Tag Archive: Fiction


Playlist For A Sequel

As I wait to hear back on the query letters I’ve sent out for my novel, I’ve been keeping busy with another little project.  Over the last couple of months, I’ve been filling up another Novel Notebook with research, brainstorm blocks, image collages, sketches, research notes, and a playlist  for the sequel to Novel #2.

At the core of my writing process is music. The playlist for Novel #2 proved to be an immensely powerful tool in helping me shape characters and mood. Overall, 94 songs served as the soundtrack for the “movie” playing in my head from start to finish. As I embark on writing the sequel, I intend on using this tool once again to create a stronger emotional sense of my characters as they undertake new journeys and to aid me in creating an atmosphere that is a bit different from Novel #2.

Novel #2 is all about falling in love and fighting for what matters most in life. There is struggle, but also strength and determination. Therefore, the music on my playlist was often ethereal to reflect the nature of Ian’s identity, but also to emulate the euphoria of falling in love. In addition, songs with a strong beat and empowering lyrics dominated the latter portion of the novel to represent a fierce conflict that rages both internally and externally for my characters. Aside from storyline songs, the playlist also included music for individual characters. In particular The Beatles, Junip, and Death Cab for Cutie represented my main character, Amanda.

The sequel follows a different plotline in that it’s a step beyond the “origin” story for Amanda and Ian. They now find themselves in a new struggle that is defined by several factors:

  • Falling in love is great, but it’s not always easy
  • Confronting past “demons”
  • Once you have what you’ve always wanted, it isn’t what you imagined
  • Issues of identity

A new journey means new music, but there still has to be ties to the familiar in order to maintain continuity.  The mood is a little darker, but it’s not overwhelmingly heavy. As for my characters, they are experiencing growing pains, but they retain their core personalities. To make a playlist to accommodate these issues, I started by selecting songs on the old playlist that I consider to be overall theme songs. These are songs that will work for the entire series as they reflect Amanda and Ian’s bond and the big picture journey they are traveling.

For example, Firefly by Delerium is the ultimate song that inspires Amanda and Ian’s journey as a whole:

At the same time, I am selecting songs that are unique to the plot and character development of the sequel. To achieve continuity, I’m looking to the same bands for new music that has a familiar feel. Delerium was the central component of Novel #2’s playlist so I combed through all of their albums and found a perfect new mix. Additionally, the band Junip has since come out with a new album, which is great news for Amanda!

Here’s a selection of what I’ve got so far . . .

Delerium – Semantic Spaces

  • Flowers Become Screens
  • Metaphor
  • Resurrection
  • Incantation
  • Consensual Worlds
  • Metamorphasis
  • Flatlands

Delerium – Single Tracks

Junip – self titled

Tempted (Conjure One Mix) – Collide

The Beginning – Joey Fehrenbach

Kaleidescope of Memories – Simmonds and Jones

The Cedar Room – The Doves

Russia – Magna Carta

First Snow – Emancipator

The Daydream – Tycho

Once I get this playlist loaded on my iPod, my muse will have the juice it needs to start writing the first draft!

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For more posts on creating the perfect music mix, see The Daily Prompt: Mix Tape Masterpiece

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c.b.w. 2013

After more than year of working almost non-stop on Novel #2, I decided to take a little break after completing the third draft. I needed time to work on my query letter and synopsis, so it felt right to put it aside and simply let it breathe.

Too bad my novel didn’t get the memo.

Instead of leaving my brain for a little vacation, my characters and story decided to set up a permanent camp. There is no rest for characters dying to tell their story and a world that can’t wait to be imagined.

I learned a long time ago to never ignore those little voices or creative surges, so I pulled out my trusty novel notebook this week. It has all my notes, sources of inspiration, and outlines from Novel #2 and now it will house all my scribblings for the sequel.

The brainstorming has begun as I piece together a working storyline. The trick is making sure the story picks up where the first book left off, yet is strong enough to stand on its own.  I’ve always had a basic framework for two sequels in that I know happens and how they will end. What remains fuzzy is how my characters will reach those end points. I need to figure out details and fun plot twists!

I began by re-organzing my notebook to ensure the first half will always be for Book 1 in the series. I moved all magazine clippings, images, and outline drafts to make room for whatever I collect for Book 2. Furthermore, I added tabs to separate one book from the other.  For a brief moment I considered moving to a separate spiral, but then I realized some of the inspirations from Book 1 are still in play and I need them to stay close.

Next, I started compiling all the random notes I’ve kept over the last year concerning Book 2. They are hiding on two hard drives, a notepad app on my phone, and throughout my original handwritten notes for Book 1. I’ll be rewriting every single notation so they’re all grouped together in one place. Call me old fashioned, but I like to write my initial notes by hand when starting a novel. It makes me slow down and think carefully about what needs to happen in the story.

