducting this interview allows me to learn every little thing about my character, and those little details are what influences the character’s musical tastes. Details like ancestry, background, where he or she grew up and what he or she is interested in — all of these things are incredibly important. If you’re curious about the questions I use for character interviews, look here.

2. Create a Basic Character Profile

This step is pretty self-explanatory. I take the answers I get from the interview and create a basic character profile. I try to find a photo that embodies what my character looks like (sometimes i’ll sketch one myself). It’s important for me to really dig in and understand who my character is. When I’m able to understand a character’s psyche, it’s pretty easy to establish musical tastes and a playlist.

3. Pinpoint Artists

This is always the fun part for me. I love searching through the music I own and the music I’ve saved and liked on platforms like Pandora and Spotify to nail down the artists I think my character would listen to. If I can pinpoint a favorite artists for my character, that’s great. I love adding little details like that wherever I can. There’s no limit to this listeither. Some character only like a handful of artists, whereas others claim a whole genre.

4. Take Those Artists/Genres and Create a Playlist

This is the step that typically takes the longest for me, and that’s because it never really ends. I’ll listen to songs and if they fit into the life of my character and/or his or her story, it gets put in the playlist. Because music and musical tastes evolve, just like the story typically does, my playlists tend to change as I write further into the story.

Below is part of the playlist I created for the main character in the novel I’m currently working on. This one is mostly rock, but it’s also the playlist that the character (Bryna) listens to before she fights. I thought I’d share it, just so you get a general idea.

And that’s really it as far as process goes. I love doing it this way, and I don’t think my characters would be as detailed or as well-rounded if I didn’t do it.


Featured Image Credit: Brett Levin Photography via Flickr.com.




On Turning Over a New Leaf

We’ve all run into times when we’re just not willing to let something go. I had my experience with this recently during residency at Lesley University. This is the place where I’m always pushed out of my comfort zone. Always. It happened at the first two residencies, and I should’ve known it would happen at the third.

Because I’m a writer and I love what I do, it’s always been especially hard for me to stop working on something, to set it aside and start something new. Especially something as large as a novel. It’s a big investment, and as many people know, I’ve been working on a specific one for quite a while now. It was dismantled over the spring semester, but I was ready to get back into it–to bring it back to life and push it forward. That’s what I do. When times get hard, I push on. We all do. It’s part of writing.

On Getting Back to Work After Residency


I’m two days removed from the end of my third residency in Lesley University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. I’m back in Wisconsin and sadly away from my writing friends and all things literary in Cambridge and Boston. And now that the classrooms are dark and empty, the seminars are over with, the workshops have ended, and the general atmosphere has returned to something resembling normality again, there’s still one question that burns at the back of my mind:

What do I do now?

I already know the answer to this question. The answer is a simple one: Write. This has always been the answer. It always will be.

So, why is this questions still at the back of my mind? It’s a funny thing, really. In the few days following my return from Cambridge, Boston, and Lesley, I go through these feelings of being lost, of wondering not only where I belong, but also if I have what it takes to get through the upcoming semester. A few more days go by, and I’ve settled back into a routine of reading, writing, and a general malaise of missing my school friends and the literary atmosphere that surrounds Cambridge. But the good thing about getting to this is that I’ve begun to write again.

And that’s exactly where I need to be. At that point where I can write again.

I’m looking forward to it. This semester is bringing new work. I’m starting a new novel and setting the old one aside for a while. I’m still a bit upset about this, but I’ve come to understand that it needs to be done and that it’s part of the process. I’m excited about this new work. I’m excited to work with Jackie Davies this semester. And I’m looking forward to where this semester will take me both as a writer and as a person.

So, while I might be feeling rather friendless in an area of backwoods, small-town Wisconsin where all things literary do not exist, I know that I have writing to do. And that is enough to keep me going for now. Because without writing, what else is there?

Lesley University: MFA Residency (January 4-12, 2013)

LUAh, residency. That blissful nine-day span where nothing matters but literature and writing. I love it and am freshly home from my second residency in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Lesley University. While this residency had its obvious differences from the first one back in June, it was still exactly what I needed–a huge push to get back into a writing routine.

