Help Wanted: Rough-Drafting Writer’s DJ

Mountain Railway by Alex Robert from stocksnap.ioThanks to a week free of tech, weather (fingers crossed for you guys on the U.S. East Coast), or other calamities, things remain on schedule with Prodigal. Yep, the first draft train for the first book in the new series is still chugging down the tracks. And yes, I am making woo-woo train noises as I type this, and maybe wiggling a little. I’m hitting the halfway-point today and will have a rough draft in time for Halloween. Though I probably won’t have a costume because of that whole Drafting Tunnelvision thing.

Despite the lack of costumes, I cannot tell you how much fun I’m having with this manuscript. My neck and shoulders are getting a little cranky, but my brain is loving sitting down at the desk, day or night. (Sometimes day and night.) I’m at the point now that I really do resent leaving my keyboard or having to write anything other than Prodigal. Unless it’s jotting down notes about the other two books in the trilogy, while giggling like a weirdo happy writer.

I mentioned in a recent post (No Whining Credo) that I’m doing things differently this time, starting with having a very loose outline. This is not An Outline. There are no Roman numerals, no fixed structure, just sentences and paragraphs of And then… And then… Now that I’m in the middle of the manuscript, I’ve hit a few spots this week where I’ve looked at my split screen (blank on one side and “outline” on the other) and said, Huh. Something else needs to happen here. (Hopefully not in a Deputy Dawg voice, which is what I’m hearing right now.) But there’s never been a sense of panic, and I’ve never felt stuck. It just feels like a natural part of the drafting process. When I’m unable to choose between two paths for my characters, instead of agonizing, I just pick one and write it. A couple of times, I’ve changed my mind later and rewritten it the other way that night or the next morning. No angst. No the-words-are-too-precious-to-delete. Easy-peasy.

Girl wearing Headphones by free from stocksnap.ioI’ve been experimenting with a couple of other new-to-me things this time around. One is writing with music, which, you may recall from an old Friday Five post, I do not do. I’ve tried classical music in the past—nope, not happening. There are albums I’ve listened to so many times that they fade to background noise, but they wouldn’t add anything to my writing experience. Can you imagine writing a scene where a character risks death from anything other than booze-induced poor judgment while blasting Coconut Telegraph? Yeah, me neither.

I thought I’d given up on the music thing until someone in one of my writing groups recently started an email thread about thriller writing playlists. Game on! Overall, the recommendations were heavy on movie soundtracks, especially ones with Trent Reznor. I haven’t found the writing-music sweet spot yet, but I do like listening to The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo while driving and thinking about the story.

I suspect part of the writing-music roadblock is that most movie soundtracks have an urban feel, and I’m writing about a rural setting. My ideal music would be something suspenseful, rural-ish, and not distracting. With one little caveat… and please don’t hate me… I don’t like country music. I mean, I really don’t like country music. Sorry—I know a lot of you are fans, but somehow growing up in West Virginia seems to have inoculated me against any music with the slightest hint of twang. (Yes, careful readers will notice from above that Jimmy Buffett managed to sneak by, but even his twangy songs repel me if they’re not steeped in irony.) I do love blues, though, so I’m thinking the answer lies therein. Maybe something like an instrumental St. James Infirmary on repeat? Except for chase and other oh-shit scenes, which need more pick-up-the-pace and suspense.

Or I could just give up and write in silence.

I’d love to hear your playlist suggestions. In the meantime, since I am in Hawaii, here’s an ukulele version of St. James Infirmary to start your weekend off right. Who says the uke can’t play the blues? 😉


[Mountain Railway by Alex Robert and Girl wearing Headphones by free, both from]