I’ll be honest in admitting that the brainstorm stage is my absolute favorite part of the novel writing process. I get a little buzz from from making things up without any limitations. While the work is sometimes grueling, I love the surprises that come as I dig deeper into my fantasy world.

The process has only just begun and there is much to do:

  • Construct a detailed outline (with room for changes)
  • Create a playlist
  • Create inspiration collages (images and text that relate to the story and themes)
  • Fill pages with free write notes
  • Create new character profiles
  • Research (places, historical references, mythology)

There’s at least a couple of months of work on this list, but I’m giddy just thinking about it. This is going to be fun!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013

WriteOnCon Rocked!

WriteOnCon may have only lasted two days, but it’s taken me almost a week to process everything that took place during this incredible online writer’s conference. Between live events, critique forums, essays by industry insiders, Q & A sessions, and discussions I feel like I got a crash course in the world of publishing!

A week before the conference officially began, I posted my query letter on the Young Adult Query Critique forum. As many of my readers know, I’ve been working diligently on my query letter for months, so it was a big step to release it into the wild. Overall, the response was pretty good. Readers commented on the layout, but I expected that because I opted for a less traditional query format. Much to my relief, the synopsis and story idea both received positive responses. Overall, the advice I received  was very helpful and I think I made some good changes. Many thanks to those who took the time to read through my letter and offer suggestions.

Aside from multiple learning moments, I walked away from WriteOnCon with a little victory. On the first day, I participated in a live Twitter pitch event. Two editors from Spencer Hill Press were on hand to consider pitches of 140 characters or less. Not only did writers have the chance to pitch directly to editors, but there was the benefit of seeing their initial reaction to the pitch via video chat. On the surface, I found this terrifying, but the opportunity was just too good to pass up.

Thanks to Jennifer Eaton’s query letter critique, I worked on creating a stronger hook. Minutes before they opened the live chat, I made one last change to that hook and used it as my Twitter pitch.

Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 7.39.08 PM

As the event began, I watched the live feed with a knotted up stomach. What if they hated it? What if I set myself up for the ultimate humiliation? I had to keep telling myself that being a writer means having thick skin. Even if the response is horribly negative, I still believe in my story. Of course, there was also the chance that my pitch would be ignored altogether. Then, at the 4:57 mark, I got the shock of my life when they read my Twitter pitch.

I couldn’t watch the screen. I stared at my keyboard and held my breath as I waited for the response. I almost screamed when the first editor reacted immediately with “Oh, I like that.” She went on to request a query letter, which almost made me scream again, (I was in a public place when all of this went down, so screaming was not an option).  The other editor was not impressed, but something I’ve learned over the years is how subjective the publishing industry can be.  Instead of taking it personally, I respect her opinion. Regardless, I managed to pitch my book to an editor who loves muses. Seriously, what are the odds??

My happy dance moment can be seen on youtube, (it starts at 4:57). However, the entire event is worth watching as these editors hold nothing back and offer fantastic insight and advice on the art of pitching.

I have since sent a query letter, so now it’s all about waiting for a response. Even if nothing comes of it, I’m still immensely proud of myself for taking such a huge step forward. This entire experience has reminded me that good things can happen if I’m brave enough to take a chance.

Thank you to the organizers of WriteOnCon for offering such an amazing event!

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c.b.w. 2013

Give That Novel A Soundtrack!

As a writer who relies on music to kickstart my muse, I am rather fascinated by a trend in Young Adult fiction whereby authors share a playlist for their novel.  This is absolutely brilliant as the audience for YA fiction is addicted to earbuds and personal music players.

I count myself among this pool of earbud addicts, mainly because when I read a book it plays like a movie inside my head. When I was younger, I would imagine music or pick songs to listen to while I read a book, all in an attempt to further immerse myself into a character’s mind or within the setting of a story.

Naturally, I relied on the same practice of turning to music when I began writing. Just like the books I read as a kid, both of my novels play like movies in my head. And yes, there is specifically chosen music for certain scenes. This process is nothing new in the writing world, but it is interesting to see writers making their playlists public.

The first time I came across an official novel soundtrack was when I read Twilight. Stephenie Meyer didn’t necessarily list the songs in the book itself, but she thanked specific bands in her acknowledgments and often spoke of specific songs that inspired scenes between Edward and Bella, (particularly the band Muse). Later, when The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide was published, Meyer released her playlists for every book in the series. Both the reader and writer in me devoured the music that pumped life into Twilight.