Here’s a quick look at the seminars I went to:

  • The Past Coming to You Live (A seminar on historical fiction in young adult literature.)
  • In Cold Print: The Cross Pollination of Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Poetry
  • Indoor/Outdoor Writing: The Inspiration and Imperative of Place
  • An Afternoon With Mark Siegel, Author/Illustrator, Director of First Second Books
  • Chiarscuro: Darkness and Light in Children’s Literature
  • The Art of Juxtaposition
  • What’s So Funny? Exploring Appropriate Humor for Children for and Young Adults
  • In the Smithy of My Soul: When Writing Takes on the World
  • A Place Like No Other: Crafting a Compelling Setting That Readers Will Remember

In addition to these, I also had nine hours of workshops to attend.

Overall, this residency was another great learning experience. I made some great new friends and learned so much more than I thought I would. I will admit that the seminars weren’t as exciting as the first time around, but I still wouldn’t trade them for anything else. The faculty at Lesley is amazing and my work is better because of all of them. My new mentor, David Elliott, is a great guy. I have a great feeling about this semester with him.

And so it begins.

Happy Writing,


On Gutting Stories We Love

Let’s face it. Very few of us are natural-born writers. That is, very few of us are perfect at what we do. As writers, we become attached to what we write. We fall in love with our characters because we spend countless hours creating them and adding that dimension of reality that’s needed to make readers like (or hate) them, too. We love our settings and the descriptions of them. Many of us love everything about our stories.

Because of that, the revision process can be pretty daunting. And by “pretty,” I mean “so frightening that we don’t want to bother.” That last part, the “not bothering,” is detrimental to any writing career. Revision is an integral part of writing because there is always room for improvement. Always. “Revision” is a big word. It encompasses a lot. A revision can be something small like a few lines or one chapter to half of your book or even a complete overhaul on a novel. Regardless of how big your revision is, it needs to be done. Period.

Because we’re not perfect, in many cases a revision is huge. It’s not uncommon for an entire storyline–that is, an entire novel–to be overhauled. This is where things get really scary. When a story needs to be gutted, we have to cut scenes, lines, and much more that we love. Please believe that it’s a regular occurrence. You’re not the only one removing favorite lines or killing of characters. We’ve all done it. We’ll all do it some more in the future. If you’re ever on the verge of tears over losing a piece of your novel or story that you love, remember this:

The things you cut will almost always make a reappearance. While something may not fit where it is right now, the perfect, scene or chapter will come long and the fit will be perfect. You’ll only have to part with your loves for a little while.

See? Things aren’t so bad now, are they? Revisions are hard. Large revisions are even harder. But you can do them. And you will do them. Why? Because you’re a writer, and revising is what writers do.

Happy Writing,

Writing in the Morning

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to write at night when almost everyone else in the house has  gone to bed. I’ve written very few pages this way and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m more of a morning person when it comes to writing. I believe this for a few reasons.

  • I’ve always felt that coffee and writing go together. And because I like my coffee in the morning, it’s only natural that I’d write in the morning as well.
  • A lot of the time, I have dreams about what I’m writing. Lately, it’s been my school shooting story (because that will be my main focus once I start at Lesley University). When I have these dreams (which isn’t all the time), I always write them down as soon as I wake up. Sometimes, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and write them down, too. But! I like to put the dream fodder into action right away while it’s fresh in my mind, so writing right after I wake up has become a routine.
  • By about 7 p.m., I’m tired. Too tired to sit down and write. Perhaps that’s a bad excuse, but it’s true. I wouldn’t call myself a morning person, but it’s much easier to think and write in the morning. I’m not sure why.

I just find that I’m much more productive when I start my writing time in the morning. This routine seems to work well, and even though I haven’t been writing every morning, I’m going to stick with it as long as I can. If I have to change things up in the future, then I will, but for now, morning is the best time for me to write.

Happy Writing,

Writing, Readers & the Inspiration to Carry On

Lately, I’ve been trying to get back into my writing. The itch to write has been present for almost two months now, but things were preventing me from actually sitting down to write. The main thing was packing up my apartment and moving. I’m done with that now and am settled into a spare bedroom at my parents’ house for a while.

