Back to the top of the slide

After getting the chance this past weekend to talk about my next book project with my agent extraordinaire, I’m itching to get down to business with the actual writing.

I’m squelching the urge to rip open all my moving boxes and find my taped-together outline and composition notebook full of research materials and haul back into the very messy first chapter, mostly because I’m not sure I have enough packing tape left to reseal all the boxes I’d have to dig through. But once I have the basics unboxed, that outline’s going up on the wall, and I’m going to start piecing together all the tidbits that should make this novel work.

But while I’m in this holding pattern, I’m feeling full of inspiration. I was at the gym a while ago, letting the music on my ipod scroll randomly about, thinking about how I might want to execute one of the critical scenes in the new plot. Then, this Beatles song came on.

I just about fell off the elliptical machine (okay, in all fairness, I’m pretty clumsy–it’s not all that odd for me to fall off a machine. But this was very different indeed.). This is exactly the way the next story sounds in my mind. No, my book’s not set in 1968. It has nothing to do with the Beatles, or with the Manson murders (with which the song is, sadly, often correlated). The song may never even show up in the book itself. But “Helter Skelter” might very well be the musical correlative of the entire novel. This is the feeling I want the prose to produce. This is the frenetic but earnest emotion I want to carry the whole book, and the playful but insidious psychology my main character should embody. This is what the book needs to live up to.

Oddly enough, I can’t listen to any music whatsoever while I write. It kerfulffles my sense of rhythm and musicality in language; I tend to write in complete silence, or as close as I can get to silence living in the middle of Seattle. But there’s always an underlying sound or song to everything I write. (Jacob Wrestling, if you’re curious, sounds a lot like this in my mind.) I may even go so far as to say it may play that elusive role of “muse” to me in making a book. Now that I’ve found that sound for the next book, I think there may be no stopping me on this first draft.

9 Replies to “Back to the top of the slide”

  1. Ohh cool! I love how the music connects to your ideas of the book. Music has a way of getting us to that feeling place. Maybe that’s why its hard to listen and write at the same time. Interference.

  2. Thanks, Kathy! It’s either interference or brain overload–I find I live by sticky note these days, so it may be the latter. 😉

  3. I highly encourage you to write as much as you can now, inspired and without any sort of outline to keep you on the right path. Then, when the time comes to unpack, see how it adds to what you have. Whether or not you keep any of it, infusing a bit of chaos is very much in the spirit of the project.

  4. Thank you, Helen!

    And Gordon, I may well try. But my neuroses about noveling seem to dictate that I be highly organized, with thirty varieties of sticky notes, timelines, a sequence of folders for various stages, and a box-free floor on which to spread these materials on…I know I’m supposed to “kill my darlings” in the writing process, but I’m not sure I can bear to do away with my darling obsessive traits.

  5. Finding the sound – using that energy – that’s awesome stuff, Kelly. And USE it girlfriend, use it!

    (But I recommend letting your words and your imagery and your magic unfold without having to honor – at least not yet – “This is what the book needs to live up to.”)

    Now I’m going to go and download that Beatles song – well, okay, not THAT Beatles song, but you get the gist – so I can tap into some of that mojo! Thanks for the inspiration!!

  6. Thanks, Kob! And yes, you’re absolutely right that you want the work to unfold on its own before giving it the ol’ measure-up test. 🙂 I do like to bear in mind, though, the other work out in the world, whether that work is music, literature, painting, or something else entirely. It makes the process a lot less lonely, and also keeps my little trials and troubles in perspective.

  7. I’m the opposite! When writing I find I’m better stimulated by noise, mostly chatter in a coffee shop, the sounds from a TV (I’m not necessarily watching) or music thats playing randomly.

    I also love those moments when I’m on a long journey such as in the car or a train and I have some way of listening to music. That coupled with the ever changing scenery outside provokes my imagination to throw itself out and come back with crazy ideas.

  8. Silvii, that sounds positively fantastic! I envy the ability to draw inspiration from the external world. Maybe I’ve got a case of “the grass is greener,” but that sure does sound nice…

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