Tag Archives: writer’s block

Does Your Story Have Its Own Soundtrack?

We’ve talked about at the role that music plays in the story in fiction, as well as examined the Irish Trad music that accompanied much of the writing of Irish Firebrands, and ended up representing specific scenes in the story; we’ve also looked at the influence that Wagnerian music has in my background, and how it’s come to have a part in the writing of my work-in-progress, The Passions of Patriots.

I believe that the practice of listening to music throughout the process of writing Irish Firebrands was instrumental (no pun intended!) in preventing writer’s block. From what I’ve read at other Indie Authors’ blogs, if they write to music (vocal or instrumental), it’s to works that have distinctly identifiable artists, themes, genres, or cultural origins.

Today we’ll talk a little about tapping a source of music that’s not already identified with other particular forms or artists, and using that music to come up with a unique “soundtrack” for our own literary art.

Kevin MacLeod’s INCOMPETECH.COM is an excellent source for mood music to accompany any artistic endeavor – and he offers his compositions ROYALTY FREE. This is amazingly generous of the man, because what he’s got on his websites counts into the hundreds of works that range in length from just a few seconds, to the duration of a typical popular song, and even performances that rival the length and complexity of the movements of major orchestral works.

The great thing about MacLeod’s music is that it has no strings attached to other works of art, as do songs performed by vocalists, or the works of classical composers, or the soundtracks of motion pictures. The pieces you find on the website are simply snippets of feelings captured in sounds – a talent for musical expression at which MacLeod excels.

The works that appear at INCOMPETECH can be searched for genre, mood, and other qualities. All pieces have their own descriptive names, but they’re not labels that will necessarily interfere with the listener’s own interpretation of the music. This makes them valuable for constructing “soundtracks” to accompany the writing process. MacLeod often gives us the benefit of his creative impressions of many pieces, he usually lists the instruments (or choral accents) that are programmed into the performances, and he also provides suggestions for how to loop, mix, or otherwise manipulate much of the music. The tracks are downloadable in MP3 format.

I spent a few hours listening to and downloading selections that “spoke” to me: a 90-minute playlist to accompany my creation of The Passions of Patriots. This new collection makes the third set of inspiring musical works I’ve collected to help me visualize scenes and give cadence to dialogue for this particular writing project. I can listen to them uninterrupted during keyboard time, and also play them at night, to help seed my subconscious mind with “memories” of events in the Parallel Universe of Fiction.

Check out Kevin MacLeod’s site, and see what he’s got that can help smooth your creative path in the world of Written Artistry.




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Solving the Puzzle.


Do you have “writer’s block”?

Maybe you need to look at the pieces of your story in a different way.

Perhaps you have a strong urge to write, but you have no idea what to write. Staring at a blank page and trying to make sentences come without words is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with the backs of the pieces facing up.

Words are the bits of the patterns on the fronts of the puzzle pieces. The pieces have to be turned over before you can work with them, but they have to turn themselves over. Until they do that, you’re best off leaving that blank page alone and doing something else. (Always carry a pocket-sized notebook and a writing instrument, so you don’t lose a great idea while you’re busy pruning trees.)

Don’t strain your brain: the ideas are there, but they have to assemble themselves from bits and pieces of your life experiences. In other words, if you arbitrarily decide, “I’ll fictionalize the time when (fill in the blank) happened to (fill in someone’s name),” it won’t work well, and sooner or later you’ll get blocked again. It’s like trying to force a jigsaw puzzle into a shape it wasn’t designed to fit. This is one of the hazards of trying to plan or outline everything.

Try writing by the seat of your pants: Let ideas flow, and commit them to the page, just as they come to you. You don’t have to begin at the beginning: middles and ends will do; and you don’t have to finish one chapter before beginning another, nor even one scene before starting another. This is because your subconscious mind needs time to find bits of ideas and start hooking them together, like matching the patterns, tabs and slots of puzzle pieces.

The best help you can give your subconscious is to do research on your story: learning new things helps stock your mind with information that your brain will later disassemble, sort and match, and reassemble into the false memories that constitute fiction. When each fictional memory comes to you, no matter where it belongs, write it down. Periodically comb through what you’ve written, to do basic proofreading, reorganize sections, and get inspiration for filling in blanks. Eventually, all of the holes in your chapters and scenes will hook themselves together, and you’ll have a complete story.

This is the way I wrote Irish Firebrands: all 196,000-plus words of it. I never experienced “writer’s block,” and I had so much enjoyment in writing the novel, that every time I pick up the book and read a bit of it, I can still feel the way I did when I wrote the passage that I’m reading.

Think about how good it feels to find a puzzle piece that fits. Writing should feel good. As long as we’re having fun, we’re doing it right.





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Ghost Writers in the Sky

My sister found this graphic in her Facebook feed, and sent it to me. I’d told her that. I’ve often felt as if my life ricocheted from one disaster to another, but looking at the second graph made me feel as if it was a masterpiece of contingency planning! 😉


Then it occurred to me that the same set of graphs can be used for people in the Parallel Universe: the people about whose lives we write stories.

One of the requirements of fiction is that it be plausible. If it’s not plausible for a real human life to proceed in a perfectly planned direction, it’s not plausible for a fictional life to do so, either.

I never planned anything that went into Irish Firebrands. I just watched and listened with amusement, astonishment, puzzlement, disbelief, dismay and grief as my characters moved through Life’s Great Adventure, while I wrote down everything they did and said, and all that happened to them.

Usually, I felt like a reporter, not a like writer who was creating, inventing or imagining what was going on. Sometimes I even felt as if I were writing an “as told to” book, or that I was a ghost writer recruited by the characters to take dictation, and then write their story for them.

As discussed in my postWho’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Block? (Part 1), it’s this kind of convoluted character life path that can be a factor in much of the frustration writers often report with the writing process, and even in the manifestation of writer’s block. Rather than let their characters mosey along, making their own unreliable choices, some writers expend excess mental energy on trying to ride herd on their imaginary friends, as if they had a deadline to reach the railhead at Dodge. The exhaustion of trying to force characters along a plotted path can end up making these writers feel like the specters in the old “western” song, Ghost Riders in the Sky.

If you’ve always been a “planner,” but have been suffering with rebellious characters or writer’s block, try following your characters around instead of trying to lead or drive them along a predetermined path. If you don’t like the term “pantser,” because to some it suggests a lack of skill or discipline, then call it reporting, or even ghost writing: after all, it’s life in the Parallel Universe we’re talking about, and there, as here, life just happens.

It’s less work and more fun to let fiction write itself: Embrace the unexpected! 🙂


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