So, why can’t I write?

It’s not that I don’t want to. Its not that the itch to do so isn’t there. It’s that nobody I live with respects the fact that I write. Here, writing can “always be done later,” and isn’t a “real job.”

This saddens me. Because it feels like my writing doesn’t matter to anyone but me. Perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be? I don’t know. It would just be nice to have some support from family. Right now, it feels like there’s nothing and to be honest, that hurts.

So, what to do about this situation.

I have one friend who is constantly supportive of my writing endeavors. He offers daily encouragement, yells at me when I don’t want to writer (thereby making me write), and always reads new chapters and offers wonderful feedback. I’m so grateful for this that there’s really not a word to describe just how happy I am that I have this person. What I’ve determined is that I need a group of people like him. I need more than just him, even though if that doesn’t happen, I’ll always be grateful with him alone.

I think I’ve convinced myself that without more than one reader, I can’t get very far in my work. I don’t know if this is true or not. I think the problem is that I feel belittled when people aren’t interested in what I do or what I’ve created. As I stated above, the fact that very few people care is disheartening. It hurts. It hurts because I believe–I’ve always believed–that support is essential to any type of long-term endeavor, especially writing. I feel that without support, my writing means absolutely nothing. But, at the same time, it means so much to me that I’m not willing to let it go. So, there’s that.

I’ve considered putting a call for readers out there somewhere. But, until I’ve determined the best way to go about doing so, I’m going to write. Because I need to. I have to get this story out there. Somehow, some way. So, I’ll continue writing until it’s done, and afterward, I’ll see where it takes me.

Happy Writing,

This Week in Links: 2/26/2011 – 3/3/2011

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

I subscribe to quite a few interesting RSS feeds in the book/writing niches. Perhaps you do as well, but in any case, I’d like to share my starred links from this week:

Sunday, February 26, 2012:

Monday, February 27, 2012:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012:

Wednesday, February 29, 2012:

Thursday, March 1, 2012:

Friday, March 2, 2012:

Saturday, March 3, 2012:

Happy Writing,

This Week in Links: 1/30/2012 – 2/4/2012

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

I subscribe to quite a few interesting RSS feeds in the book/writing niches. Perhaps you do as well, but in any case, I’d like to share my starred links from this week:

Monday, January 30, 2012:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012:
Wednesday, February 1, 2012:
Thursday, February 2, 2012:
Friday, February 3, 2012:

Happy Writing,

Another Change

 Over the past month or so, I’ve been trying to decide which of my novels I want to use for my Master’s thesis in the fall. I love them both equally and have put hours of hard work into each, even though neither are finished yet. Yesterday, I finally came to my decision, with the help of my thesis advisor.

I’m going to use “The Consequence of Liking Girls” (referred to on this blog as TCoLG). This was originally started last November for NaNoWriMo (my first), and in twenty days, I had written 50,611 words. At the end of of November, I was a little more than half way finished with the novel–the farthest I’ve gotten on either of the novels I have going right now.

While I absolutely love “The Harshness of Reality” (referred to on this blog as THoR), I don’t believe it can be finished in time for my defense in the fall. Strike that. It can’t be finished properly. The second half of the story and the ending would be rushed–something I do’t want, since I have a clear path that I want to follow for the story. There’s much more research that needs to be done, and I think I need to flesh out a character or two a bit more. THoR has taken a lot of work, and while I’m happy with where it’s currently sitting, it still needs a lot more work and I refuse to rush it through the necessary processes just so I can have it finished in time to defend it in December. I’m not walking away from the story. I’m simply setting it aside for now. I’ll work on it when I want to and when the muse hits, but for now. I need to focus on my thesis.

TCoLG was very rough after NaNoWriMo. I edited those pages once through and am now re-typing the entire story since the file somehow disappeared from my computer. I am nearly finished with that re-typing and can then move forward in the story. When discussing the matter briefly with my advisor, she mentioned that she really likes the idea of finishing a novel, and I believe I can achieve that with TCoLG.

Transitioning from one to the other has taken a little work, but I’m there now. I plan to begin outlining soon. Another new(ish) adventure awaits.

Happy Writing,