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A small portion of Stephenie Meyer’s playlist for Twilight.

For each song listed, Meyer went as far as quoting specific scenes from her novels. For those of us who have read Twilight more than once, this playlist gives us yet another reason to pick it up again.

More recently, I read Divergent by Veronica Roth. In the back of the book, she provides a playlist of songs and connects them to details in the story. After listening to a few of the songs, I gained a much deeper sense of the atmosphere and mood. Even though the writing was fantastic, an official playlist added a new dimension and gave me another way to enjoy the book.

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A peek at Veronica Roth’s playlist.

Some YA writers publish their playlists via the internet. For example, Becca Fitzpatrick created public playlists for all four books in her Hush, Hush series. She linked them through Spotify and will soon expand to iTunes. Her website even encourages readers to listen to fan-created playlists as they read.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 2.58.52 PM

Click to visit Becca Fitzpatrick’s website.

Fitzpatrick’s strategy not only enhances the novel, but it builds a community among fans. More importantly she creates a strong connection between author and reader.

On the flip side, it can be argued that good writing shouldn’t need any “bells and whistles” to connect with readers. To this I say, the YA market is all about knowing your audience. This is a generation who can carry music with them wherever they go and they do. They listen to it at home, while walking to class, out in public, on the bus, etc. In a sense, the music gives them a world of their own.

For the YA reader, adding music to a book makes complete and total sense. A novel soundtrack gives them the ability to connect and relate to the characters and story on a personal level. Not only can they fully immerse themselves into the book, but it becomes part of their world. The music is what ties real life and fiction together.

From a fangirl perspective, having an official playlist for beloved characters allows the magic of the story to play over and over again. When it’s not possible to sit down with the book, a reader can revisit the characters and story whenever and wherever she pleases. It falls along the same lines as Twilight t-shirts or Hunger Games posters in that the young adult audience thrives on connections wherever they can find them. When writing a series, creating this kind of fanaticism is pure gold.

YA writers have a massive opportunity to create intense fervor for their books by offering another level of emotional investment. As I put the finishing touches on my YA novel, I’m leaving a little room on the last few pages to create a playlist that will give my readers the ultimate experience.

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c.b.w. 2013

Novel #2 Progress: Crunch Time!

As the end of  March approaches, I feel the pressure of a self-imposed deadline. I promised myself I would finish revisions on Novel #2 by March 31st, which means I will be working like a maniac in the coming week to finish what I started.

Word Count Progress:

Draft #1 Word Count:

  • Start Word Count: 63,373
  • End Word Count: 67,994
  • Total: 4,621

Draft #2 Revised Word Count:

  • Start Word Count: 65,883
  • End Word Count: 70,551
  • Total: 4,668

Writing Process Notes:

  • I am officially two chapters away from completing revisions! As planned, I reached 90% completion last week, which puts me in a great position to finish the second draft during Spring Break.
  • Thanks so much to everyone that contributed to last week’s discussion concerning the use of epilogues. So many great points were made and they are all helping me decide what to do. I am still pondering whether or not to include the epilogue I’ve written, though I am leaning towards keeping it in place. I like how it opens up a new story line and I think it will make readers really excited for the sequel.

Novel Tidbit:

 The Light Side:

One of the first promises I made during this journey was that Ian would not be a vampire or a werwolf. There are a number of reasons why I avoided this trend, (i.e. it’s overdone and the market is flooded), but at the core of my decision is my desire to prove something I profoundly believe. A good urban fantasy/paranormal story doesn’t necessarily need an element of dark evil to hold a reader’s interest.

As a reader, I’ve grown a bit tired of damsels in distress falling in love with dangerous boys. Not that I don’t love a good bad boy story, but it doesn’t hurt to try something a little different without losing the tension created by the conflict between good and evil. The vampire thing was fun (Twilight) and so are devil fighters (Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices), but my muse and I want to see if there’s another way to give a fresh spin to the mortal vs. supernatural world. The trick is making sure the conflict is still there and the stakes remain high.

While Ian’s true identity is shrouded in mystery, I can assure you he is not anything remotely sinister. The entities in his world also are not evil or blackhearted. In fact, the so-called villains in my novel would actually be considered the good guys just about anywhere else.

So, how do I create conflict with characters who are technically on the same side? Easy. I added an element of danger beyond everyone’s control. Ian’s world is held together by ancient creeds and traditions that are considered unbreakable. Even those with a heart of gold are bound to carry out the rules and the punishments associated with iron clad edicts. Throw in a life and death situation for those involved, along with a mystical feud and you’ve got a heck of hook for a story.

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c.b.w. 2013

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